I’m quickly approaching the three year anniversary of my mom’s death. As the day approaches, I can feel anxiety and other emotions begin to rise within me, recalling the events not only of the day but the days leading up to that final day. Once you have experienced loss and once you have seen a loved one suffering, images are burned on your brain and no matter how hard you try, it’s really hard to excise them from your mind.
Currently, there is a dear woman within my church who has been struggling with cancer for a number of years. The doctors have tried experimental treatments and everything has come up short. Over the last few months and weeks, it’s been incredibly difficult for me to watch her downward progression. She is a strong woman with an incredible spirit. She is a fighter, a warrior of sorts, who has endured so much and, yet, her demeanor and countenance have hardly seemed shaken as she has faced reality with her head held high.
I have struggled immensely when I have seen her on Sunday mornings. I love this woman, she is a dear sister in Christ, a godly example to her peers and all those who are younger as well. I have found myself torn as to whether or not to go speak to her. I know that might sound harsh, but understand the images and emotions that are conjured up within me when I catch a glimpse of her frail body. This once strong woman has been beaten down, just like my mother was, and although three years is a long time, it’s hard to separate my own experience from the reality that sits in front of me.
When this dear sister breathes her last breath, it will be a difficult day for me. I’ve never been one to shy away from asking hard questions. I’m also smart enough to know that every answer doesn’t have adequate answers. I’ve struggled with faithful and godly people being afflicted by the ravages of cancer while others whose attitudes and behavior are hardly becoming seem to hang around forever. Trust me, I’ve often wondered if those filled with the most piss and spite have somehow discovered a secret elixir that acts as a preservative, keeping them on earth longer. Not that I would wish for anyone’s death, but the injustice seems nearly ironic, nearly psalmic to me……the evil prevail while the godly perish.
Death is hard, but as a follower of Christ, there is hope beyond what we see. That hope sustains, it propels us forward. The path is not easy, it’s not fun, but it’s necessary. Amidst the difficulty, the question “why” continues to pound my brain, and as that question flows back and forth through the echoes of my mind, I continue to come back to Jesus’ words in John 12:24, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Somehow, when a seed dies, it brings life. Somehow, out of one dead thing comes the life of many.
I know the impact that my mother had on so many people and I know a little of the impact that this dear woman in my church has had on so many people. In death, both of these women will have pointed to the One whom they have served with their lives. In death, they will continue to act as a witness to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, testifying to the abundant life that they received, not for the present only, but for the future and eternity. It doesn’t seem fair or even just, but somewhere lurking in the eternal perspective of this all, there is purpose and meaning in it. I might not fully know it today, tomorrow, or some time from now, but now, I only see in part, one day I will see fully, without distortion or distraction. That will be a day that I will look forward to, and in the meantime, I will simply press on.