I recently posted about four people that I have known who took their lives and that the necessity to have something beyond what this material world can give. I came across this today in First Things. It is an article called The Reality of Hope in which Amy Julia Becker describes her experiences that she as she went through the process of losing her mother-in-law and friend to liver cancer. She writes:
When Penny first received her diagnosis—primary liver cancer—we were optimistic. Perhaps surgery would eradicate the disease. Perhaps she would live to know her grandchildren. Perhaps she would retire and travel to Italy again. We thought it might all work out. But then came the pathology report, the news that the cancer had gotten into her bloodstream. Those optimistic thoughts were no longer readily available. Optimism failed. But hope is not optimism, and neither is it false piety. Once Penny died, it was tempting to ignore the sadness and focus upon the promise of eternal life. It was tempting to bypass grief. But I cringed when someone offered, “I guess God needed another angel in heaven.” In thinking only of the future, of heaven, that statement skips over the real loss in the present. It implies that God is needy, snatching people away to fill some cosmic void. It implies that it is acceptable for a fifty-five-year old woman to die a grueling death. Statements about God’s purpose in death can be used as a cudgel, a way to berate believers into pretending that the loss is not profound, devastating. “Pie in the sky by and by” is no consolation. False piety skips past grief altogether, and, like optimism, it ultimately fails.
I visit people dying every week and have spoke with and consoled the sick and their family members. The thought that we are mortal and fragile at best is something I am reminded of each day. I think about dying quite frequently, how people my age have succumb to diseases, how there is really no logical way to make sense of it. In dealing with this a strange thing has happened to me, in confronting what was genuine fear, I have attained a certain degree of peace. That peace is that I truly feel the hope that Jesus talked about. We are given differing degrees of suffering and our losses can never be fully understood. He consoles us as we look to the hope of eternal life.