The box

Still no answers.

Three weeks had dragged by since Husband’s bone scan. We kept waiting for the oncologist to call with the results, but he didn’t, and so we left messages. Unreturned messages. Even the orthopedic surgeon who had referred us to him scratched his head at the stunning silence.

“Maybe no news is good news,” I told a friend.

“Not necessarily,” she said, her words laced with good intentions.

While we waited, Husband didn’t amend his life in any way. He slept, ate, worked, showered, and drove the girls to volleyball practice as if the answers to his health mystery weren’t in the hands of a stranger in a white coat somewhere across town. I passed the days in the usual acts of living too, but worry was my bosom buddy, prodding me awake in the night and leering at me first thing in the morning.

“I can’t believe the guy is ignoring our calls and blowing off the orthopedic doctor too.” I poured myself a cup of coffee like my life depended on it, splashing in ample cream to take the edge off the bitterness.

Husband shrugged. “I guess I have to make an appointment with him if I’m going to hear anything.”

But he didn’t move.

A few more days evaporated, and I again broached the topic with Husband over the phone while he was on a work trip.

“Can I please make the appointment for you?”


I dialed the number of the oncologist’s office. When the receptionist answered, I gave her Husband’s name—explaining who I was—and requested an appointment.

“He needs to come in as soon as possible,” she said. “It’s urgent.”

Was his chart already in front of her? My stomach did a flip. “It is? But we’ve been waiting for weeks to hear back from your office.”

“The doctor can see him Monday at noon.”

Five days away. My mouth dry and my heart pounding, I scrolled through my phone’s calendar. “No, he works that day. But he’s free anytime tomorrow or the next day.”

“Hm. Sorry. We’re booked then.” The receptionist clicked away on her keyboard. “So could he take off work Monday? Like I said, it’s urgent.”

Was it that bad? Fear shoved me down into a living room chair. “Are you sure you don’t have time to squeeze us in tomorrow?”

“Would you hold, please?” And with that, she mashed a button and forced me into another wait. The canned music on the other end of the line plucked at my last nerve.

After two minutes, she came back on. “No, nothing tomorrow. But I just spoke with the nurses, and it’s urgent that he come in as soon as possible.”

Three ‘urgents’ in one phone call, and yet they couldn’t find fifteen minutes to drop the bomb on us. “He can’t take work off that easily.”

“Why don’t I reserve the appointment anyway, and you can talk to him about it?”

“Fine.” I steadied my breathing.

Our dog Lala—a furry donut on a cushion—lifted her head and eyed me. Had she heard my heart thumping from across the room?

“I have you all set for Monday.” The receptionist’s breezy tone carried a smile.

I hung up and called Husband to relay the news.

“I’m not missing work on Monday.” Then his irritation morphed into a sigh. “Give me their number, and I’ll call and change the appointment to Thursday when I have the day off.”

More waiting ahead. I rattled off the number, a tremor in my voice.

“The receptionist was probably just being dramatic to get attention.” He tossed out a light laugh. “I’m fine.”

“Hm.” I gazed out the window at the grey day. Neither sunny nor stormy, the weather was stuck in limbo too.

“It’ll be okay.”

I gnawed my lower lip. “Yeah.”

After I clicked off the phone, my heart’s drumming persuaded my stomach to dance, so I paced the room to the wild rhythms pulsating in my body. Back and forth. Back and forth. Urgent. Urgent. Urgent.

My phone pinged. A text message from Elizabeth, a new friend.

You came to mind, so I stopped and prayed for you and your family just now. Can you talk for a few minutes?

I had met Elizabeth three months earlier at church. She wore the fragrance of authenticity and spiritual fruit, and from the start I had liked her. But I had come to her mind just then? Was it bad timing—or perfect timing?

I thumbed a message back. Sure, but I’m emotional today. Don’t be scared off! Ha! I’ll call you. I dialed her number.

“You remember I’m a therapist, right?” Elizabeth’s voice on the other end of the line massaged away my stress.

I burst into tears, and she listened as I recounted recent events—Husband’s medical appointments, the MRI, the bone scan, the waiting, the word ‘urgent’ now pinned to it all—and then she offered me a gift.

“In your mind, picture a box. And it has a cover, a lock, and a key that only you and God can access. Can you imagine it?”

I closed my eyes. Into my thoughts flashed a rectangular, steel box with visible bolts. Its cover was formidable: heavy and sharp enough to slice off a kid’s fingers. Like the box, the lock and key were no-frills and meant for getting the job done. “Okay. I’ve got it.”

“Now whenever you have a worry or negative thought, look at it. Recognize that it’s separate from you. Then capture it, lock it in the box, and don’t let it out.”

Was it that easy? As simple as throwing dirty laundry into the hamper? “Are you able to do this?”

“Yeah, I’ve practiced a lot over the years.” Elizabeth chuckled. “And with practice, you can do it too.”

My heart rate slowed. Warmth poured over my shoulders. “I’ll try it.”

After the phone call ended, I didn’t have long to wait to use the box. Worry slithered in again and clung on, squeezing the breath out of me. I looked at its ugliness—seeing it as an enemy instead of a companion—and in spite of its sucking pull, I peeled it off and poked it into the box.

And then it happened. He slammed the lid shut and turned the key.  



*Note: Today at 10:00 a.m., I’ll join Husband at his appointment. I’ll tell you the results when I know them. Thank you for your concern, thoughts, and prayers over the past month.

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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.