Hello friends and Caring Bridge family! It's been over four months since I've touched base with you. Sorry it has taken me so long to write this entry, but I kind of hit a wall in my grieving process. I'm also a bit intimidated by what I need to address here: Jennie's sacrifice
of her life and the core question of why bad things happen to good people. You see, some have made the comment that Jennie's cancer and death is the sort of thing that make them question if God even exists. She literally gave her life to help people with this very issue and I hope by the end of this entry you will understand why I tremble with trepidation as I write.
I'm a People, I'm God, I'm a Duck! I hope you enjoy this greeting card I received two years ago during Clergy Appreciation week (please go to the picture gallery and enlarge it if you can't see it clearly here). I wish I could even tell you who it is from! You see four names here on the inside and the front and back of the card have several more names. Other than the line added across the bottom, I suspect by the older student who was supervising, you probably wonder what this could possibly have to do with my service as a deacon, just as we did. Yet, it was by far Jennie and my favorite of the hundreds of cards I received, touching us deeply. I can't tell you why. Was it because it seems so off the mark? Was it because it may be this child's attempt to express what our religion has taught him about our existence... the hierarchy of God, mankind, and man's rule over the earth (and our love for each other)? Was it simply because it conveys a pure sense of innocence and the beauty of our children? Whatever the source of its appeal; the very mystery of its appeal has compelled me to save it for this special entry. To me, it demonstrates how God can work in strange ways and may help us understand how good can come out of an apparent evil.
I'm going to let you in on something we withheld from you during our trials. In our initial meeting with our oncologist we were told that there would be no medical chance of surviving the cancer; our goal was to make her remaining days as pleasant as possible. "It will take a miracle." We left that appointment feeling like we were in someone else's life, but still filled with hope. We both knew nothing is impossible for our God and we also knew of a little nun right here in Baton Rouge who has been a conduit for God's healing power. Undaunted, we contacted her and set up a meeting to go see about our miracle.
The day arrived and Sr. Dulce prayed with us. Her eyes filled with compassion as she held Jennie's hand and told us, 'Poppa' wasn't indicating a healing was on the way. Her role for us would be to help Jennie prepare to "go home". She then addressed Jennie and said:
"You've already lived a life that has shown the rest of us how to live. Poppa wants you to show people how to die. Do you know how many people leave Poppa because they don't understand death? Are you willing to do that for Poppa?"
I struggled to breath. It seemed all the air had been sucked out of the room, but Jennie didn't miss a beat. She nodded and immediately asked if we could pray for one thing. "Sure, baby, what would you like to pray for?" Her prayer: "Is it OK to pray that I out-live my mother? I'm not sure she can handle my death."
What a saint! Not only did she accept death; her humility was inspirational as she asked if it was OK to pray she could die in a way that would minimize the pain of others. Like Momma Mary, she also chose to be the handmaid of the Lord, accepting what she didn't understand and only questioning specifics. Let it be done to me as you say
I don't have all the answers as to why God lets bad things happen to good people, but I'd like to share what He's let me in on so far.
First of all, we need to have the faith to believe that we weren't created to live as we do here on earth. Genesis tells us that God created us to be in His presence and immersed directly in His love. That is what we describe as heaven. Earth, with all its suffering and imperfections, is the place foreign to our nature. On earth we tend to say how lucky we are to live to a long and full age; in heaven they surely look down and say, "Look at that poor stiff. He's sure been stuck down there a long time."
We don't understand suffering as God does. We tend to think of it as a punishment. God has always used it as tool to bring us closer to Him and to perfect us. Scriptures assure us that even Jesus' obedience was made perfect through His trials. Prosperity tends to make us think we're self sufficient and doing just fine on our own. It is through suffering we realize how vulnerable we are and how much we need His love. Furthermore, look at all the suffering Jesus endured. How can we possibly think suffering is something that "good" folks would be immune to? Scriptures tell us chastisement is a sure sign of God's fatherly love and assure us that the more we share in Christ's sufferings, the more we will share in His reward.
We also tend to think that the best way to leave this earth is a quick death, without years of sickness and suffering. Please consider she was able to express her love and say good-bye to each of us and we to her. What a priceless gift! She had time to show me her systems for paying bills, laundry, and other responsibilities. She trained Rachel to take over her role in our business so that all of our employees would continue to have a source of income for their families. She oversaw improvements to our home so that I could sell it easier as she envisioned my doing. Having time to take care of these day to day concerns and doing everything she could to make sure we could survive and prosper without her was paramount to her and gave her a great sense of peace about leaving us. She lived to see her grandson, Xander. Finally, she had two and a half years to show her faith and peace that she was not simply "going", she was "going ahead!"
She did endure suffering. She gladly accepted it and even anticipated it intensifying so that we would clearly see she is better off not in this world. She knew it would make the parting much easier to accept. What a great gift it was.
All of us know we will die one day. She trusted her death would give glory to God; she didn't question how. It was His plan. It was meaningful. It was part of life. It gave her the opportunity to finally get in that rocking chair with Maggie, who by the way celebrates her twentieth anniversary of being born into eternal life this very day! I know my ladies are having a big celebration up there today. And I feel certain they want us to do the same, 'cause they're still with us, if only seen and experienced through the eyes of faith.
I hope this entry helped any of you that struggle with bad things happening to good people. Much more of it is explained by our free will, which causes so much man-made suffering, but that is pretty straight forward. I can't tell you why He grants children to some who don't want them and even abort them, while others with barren wombs pray and do everything they can to conceive. Like the card at the beginning of this entry, we have to accept that some things are a mystery to us and although "bad" things continue to happen, He is always able to make "good" things come from them, even if that good is beyond our ability to grasp here, on earth, in our fallen form.
God Bless all. I love every one of you. Let us live each day to the fullest - trusting in God and seeking His will for our lives; just like Jennie.