What a Brain Tumor Has Taught Me About the Atonement

I sit in front of my computer today well stocked with Kleenex, puffy eyes and a little more wisdom than I woke up with. Strange how wisdom sometimes finds us – even when we don’t think we are looking for it.

About a year ago now my son-in-law Adam was diagnosed with a brain tumor; initially, I thought I understood what Adam was to learn from his brain tumor – things like learning how many people loved him and that we all have to take a turn from time to time letting others help us and learning that none of us can stand alone successfully.

Those many months ago now – when Adam’s diagnosis was made, he and my daughter Melissa were thick in the middle of building a new house and Melissa was expecting their fourth child.

As plans were made to get their new home completed before Adam’s surgery, people crawled out of the woodwork (sometimes literally) to help them get their home built before Adam had to travel to Portland for his surgery. Friends, neighbors, family and even strangers came to get the work done.

I remember thinking to myself how amazing it was to watch the whole process occur and I found it heartwarming to see so much care and concern.

Adam isn’t the kind to confide his deepest thoughts and feelings to his mother-in-law but Melissa often let me know about the deep spiritual lessons they both were learning through this sometimes overwhelming trial of theirs.

Their home was completed just before Adam’s surgery and their new daughter was born in January of this year and just a few weeks ago, they got news that Adam’s non-cancerous tumor had returned and was back to its original size.  Instead of another surgery, a form of radiation using a cyber knife would be used. We were not excited about the tumor’s return but we were excited when doctors said that quite often patients undergoing this type of treatment have few, if any, side effects.

Adam started his treatments Monday of this week. By Monday afternoon, he was experiencing a horrendous headache and nausea from the cyber knife treatments. By Tuesday afternoon, Melissa was desperately trying to find information on any and all remedies that might help Adam with the severe pain in his head and his even more severe nausea.

Tuesday night I often found myself fighting back tears at the thought of what Adam was going through. Several times I found myself praying and asking God to relieve his suffering. What surprised me most was how much I questioned the need for this trial continuing as it had. Even though, if anyone should understand the meaning and purpose of trials, it should be me. If you have read my book, A Glimpse of Heaven, you know what I witnessed in heaven and what an understanding I have been blessed with in regards to the purposes of the trials and tribulations we experience in life.

Zip forward to today (Wednesday) and Adam is in the hospital hooked up to an IV for his dehydration and to try to get something into his system to calm his violent nausea.  Once again, tears are streaming down my face as I think about what Melissa and Adam are going through. I think to myself how glad I am that Melissa is communicating by text message today because if she were to talk to me over the phone – she would hear my voice quiver and know how wimpy her mother is being about this trial that they have faced over the last few days.

So…in the middle of thinking about how wimpy I am, I find several thoughts jumping out of my tear soaked brain: “What is this supposed to teach me? What purpose is this trial supposed to serve? Please Father, I would be happy to take Adam’s pain if you would just let him not hurt. “And then the final thought: “What am I to learn from this?”

This wasn’t an adventure in deep meditation. It really was more of a blubbery feel sorry for my son-in-law and daughter session but a deeply profound answer came to me anyway. As I thought of Adam and Melissa’s situation, I had had several thoughts about the love that I had for them and how willing I was as their mother (mother-in-law) to take their pain and how much I wanted to relieve them of their suffering.

The moment I asked the question: “What am I to learn from this?” I knew Heavenly Father’s answer (for me). It was that I was to realize His sacrifice made during our Savior’s Atonement.

Though I cannot understand it fully, I have often contemplated the great sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for me and all mankind. Yet, in all those contemplations, I had not fully realized the sacrifice that His Father made in allowing him to make that sacrifice. I realized that I could easily volunteer myself to take the pain of a loved one – but I did not have the ability to volunteer my own child as a sacrifice.

I found myself profoundly moved by my Father in Heaven’s deep love for me and for all of His children.

I know that the plan of life mandated that a Savior take upon Himself the pains, sins and experiences of mankind. Now, after this morning, I understand better than I have ever understood before the incredible magnitude of the love that our Creator has for us – because only that kind of love would enable any loving parent to sacrifice their Beloved child on behalf of another.

Not only did my Savior, Jesus Christ, love me enough to sacrifice his life but my Father-in-heaven loved me enough to be willing to witness His own beloved Son make that sacrifice. That kind of love I cannot yet relate to but I am deeply humbled by it.

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One thought on “What a Brain Tumor Has Taught Me About the Atonement

  1. Sending our love, compassion and sincerest prayer for relief, for strength, for courage and for grace under such extremes…Love to you and yours dear friends. May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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