Saturday, March 28, 2015


This is something I wrote that I got to share with our congregation before my son and I were baptized. As I tried to make sense of the fledgling faith and hope that I began to feel, I realized that I've been on this spiritual journey for far longer than I thought and I'd like to share a little bit about that process.

When I was a little girl my brothers and I would often go to church with Grandma on Sundays. I'm sure, in its own way, it is a good church... but it wasn't good for me. There was music,  but it was somber, a constant theme was how lowly we humans were, how imperfect and flawed. Maybe it was just my age or the way my brain works... but I never felt God's presence there. I didn't feel the glory of the Lord, the Love he has for us. All I could feel was how imperfect I was. And I internalized that feeling. I grew to hate church. I felt a false truth... that I didn't deserve God's love and grace. That I could never be worthy of it. 

I was a particularly sensitive kid. I swung between extreme shyness and a love for being the center of attention. I was odd, I loved reading and digging up worms and pretending to make magic potions and drawing by myself at recess. I didn't have many friends,  but I did have a big chip on my shoulder. I felt worthless and awkward and different. Over the years, I rejected God. I grew a thick skin and a "Don't mess with me" attitude. I felt the pull of God, but down deep, I just knew I didn't measure up. I had no faith. So, I rejected religion. I prostelysed science and believed I was better than the silly believers while secretly yearning for the peace and conviction they seemed to have. It wasn't something I would admit, even to myself.

I met the man who was my best friend, my soulmate, at 19. We married 5 months after we met and we made a beautiful life together.  We became the parents of two amazing, dynamic children. We were Atheists. My husband had endured a hard life, full of pain and rejection. He was hardened by the circumstances of his life and he was very much a self made man. He was amazingly intelligent and he blazed his own trail out of an early life full of pain, addiction and poverty. The little family that we made together was the fire that led him to become a successful business man and an excellent father, protecter, provider. He encouraged me in every new passion I had, but for most of my 20's my focus was being his hearth and home. He made the money and I was a stay at home mom, student and eventually found my way into a field I loved and excelled in. We were happy. We fought sometimes,  of course.  But we had a strong marriage and great plans for our future.

The first time I truly felt the presence of God was when my children were born. That first breath... It was miraculous. It was something I couldn't explain away with science... the magic of a new life, born of the love we shared, it was otherworldly. I prayed silently, almost embarrassed by my impulse to plead with a God I wasn't sure existed to give me the strength to be a good mother.

In December of 2012 my husband, a man who rarely got so much as a cold or flu, began having a strange stomach ache. Two weeks passed, as the pain got worse, before I finally convinced him to go to the doctor. He was diagnosed with diverticulitis but, 2 rounds of antibiotics later, the pain was steadily getting worse. He was finally rushed to the hospital after a botched colonoscopy for exploratory surgery on January 25th 2013. Two hours later, I sat outside with a doctor who told me my 38 year old husband was riddled with cancer. There was no mass to remove, it had grown like a clinging vine and it was everywhere. In shock, I asked if he was going to die. The doctor told me "Not on this admission". He gave me no hope, no assurances that Jason would come through this. He knew what he was looking at, but he wouldn't tell me the truth. I knew it anyway. I knew, in my very soul, that the man I had loved for the past 13 years, the man who was as necessary as the air in my lungs, was going to die. I didn't want to acknowledge it, but somehow I just knew. The doctors gave him a colostomy and closed him up and told me they wouldn't have a treatment plan until his biopsy repport came back and an oncologist looked at him.

My brother Nathan was the first to come be with me while they finished Jason's surgery. I sank to my knees when I saw him, sobbing, and we prayed. Funny how my first instinct was to plea to a God I was certain didn't exist. But I did it anyway. And I kept praying over the next week,  pleading for a miracle,  promising the changes and sacrifices I would make if he would heal my love. Asking to switch places, because I couldn't bear the thought of a life without him. We got the final diagnosis two days later... Stage 4 pancreatic, stomach and esophageal cancer. The prognosis was that with chemo, if his body could survive it, he would live another couple of months.
Obviously, our world shattered. Jason tried a round of chemo,  which only speeded up the process of his death. He chose hospice when it became clear that he was not going to survive. He quietly and bravely accepted death and chose to live out the rest of his time on earth as he wanted it... at home, where he could hug and love on his children and sleep beside me. For three weeks, we got to say goodbye. We said all the things that we needed to say, he tried his best to prepare me for the things I would need to do after he was gone. He wrote the letters he needed to write and basked in the love of our family and friends. I cared for him at home, with a lot of help and support. Our family was changing,  growing tighter. Jason spoke of how loved he felt, how proud he was of me and our children. A staunch atheist,  he began to think about the after. He felt a strong sense of serenity.  He told me several times that he didn't know what would happen when he died,  but that he felt a strong presence of peace... the conviction that he had been a good person and had done his best and that he felt he was moving on to something good. God was with my husband, I know that now. God was guiding him to acceptance and giving him the strength to say goodbye. I know that in the end, he knew it.

Jason died at home February 17th, 2013... three days after our son's 13th birthday and a week before our thirteenth anniversary. My entire life lay in shattered pieces. I didn't know what to do, how to comfort my children, how to go on living when I felt dead inside. 

My family and friends are amazing. They held us together and rallied around us. The shock set in and I was in such a fog, such enormous pain that I didn't know how to deal with. And I was angry. If there was a God, how could he do this to us? Why did my husband have to die when there were so many bad people out there who got to live?

I ran from the pain, in whatever way I could. I drank, did whatever I could to ease the pain. But it didn't work, and it was eating me alive. 

There has been a lot to learn. I have stumbled and fallen, over and over. My children and I have been in therapy, support groups, whatever we were "supposed" to do to go on. I've been suicidal. I'm heartbroken in the very literal sense of the word. I have a chronic illness that has spiraled out of control over the last few years, a physical representation of a life upended.

I can't tell you when it happened. There has been a quiet yearning for a long time, a wish for peace and understanding.  All I know is that for the first time,  I felt an answer.  I felt God's graceful, loving presence. I watched my kids get involved with church and youth group and begin to heal in a real way. I started praying. Something cracked open in my soul and God's love rushed in to begin to heal me, to help me understand,  to help me accept and let go. I feel God's presence now. I understand that I don't have to be perfect to feel his grace.

Things have been happening as my soul opens up to accept God's love, to understand the saccrifice Jesus made for our salvation. It is really hard to ignore and explain away when God is making himself known in your life everyday. I'm never going to be perfect. I'll probably never be a perfect Christian. I still have questions. I'm still not sure of what I'm doing. But for the first time in my life, I have faith. I know that my husband is at peace in God's grip. I am putting myself into His hands. I am beginning to heal.

No comments:

Post a Comment