During my early childhood, I grew up with a father who was confined to a wheelchair. I never saw him walk, climb stairs or drive. His loss of mobility was due to numerous back surgeries. There were cancerous tumors wrapped around his spine. As a result of the surgeries, he was semi- paralyzed. This was 1978, and I was just four years of age. I attended Sunday school on a regular basis where the business of miracles was taught. And with childlike wonder, I believed. Actually, I had no idea how a miracle could be done, but I prayed hard for my father. Sadly, in February of 1979, my childlike hope ended when my father died.
At this very early age, I came to an understanding that suffering occurs. Tragic things happen to very good people. On a personal level, death took on a spiritual meaning. I took on the view that God is with me in suffering and understood my pain. In my later years, I briefly studied a few modern theologians to gain a better religious understanding.
Thirty-four years later, I am still holding tightly to my same belief in God. In 2007, when I was 33, my beloved husband was diagnosed with advanced cancer. We were told that there was a one in a million chance that he had a rare form of cancer -- adrenal cancer. Adrenal cancer is nearly always deadly, and the test results were inconclusive. During that time, when we didn't have a conclusive diagnosis, we prayed that he had a treatable form of cancer, one that offered a chance of recovery. He died about eight weeks after our first visit to the doctor's office.
Now, I'm in the process of co-writing a book, Just Widowed. As part of my research, I've interviewed dozens of widows about their grief and loss. Eventually, I started getting emails from others who experienced different types of loss. They shared with me a lament for their child, sister, mother, and close friend. At first, I was overwhelmed by the numbers of people who shared their loss. Then, I remembered that there is not one of us who has not been touched by grief.
Often during these conversations, the question that I am most frequently asked is this: How do you trust in God after your husband died? My answer is always hesitant because there are days when I'm not sure how or why I continue to believe. Sometimes, I stumble and people catch my awkward pause. There's usually a lump in my throat because these are precisely the moments that my heart still breaks.
I gently try to explain that wrestling with your spiritual beliefs is natural. It is difficult to feel generous and loving when your entire world is gone. Wishful thinking will not bring back your sister, parent, child or spouse. Death tells us as much about ourselves as it does about the person we lost.
Personally I continue to believe in God despite hearing these horrible and tragic stories. I believe that compassion comes from finding love among our deepest wounds. Compassion allows all of us to console each other. I know that this is where we communicate our deepest love.
Shortly after my husband was diagnosed with this ultra- rare cancer, I talked with my husband about my disappointment in God. I was fearful. There always seemed to be a tear in the corner of my eye. I told my husband, "I just don't get it. Why?"
My husband, without missing a beat, answered, "You are asking the wrong question. Instead of asking, 'why us', you should be asking, 'why not us'"?
To learn more about adrenal cancer, you can go here.
I wrote about more about my conversation with an adrenal cancer specialist, Dr. Hammer, here.