Tonight several friends from Monterey High School are meeting in Dallas to celebrate the conclusion of treatments for cancer on behalf of one of our classmates. We are a part of the class of 1980. (We were the first class in MHS history to graduate a group of child prodigies, who were only 5 years year old as seniors.) That makes us about 35 years old? Yes, that sounds great.
That could be stretching the truth just a bit, but in my mind we are still too young to be diagnosed with awful diseases like cancer. But that is not reality either. Small children can be diagnosed with certain forms of cancer. Over 23 years in ministry I have walked with a lot of families facing dire illnesses. It is a humbling experience to say the least.
After all of these years, I am more convinced than ever that one of the best gifts we can provide those dealing with cancer is a quiet and consistent presence. No words are needed. During certain times in the journey I would even say no words allowed! I would place kind and carefully thought out words of encouragement as a close second. Simple acts of service that are completed with no need for fanfare also rank very high in the scheme of things. I have been privileged to watch all three of these played out on behalf of those facing serious illnesses by loving people who possess great people skills. Consequently I have learned a lot in 23 years from some real pros.
Sometimes well intentioned friends miss the mark as they strive to help a friend in such circumstances. There is just a lack of perspective. My friend and colleague Virgil Fry has been a chaplain at M.D. Anderson in Houston for over 25 years. His thoughts are worth sharing in this sharing. He captures some of the things a person facing illness experiences.
Hope is stronger than despair, though both are powerful and normal.
Being avoided or shunned in worse than being subjected to uncomfortable conversation.
The message “life goes on” takes on deeper meanings as we confront crisis.
Loss of independence is a loss of identity, for we perceive ourselves as doers and actors.
Losses painfully remind us of how dependent we truly are upon God and others.
A broken spirit can be more difficult to heal than a broken body.
When we have to, we can endure much more than we think we can. The human spirit is incredibly resilient.
Claiming one day at a time is one secret to faithful living.
The most important things in life cannot be bought or earned, but they can be received in love.
Sharing joys and sorrows yields a return of healing and intimacy.
Living is a process, not a series of rational decisions we make. Spiritual growth springs fro continually learning to “let go and let God.”
-Virgil M. Fry in Disrupted: Finding God in Illness and Loss.
Congratulations today to Kerri! She has completed the journey of treatment procedures for cancer. I hope tonight marks a great time of celebration and joy with lifelong friends. May this day be marked as a time of recommitment for all of us to serve our friends and family more faithfully as they too face serious illnesses. And may tonight mark a time to heal…