Saturday, March 20, 2010

Plan B

Sue's friend, Cindy, once gave her a card that said, "Success in life depends on how you handle Plan B."  Sue has come to understand that the prospects for her attending Jessica's wedding in Idaho are dim, so, because Luke is here visiting for spring break, Sue and Jessica hatched Plan B.

The other evening seven of us huddled around Sue's hospital bed and had a mini-version of the Celtic handfasting ceremony Jessica has planned for May.  First , Sue said a few words, including how happy she was that Jessica found Luke and that she does not have to worry that Jessica might have made a bad choice.  Then Sue read from Ecclesiastes 4:9-13:

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."  (and here she pointed out that God is the third strand in their cord)

We then tied the knot on Jessica and Luke.  I don't know if this is where the term "tie the knot" comes from, but the idea is the two to be wedded hold hands and different colors of ribbons, symbolizing different things, are tied around their wrists sort of binding them together, while words are spoken.  Sue and I tied a blue ribbon on their wrist, symbolizing tranquility, patience, devotion and sincerity, and while the gathered few looked on, recited from the handfasting verses selected by Jessica.  I am not allowed to print the whole thing, but a selected section was particularly meaningful, and appropo (apropos, if you prefer) to the moment:  "These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.  These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow; and tears of joy."

It was a time for both tears of joy and tears of sorrow.  But it was good, and gave some closure to all involved.  Following the ceremony I told the happy couple they could kiss, but they still couldn't sleep together until after the real wedding on May 22.  Couldn't brandish my shot-gun, though, since we were in a hospital. (Actually, I don't have any guns.  I've never really wanted one, and anyway I always figured that if I had a gun I'd have a much greater chance of getting shot by Sue with my own gun than by an intruder.)

The whole saga of Sue's cancer and the timing of it and all the "best laid plans" that have "gone askew" and the need to go to Plan B caused me to want to re-read the Robert Burns poem, "To A Mouse." 

To A Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest, with the Plough - by Robert Burns
(translated to English from the original Scottish version)

Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beast,
O, what a panic is in your little breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With hurrying scamper!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering plough-staff.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
And fellow mortal!

I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal;
What then? Poor little beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse grass green!
And bleak December's winds coming,
Both bitter and keen!

You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel plough past
Out through your cell.

That small bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter's sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!


  1. What a special family you have! Your Plan B was beautiful. I'm sure it was hard, knowing why you were going with it, but it had to have been so very meaningful... and something for Jessica and Luke to take with them in their hearts even if Sue doesn't make it to the wedding, as well as for Sue to have been a part of "tying the knot". How happy/sad... and so filled with love.

    Your whole circumstances and how you handle everything is such an example that you and Sue present to Jessica and Luke of what real married love is. May they continue in your footsteps.

    Thanks for the poem. I've probably read it before but have long forgotten it. Thanks to you I have a new empathy for the little creatures... but I'm still not gonna like 'em any better! :)

  2. George,
    We want to thank you and your family for being a part of ours as well, we could not be happier about Luke choice of a life partner and her family. We begin praying for Jessica years before we meet her and believe that God has great plans for the two of them together. Thanks for have a special time with them in the hospital, this was our wish weeks ago when Luke told us he would be in Fresno. We thank you for you witness of faith to the kids and to all of us. Understand that you and Sue are in our prays constantly. We could not be more joyful of your special time with the kids. I like the kiss and only the kiss. I do have a gun if you really need to borrow it you are more then welcome. Please continue in your journey with Sue and remember the words of Paul in Philippians 3:12-16 Pressing toward the Goal. Praise be to our Father.
    John Nickodemus and family.

  3. How lovely Plan B was and what a loving one as well... I never made the connection between "Tying the knot" and the "Tie that binds" until now... thank you so much for sharing such an intimate family solution with your blog 'family,' And I had forgotten that touching Robert Burns poem about "mice and men," as well... I recall my mother saying that she could now (in her 80's) re-read many of the books she had consumed in her 30's since she had forgotten some of the good bits.
    But this good bit with Jessica and Luke will not soon be forgotten.

  4. Wait, has any doctor put the chemo right into her spinal fluid? This is treatable. Regular MM chemo does not pass the "blood/brain" barrier. This condition is a rare but known event for MM'ers and I just met a man who had it. His hospital was ready to give up on him but not Tim's doc.
    They contacted him and he saved the guy's life. They put a special kind of chemo right into the spinal fluid. This man, before the chemo, could not talk,
    barely walk, and did not know what was going on. He is fine now. He had a transplant after he was stabilized and is in a CR. Has anyone treated this in Sue?

  5. What a beautiful ceremony! The Celtic people have many wonderful traditions! Blessings to you all! Love and prayers- Janice

  6. You are all so wise! I am so impressed with the thoughtfulness you have all displayed. You have such a wonderful family and are so blessed with such a beautiful and gracious wife and mother. My love a prayers for you all. Debbie B

  7. I thank God that the two of you were able to experience this special moment together. I continue to pray for you, Sue, and the girls daily. Praying for much peace!


  8. A gift for Sue. Friday, I prayed for a pre nuptial - ceremony - with a room full of flowers and a photo shoot of the bride and groom in they wedding attire.

    Today, I see the moment of sharing with Sue and family has occured. I hope you took pictures. This will be a wonderful tradition to pass on. Jo Ann D.

  9. How interesting that Luke's parents have prayed the same scripture that James spoke through on Sunday. It must be a powerful message that God wants you all to hear. I didn't see you yesterday but heard that your whole family made it! What a blessing! I know Sue has missed being able to physically go to church services! So much love and many prayers are sent up from our house on your behalf.

  10. I'm so glad that there was a ceremony done with Susan and family with Jessica and Luke. I continue to pray that God will give you his hope, peace adn comfort.
    MaryLyn J-W