“Accept what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”
Sometimes, the enormity of the human condition is just too much for me to bear. Certainly no one likes seeing the suffering of others. It is unpleasant, unsettling, difficult. It challenges our collective sense of safety and control and inevitably leads us to thoughts about the potential for our own discomfort and eventual mortality. For me, though, it’s something different. Something deeper. I will admit that for a woman of 41, I have an almost childlike sense of innocence when it comes to the well-being of those I love. I ache when others hurt. I always have. I remember my mother telling me when I was younger that, while admirable and beautiful to love and want good for everyone, I simply didn’t have the power to enact that lofty goal. God has His plan for us, and it’s our responsibility to believe and trust in that plan. She told me as well that, sadly, suffering is a very real part of life, and that I should focus on living and living well, loving those around me, and trusting and believing in God. As a grown woman, wife, and mother, I today worry all the time about the safety and health of the people I love. I see stories on the news about violence and I want more than anything to lock my loved ones away someplace safe, someplace where harm will never find them and where I can be assured of their continued well-being. I read stories online about little ones with cancer and I want nothing more than to wrap my arms around my daughter and to hold her. Certainly, with the loving arms of her mother about her, there is no way that illness could find my daughter. See? Childlike innocence. I know conceptually that I can’t protect the people I love from life and its happenings, but for to pray for them and to be there for them. But that feels wholly insufficient and so, I continue to worry. And this? This is all hypothetical. This is all “what if?” and “maybe.” This doesn’t begin to scratch the surface when pain and suffering actually find the people I love.
A very dear friend of mine learned last May that she has breast cancer. This friend, this wonderful person, is quite possibly the most beautiful and kind person I have ever known. With each adversity she has faced, and she has faced more than her share, she has walked in light and grace and with a dignity that makes me proud to be her friend. Her double mastectomy has long been scheduled for this Thursday, but she learned just a few days ago that her cancer is now stage four. It has metastasized to her lungs. Some friends and I put together a gift basket for her to make her hospital stay more comfortable, and we stopped by to see her this evening to wish her well. In her characteristically loving and wonderful fashion, she was all smiles and happy, genuinely so. Her smile was beautiful, and I know she was grateful for our love and our visit. I came home and promptly fell to pieces. Why her? Her only, and I do mean only, crime was having been born to a mother who would later die of breast cancer. In all the years I have known her, she has been nothing but kind and warm and loving to everyone she has encountered. It eludes my human understanding why this horrible disease would find acceptable its invasion into the body of someone so undeserving of suffering while others, selfish and cruel and hatred-filled others seemingly walk through life unscathed. As I prepared a late dinner for my husband and I, the tears just fell from my eyes and continue to do so now. It was hard to breathe there for a little while. I ache that this beautiful, innocent person has been made to suffer and I pray and hope with all that I am that her surgery is successful and that the doctors, who are optimistic now (thank God!), will deliver good news after her surgery is over. My friend’s name is Jill, and it would mean the world to me if you would keep her in your hearts and your prayers this Thursday and in the weeks after as she recovers and begins this new, hopefully much healthier, chapter of her life. I am so proud to be her friend, and hope that if her situation or something similar should ever befall me, that I could walk through that fire with half the grace and dignity that she has.
I hopped on Facebook after dinner and saw several posts about today being National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Ever have one of those moments where you’re upset and sad anyway, and then something you encounter just makes it worse? Childlike innocence rears its ugly head again. My heart broke as I thought of the five women I know who have lost children. My mother miscarried a baby after I was born. My mother-in-law lost her baby daughter to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Three of my friends bore and buried their babies. The pain that they suffered and continue to suffer breaks my heart wide open. We bark platitudes all the time about how God is in control (and the Catholic in me believes that) and that everything happens for a reason, but my human heart finds it impossible to understand why the loss of a child is ever good, ever acceptable, ever just. On top of thinking about my friend, I am thinking now about the little girl that my parents-in-law lost. Tracy. She was a year younger than I was, and I have these grand visions of she and I being great friends and having this wonderful sisterhood had she not left this world so early. I was an only child, my only sisters being the women whose Greek letters I shared on a sweatshirt or bookbag. Tracy wouldn’t have had sisters, either. She would have had two brothers, my husband and brother-in-law. I love the notion of her being my maid of honor and spending hours together talking and raising our families together. I ache tonight for the sister and dear friend that time and circumstance took from me.
In the midst of my tears and sadness, a beautiful quote found its way to me – “Accept what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.” That is the challenge God has given me this evening, but my human heart is having trouble measuring up. Sometimes, I think I just have to accept the fact that the heart just hurts.