Beyond Understanding

Last weekend, I attended a memorial service for a 7-year-old girl who lost her battle against cancer.  I will say right away that I do not understand why children have cancer or other dreadful maladies that take these precious souls away from us. I cannot imagine the loss to her family. Such an event cannot possibly leave a family unchanged.

As much as we do not like it, we can accept the cycle of life when someone dies at an advanced age, but to die so young seems so unreasonable. We know that people of every age die at the hands of accidents, negligence and the “free will” choices of others, but many medical maladies seem so far out of our control. Maybe someday we will find the answer that unlocks the secret to cancer and stop its runaway growth. I certainly hope so.

The pastor said that there is no explanation or reason that might comfort the family. I dug around my own thoughts looking for a reason. I thought about the fall of man at the beginning but even that didn’t satisfy my hunger for something understandable.

More than 30 years ago, Gary Mervis founded Camp Good Days and Special Times for his daughter, Teddi Mervis and 62 other children with cancer from Upstate New York. I am not directly familiar with this organization but I can easily imagine that this group not only brings fun and confidence to the kids but celebrates their undefeatable spirit. The founder not only poured out his love for his daughter and others like her, but allowed so many more to demonstrate their love as well.

In the newspaper after the memorial service was held, there was a comment about the little girl from her mother, I believe, that cancer was just a word. I can believe that, since children do not tend to dwell on their problems but look for the next moment of magic.

Death, of course, is a part of life. For some, it is the end. For others, it is a new beginning to something greater – a mere transition from here to the hereafter. I am not sure that death is much of a barrier for God. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after four days. (John 11) Jesus commanded his apostles to raise the dead. (Matt 8:10) Peter raised Tabitha from the dead. (Acts 9:36-43) Paul raised Eutychus from the dead (Acts 20:7-12). Jesus himself was resurrected and a resurrection was promised to all those who believe. For many of us, this is a comforting thought but those of us left behind miss our loved one’s presence. Their memories in our minds and hearts keep them alive for us here, even as they live on in paradise.

I cannot imagine the intense feeling of losing a child. I can only sympathize with those who have lost children for any reason. Early childhood passing was common one hundred fifty years ago, but in our modern world of medicine and sanitation, it defies my sensibilities. My thoughts and prayers not only go out to the family effected last weekend but to all those families suffering with cancer or other medical maladies.  I suppose that children living with and dying of cancer is simply beyond my understanding.

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