Tag Archives: cancer

Taken Too Young

I would have entitled this ‘Taken Too Soon’, but as I am not the Lord of Time, it is not mine to say when is too soon. Last weekend, Theresa’s nephew passed away suddenly. He suffered a medical malady throughout his life. Although this malady restricted our culture’s expectations of this young man, he touched the lives of very many. During the viewing there were hundreds of people who paid respects to the family. There was a steady stream of visitors for four hours. His mother told Theresa that her son knew each one of them.

In this young man’s life, he made an impact on many individuals. He always greeted everyone with a smile and a big “Hi.” He lived in the moment. He loved movies and excelled at remembering the dialog. He loved live music. And he loved to dance (see a video of him below). In his short life, he taught those around him to accept that which cannot be changed and enjoy the moments as they come.

He died much too young. A few months ago, a young girl passed away from cancer. She passed much too young. I still do not understand why medical maladies afflict those so young. I never will.

These young people teach us that life is uncertain, that the end can come at any time. They teach us that we must appreciate the time that we have. That time is fleeting and that our life is precious. Our life should not be wasted on things that waste our time or does not help us grow. This is a lesson that that we all can appreciate. Thanks Matt.

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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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Bewildered Directions

   Over the last few weeks, we have been looking for a new home. Theresa and I want to be closer to family. We thought we had found the home we wanted but another made an offer that the owner accepted just two days before ours.

There have been many things in our lives that occurred in the last few months: Theresa had received full time employment; my job changed; Theresa’s father passed away; and we have decided to move. Our lives have experienced both positive and negative stressors.

Today, I learned that the seven year old daughter of a co-worker passed away from cancer. I cannot adequately find the words that can comfort such a loss, neither can I imagine the pain to lose someone so young. As faithful as I wish to be, this is one area where I have a problem with existence. No child should ever have cancer, but they do. Because they do, I can imagine the love and support that is poured out upon that child and their families. It gives people opportunities to care, to give and to love. But I still insist that no child should ever have cancer.

I was thinking about direction today. Each day, we have to choose where we will go and what we will do. We have to choose how we will react to the world around us. It isn’t always easy. We have to decide to stand still or move forward. But what direction is right? Where shall I go? I suppose the only way to go is forward after we carefully decide which way to turn.

Woodrow Wilson said, “We live in an age disturbed, confused, bewildered, afraid of its own forces, in search not merely of its road but even of its direction. There are many voices of counsel, but few voices of vision; there is much excitement and feverish activity, but little concert of thoughtful purpose. We are distressed by our own ungoverned, undirected energies and do many things, but nothing long. It is our duty to find ourselves.”  Woodrow Wilson left us in 1924. I am not sure when he said these words, but it shows that our looking for direction, purpose and a way to spend our energies, has been a persistent state.

With so many changes in our lives, both great and small, we must choose a direction. We must also ask for direction. If you believe in a greater force as I do, then you pray for God’s will. And even if you don’t, you should still seek out wise counsel from those that have vision.

May tomorrow bring you closer to your dreams. I think it’s that-a-way.

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Lessons from Death – Part Two

If you missed Part One, you can find it here Lessons from Death – Part One

My father always checked the obituary page in the paper first.  He said it was to make sure that he wasn’t listed.  For the longest while, he would attend many of the funerals of people or families that he knew.  It probably isn’t true, but it seemed as though my father knew most of the families in the county.  If he didn’t attend the funeral, then sometimes he would stop and deliver his condolences to the family home in person.

   My father’s “funeral” ministry ended when my mother died.  He stopped going to funerals.  He said that funerals were too painful, that it reminded him too much of losing my mother.  I would have thought that it would have made consoling others even more meaningful but I suppose that the pain was too great.  The only funeral that he attended after my mother’s death, at least that I’m aware of, was that of his own mother.

   My father suffered from multiple cancers for over five years.  He lived with my sister, who worked a lot of overtime hours.  Early on, my father remained quite independent, but as his illness progressed, his geographic world began to shrink.  I had asked him to come live with my family and me.  He turned down this invitation time and time again, stating that his friends lived in Maryland.  He spent most of his life in Cecil County, Maryland.  I live in Upstate New York.

   In late 2005, my father’s cancer tightened its grip on his life.  He was in and out of hospital and rehabilitation.  Chemotherapy and blood transfusion became more regular.  He participated in a drug study that, I believe, extended his life.

   In January 2006, my father, exhausted from his long fight, asked if he could live with me – to spend his last days with me.  This was an incredibly emotional request for me to consider.  Of course, I blurted out “Yes” right away.

  I asked, “What about your friends?”

  “They are all dead,” my father replied.  I knew that was not true, but I did not protest his answer.

   This was the last leg of my father’s journey and an incredible path that was an honor and a great privilege for me to travel.

   To be continued…

Follow this link to Lessons from Death – Part Three

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