There's nothing quite like facing your own mortality with cancer as you watch a friend succumb to hers. One of the greatest fighters of her cancer will die soon. She is the one who taught me that half of the battle was a fighting spirit and believing you can knock this sucker out.
Unfortunately, while she's going out her way, with her head held high, my friend will soon die. She is dying on her own terms with her husband and children by her side at her home. But she is still dying. This isn't the result we all prayed for.
I have no answers for this. A beautiful, young, courageous mom of three, devoted wife and army spouse will lose her life shortly to her cancer and I have no answers.
I have grief and fear and sadness in my heart. My soul screams at the unfairness of it all. My faith has little spider veins of doubt because we have prayed so hard and so long for my friend to beat the beast. And the very weakest part of me nurses fear. This could be me. I have drum mallets in my psyche trying to beat the fear away. I pray in God's name and pray out my fear, but it crawls and claws at me trying to reach all of me.
I don't want my friend to die. I'm certainly nowhere near, nor even ready to accept any thoughts of my own mortality, but this is what cancer does.
Cancer forces the "what if" question front and center. Cancer forces you to really look at yourself and answer honestly "what do you believe?" It's like Indiana Jones with the grail and St. Peter.....what do we believe? Are we ready to drink of the cup of Christ and see what's on the other side? Are we ready for the kingdom of heaven? Is there a place that I have earned in the company of angels?
I believe that while I cannot begin to understand why this world will be bereft of a beautiful spirit, nor why other spirits are wrest from us that we so desperately need to make this world a better place, I believe they are surely going to the arms of a loving God. There will be no pain nor fear where my friend goes. There will be peace. Eventually there will be peace for her family as well and for us. We just aren't there yet.
We have a prayer in our Church that includes these line: "Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven, who forever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your name." In my heart, I believe that my friend will be a part of this company in heaven. And there will be a song on her lips and probably a wine glass in her hand. My friend's smile will light up heaven. Just as so many other smiles do as well.
I too, hope that one day I will be a part of that company. Just not today. Nor any day soon. I'm just not ready. But my friend's death and dying has made me think of this a lot today. I'm sure others share or have shared in this grief and fear. Yes, I am well. Yes, things seem to be in a good place. But I still live with this beast in me and when a friend dies from that beast, well, fear has this nasty habit of finding a foothold.
But just like many people in this world, my friend was a shining beacon. Her light touched many and for this we are very blessed. Hold your peeps tight my friends. While there is a grand place waiting for us in Heaven, life is very precious here on earth, hold it close.
Post script: the beautiful pictures in this post were donated by my friend Roger Hutchison, author of "The Painting Table," (https://www.churchpublishing.org/products/index.cfm?fuseaction=productDetail&productID=9851) . The first picture represents to me our collective grief with loss. The second picture represents to me the shining beacon each soul brings to the world.
Many thanks to Roger for his generosity.
Roger Hutchison is Canon for Children and Family Ministry at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Columbia, SC. When Roger felt the need to express his relationship with God, he turned to painting. Traditional painting with brushes did not work, so he put his hands directly into the medium, thrusting him onto the local art scene. He has since had numerous exhibits and is a favorite of local designers and collectors from around the
world. He regularly offers workshops nationally for children, youth, and adults on how to express their thoughts and relationship with God through the art of painting with their hands, making this expression accessible to all. He lives in Elgin, SC.