I lost another friend to cancer last week. Shelley was a beautiful woman and she fought gallantly to the very end. I saw her a few weeks ago, when her liver function was failing. For me, it was just weeks after Louise’s death, so the pale translucent skin and sunken eyes spoke volumes. Yet her smile was unmistakable, her laughter like a song. I took her a shirt that I felt fit her indomitable spirit. On the front it said, “Got Hope?” and on the back, “I Do.” Knowing that her battle was intensifying did not decrease her hope. On the contrary, it strengthened it, because her hope was not in treatment, or drugs, or even doctors. Her hope was in the love of her savior, and knowing that either way…healing here and now, or healing in his arms in heaven…that she would beat cancer. She was willing to rest and allow whichever way God deemed his way, to play out. Having lost her mom to breast cancer, she was familiar with how this journey could end. She knew going into it that though she was only in her thirties, cancer doesn’t age discriminate. She continued on with her life, working, going to school, and fighting her medical battle for five years. As with all cancer journeys, she had triumphant days and devastating ones. She chose to live her life focused on her future goals of bringing healing to others through counseling. She didn’t give that up, no matter what because her hope was in life lived.
Those of us who knew her, know that she is worshiping at the throne now. It is a comfort to picture her whole and fully healed, even as we wrestle with God that the outcome is not what we wanted. Grief is a fickle dance partner. Just when you feel you are spinning away it pulls you back into its arms. And so it will go, for time and seasons. The dealing is a head on matter, which cannot be avoided or ignored. It must be felt at the deepest level, through the tears, heartache, and past baggage that it drudges to the surface. Ultimately, it is cleansing. Like any good song, it resolves, leaving the feeling of having completed its work. Not that the scar disappears…nope, the scar is raw and painful for a long while before healing over into a visible reminder of the bitter-sweetness that is life. Always a scar, until we are reunited with our loved ones in the future.
However, scars are merely seeds of compassion. Without them, we may not feel for others who are in pain. We cannot experience empathy without the jagged edges they leave behind. The God who designed our hearts built a release valve into them through which he pours his love and care for his creation. If we have wept, we know how to weep with others. We cannot help but feel and since we are made in his image…we feel what he feels. He knows grief. He knows the sting that death leaves behind and, best of all; he knows the healing that true life brings. That is our hope.