If I knew how to do that magic with pictures where you circle something important and draw an arrow to it, I would circle the place in the right hand corner that says 1000 Pieces. 1000 is a lot when it comes to puzzle pieces. Especially if you don't like puzzles.
But if someone you love has cancer and she gives you a puzzle, you do that puzzle. Because there's nothing else you can do. (In case you haven't heard, there's still no cure for cancer). And I figured if my aunt could survive a surgery wherein most of her insides were removed and then chemo on top of that, I could probably do a 1000 piece puzzle.
So I spent a few weeks (we'll call them January) sitting at my dining room table trying piece after piece until I fit two, then three, then four and the image of Christ came together. I thought a lot about Him as I built that puzzle, knowing He answers prayers, hoping He'd answer yes to mine, fearing He couldn't.
I got about 900 pieces in when my cousin's kids came over and this happened:
See those pieces on the outside? Those are the pieces I had left. See that pile in the middle? Those were all put together. See that half-finished border? That's what remained in tact when the three year old decided to play "waterfall." Can you believe I still love that kid? You would if you knew him.
I looked at that pile of pieces for a few days, not ready to put them back in the box, but also certain I couldn't start over.
It was about that time my aunt got the news her cancer was back. Not that it had ever really gone away, but we'd been fooled for a few weeks into thinking it had. I was with her that day. We hugged and we cried and then, we planned. "Let's make photo books for your grandbabies," I said. "It will give you something to do." Something to leave behind was left unsaid, but understood.
Then I went home and started sorting those pieces, ready to start over.
I finished the puzzle in February, working overtime to get it done before the cousins came over--just in case the little one wanted to play waterfall again.
If I could do that magic circle thing I'd point out the two empty spots. The two missing pieces never found. I suppose there's an analogy there--something about Christ being able to fill our missing pieces. I don't know. I do know you can't ever really finish a puzzle without all the pieces.
That didn't keep me from leaving it on my dining room table for months. Every time we had company my husband would ask if we could put it away, but I'd say no and so we fed our guests around it. I kept hoping to find the last two pieces, just like I kept hoping for a miracle, even though I could see the cancer winning.
I took the puzzle apart and put it back in its box two weeks ago after my aunt hugged me goodbye. The pieces weren't found and I didn't get the miracle I wanted.
But I'm grateful for all the unexpected blessings along the way.
In the end, the missing pieces weren't important. I could still see who's in the picture.