Monday, August 26, 2013

Grief, Joy, Laughter through Tears & a Challenge

This weekend I learned that the baby of a friend of mine who was born way too soon is thriving on his original due date and has a bright future. A child many of us worried would die when water broke so unbelievably early, has fought through with God's mercy and lived.

It's been a weekend of rejoicing what is, that could just as easily have been a weekend of mourning what could have been. What should have been. The child's name is Jonathan, but in a way he is an Isaac of joy and laughter, too, I'm sure.

While this sweet baby continues to grow stronger, another mom of three is growing weaker...

You see, this weekend I also learned that a friend of mine has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. As friend number 1's baby learns to control his muscles and hands, friend number 2 has been losing control of hers. The disease is robbing her of what should be.

As I've grieved for friend number two, I've found myself pleading, "Oh, God, please.... No!"

I know it's arrogant of me to even presume I know better than God what is good and what needs to happen. Still, it feels disloyal to my friend not to beg Him to reconsider the plan here.

This mixture of joy and sorrow is nothing new. Life from our perspective is rarely all good nor all bad at the same time. We've probably all even heard the saying that "you have to take the good with the bad." Perhaps that's even why Romans 12:15 was penned. God has a way of blurring the lines between grief and joy, yet still we need to grieve fully at times.

We have a way of blurring the lines, too. Sometimes we laugh so hard that we cry. Other times we'll be in the throes of grief and someone will toss in a statement or joke that instantly lightens the mood. After just such an event, a character in Steel Magnolias (Truvy) famously quipped, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."

I know this road is terrifying, but my friend was also granted inconceivable peace prior to receiving her firm diagnosis. For that I am grateful. She's not afraid of death itself, but the dying part is scary of course. She's requested prayer for her children mostly and for one particular neurologist she sees. Mainly, she wants to live, fully live and enjoy every moment while she still can.

How do I even pray for her? For her children?

I keep thinking of a song that came out when I was coming of age -- Home Free, by Wayne Watson. If I remember correctly, he wrote it in response to the funeral of a little girl in their church whose healing they had prayed for without abandon. Right now, it's the only thing that really helps me process grief like this. (Well, that and the last few chapters of Job.)

I haven't told many people, but I had a cancer scare earlier this summer. In fact, I pretty much had myself in the grave and was quite stunned when everything checked out okay. I remember marveling how I'd been granted a new lease on life -- that since I apparently (at least for now) have the gift of time, that God could ask me to "take one for the team" regarding some of the personal difficulties I'd been experiencing.

In retrospect, this weekend has been a reminder of that realization and a challenge for me to fully live, but not just in the cliche' "enjoy every moment". Yes it is good to look around and be thankful, but I sense God drawing me to something more...

Every day of life is a gift -- a gift that I can give back to God when I return kindness when it seems un-deserved -- living at peace with those who frustrate me, seeking instead to love them, pray for them, and find creative ways to spur them on to good as well.

I'll be praying for my friend, too, as if it were I myself who were in her situation. One day, we all will be there, whether we receive advanced notice of it or not.