- Is it because too many friends have threatening illnesses or that even some of them have died?
- Does it have something to do with age and stage of life?
- Is it because we know too well that cancer and other disease respect neither age, nor place in life?
- Have I reluctantly approaced the anniversary of Tom's death?
- And, what about life? When is it really over?
- What is the measure of one's life?
- Does it matter how long or short?
- Too many questions; one sure answer.
I love the opening statement in the PC(USA) Brief Statement of Faith: In life and in death, we belong to God. One sure answer. Hymn writers said it in words like: On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand; Great is Thy Faithfulness; There is a place of quiet rest, Near to the Heart of God, and so many others. Many of the writers wrote out of their own experiences and if we were more knowledgeable we might wonder at how they bared their souls so effectively. Instead, we often sing, without paying much attention to the words. Just today I read on a Caring Bridge site a quote of O, Love That Will Not Let Me Go. What assurance there is in that hymn! We may question, we may waver, but it is God's love that holds on to US.
Sunday, as Tommy and Liz were driving into town to a couple of church activities, Tommy got word that a good friend from grad school had died that afternoon. She was diagnosed with cancer about this time last year, treated, went into remission and then her husband called Thursday to say she was back in the hospital. She hadn't felt well for a couple of days and when she went in, they told the husband that it was just a matter of days. She was in her late thirties.
On my way to the oncologist in Jackson yesterday morning, I received the call from Marty that I had dreaded. Her longtime friend, Susan, died early that morning. She was first diagnosed with inflamatory breast cancer in 2007 when the younger of her two little boys was a few months old. Through all of her illness and treatment, she refused to let cancer define her. Instead she inspired many through her blogs, her tireless efforts to raise awareness of cancer, her continued work on NASA projects and most of all as wife, mother and friend. She was 38.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking? What a waste! I cannot help but think that. Then, I return to: In life and in death we belong to God.
Not a day goes by that I don't mourn Tom's passing. His death left a huge hole in my heart that can never be filled, though I've tried with pep talks to myself and endless activities. They just don't work. A special California friend who lost his wife suddenly last month reminded me when I talked with him recently that God did not make us to live alone. Just hearing those words spoken did wonders for me. Hearing him say that made me realize, really, really know, that, in that case, God will heal the loneliness---if I'd but let Him. Today is the anniversary of Tom's death and it hasn't been a day worse than any other. In his honor, I made one of his favorite desserts for us to enjoy tonight. We will celebrate him.
Like so many cancer survivors, I look around and feel guilty that I'm still responding to treatment and living. I remind myself that Tom and I made that commitment together. We chose to live, not to sit around and let the illness take over our lives. If, in life, I truly belong to God, then live, I must, savoring every moment, responding to where the Holy Spirit leads.
It was appropriate yesterday to see so many signs of Spring on my trip to and from Jackson. They helped focus on life and not death. Trees are beginning to bud and show the hints of color, not quite like the pink haze on the almond trees in California that we loved so much, but deep rose colors. Tulip trees are blooming; patches of daffodils dot the roadsides. And, typical in Mississippi are the signs proclaiming roadside markets have boiled crawfish and Lousiana strawberries for sale. Seasons are changing--though we never experienced winter. To top it off, I saw a front yard full of fat robins as I turned into the driveway. As the teacher wrote in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything.--and it belongs to God