Thursday, July 9

Reflection, contemplation

Today I learned that a very dear friend of mine may have only about 4 months to live. She has been battling an aggressive cancer for quite some time now, but managed to finish an award-winning dissertation in spite of it. We were hopeful that an earlier treatment would make a difference and she seemed to go into remission for a bit, but the cancer returned and certainly with a vengeance.

It's not just that Janet is only a few months older than I, it's just that Janet is such an incredibly remarkable person. She is so bright, so capable. She is incredibly quick-witted, funny. But she is also a remarkably insightful person. I think of how much she has to offer and wonder how it could be possible that she has such a dreadful prognosis. And like the hundreds if not thousands who know her, I pray for a miracle.

A mutual friend said that Janet is putting her affairs in order--giving things away, having her sister sell some things on eBay. She has packed her office at Eastern and has applied for disability. I can only imagine the pain her family is experiencing--her sister, her brother, her nieces and nephews.

I read on Facebook earlier today of a young girl whose parents were in a motorcycle accident. I sort of assumed they were riding the motorcycle and thought it was pretty cool her folks were tooling around that way. Her parents have broken bones and are in a lot of pain, but they are alive and, apparently, will recuperate reasonably well. This young woman was grateful to God, and rightly so, that her parents are all right. I could not help but wonder how she would have been feeling and what she would have been thinking if the prognosis for her parents was less positive.

People are confronted with tragedy every day and it is never unaccompanied. That tragedy always comes with some form of emotional or spiritual or psychological pain, perhaps all of those forms of pain.

While Janet seems to have accepted the fact that she is on her "final journey," and while I have suspected that to be the case for some months now, I cannot help but try to deny that, reject it as even a possible truth. Janet? She is too fun-loving, too well-loved! I never got to join her and her family "down the shore"! I want to be able to spend more time with her! I want to see what incredible things she is going to do with her doctorate! A lot of that is about me, which isn't unusual, because it's hard not to think about the gaping hole she'll leave behind even though we don't see each other often. I think that is because those who are being left behind struggle with a vast and torturous array of crashing and conflicting emotions.

I do not yet yield her to that silent spectre. I know that she is a Bible-believing evangelical Christian who believes she is going home; I have to pray that provides her with sufficient comfort, perhaps even hope, through her pain. Even still, selfishly, I'm not ready to let her go.

Yes, four months is a long time but we all know how quickly weeks fly by. Yes, a miracle is possible and I pray for an extraordinary miracle of healing and well-being, but I also know that God may choose to answer that prayer very differently from what I picture in my head and heart.

This sort of news, of course, puts a lot of things in perspective. So much of my life and my concerns seem trivial in the face of hers. I'm not inspired by her battle; I'm humbled by it. I'm not comforted by her stoicism or her rationale and pragmatic approach; I'm amazed by it. I want to examine all I know of her life and all I know of her living to learn from her for as long as I'm privileged to do so.

And let me say this: anyone who has heard Janet laugh, has been incredibly blessed.

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