My mom has been gone for 4 years today. It definitely doesn't seem that long. But, I lit my candles, said my prayers, and sat and considered where life has taken me since she's been gone. My mom's death taught me a valuable but difficult lesson. Maybe the most valuable and the most difficult lesson I've had in life. And that lesson is, "you should never pray for miracles, but rather pray for strength." My moms life and death, in a broad sense, taught me to not hold God responsible for tragedy or death and ultimately burst my "everything happens for a reason" bubble. This lesson certainly took time to grasp fully, but in the end I realized we are at the mercy of the universe, with all it's beauty and terror and randomness. I came to believe God hurts with us, grieves with us, and gives us strength we didn't know we had, but He can't possibly go back and change what already was. My mom's lung cancer was already stage 4 at diagnosis. It was in her bones and her brain. To ask God to heal her (although at the time I did exactly that) was unfair and inappropriate. How could God possibly reverse time and cure cancer before it started in my mom when so many others have succumbed to the disease? How could he magically make her cancer disappear when he failed to do so for so many others? Where would the fairness be for all those other families in my miracle? The difficult but honest answer, to me, was that God didn't cause cancer or cure cancer. Cancer is caused by biological systems in our bodies and the environmental effects outside our bodies. Cancer is cured by cutting edge scientist and righteous worldly motivation, not divine miracle intervention.
What about the millions who die from "acts of God" as the insurance industry labels them? How could my moms cancer or my pain and fear be lifted but millions of innocents be carried away by flood or famine? To me, those aren't acts of God, but acts of Nature. The act of God is in the millions more who survive, pick up, carry on, and keep trying to find happiness.
God or meaning can not be found in the tragedy, but He is certainly in the response, or at least he was for me. I learned to take every precious jewel that is each day of life and try to be happy. To try and grow. To try and learn. I see the world from an entirely different perspective now. I suppose enduring loss can do that. I'm sad and angry about certain things. I'm sad and angry my mom won't be part of my son's life (at least physically). I'm sad and angry that the means to prevent her disease only came after she was stricken with it. I'm sad and angry for the bad luck that took both my parents before they could meet their grand baby. I'm sad and angry they won't be around to make more memories. But none of that anger and sadness outweighs the love of my baby's snuggles, the love of my wife and family, the memory of my dear loved ones, or the beauty of the world that surrounds each of us. Random horrible things happen in life. They carry no purpose or meaning in themselves, but rather inspire meaning in how we react to them. I read a book recently that said WE are what makes someones memory a martyr for life and love, or a curse of loss and death. My mom's memory WILL NOT be a curse to me. I remember her generosity and love. I remember her patience and dedication. I remember how she made me believe I could do anything I wanted. I remember baseball games and watching TV on the couch. I remember her burning passion for justice and fairness. I am largely who I am today because of my mom. Because she WAS a martyr for love and light. To despair at her memory would be to insult her impact on me. So, I accept the randomness and often cruelty of life with the new found determination to be happy each and every day no matter what. To enjoy with all my might being a father and a husband and a friend and to keep striving for joy as long as I can do so. If you never take any advice I ever give, take this advice... Your life isn't written based on what happens to you or someone you love, but how you respond to it. Suffering and pain is meaningless unless you give it meaning. Which meaning it gets (whether blessing or curse) depends on no one but you. Whether people believe in an after life or not, the most precious reward a person can receive is peace, and in my heart, I KNOW my mom is at peace. I know she's satisfied. I came to many of these conclusions 4 years ago when my mom asked me from her hospital bed why her cancer was happening to her. I told her the same thing I'm telling you. God doesn't hate you. God isn't punishing you. God doesn't cause cancer or cure it. We are all at the mercy of physics and biology and chaos. But God feels our grief, pain, and anger, and answers us with strength and resilience. Reward and punishment are not for this world, but for what comes after. I didn't believe in lying to her just like I'm not going to lie to anyone that reads this. Life is hard, unfair, and full of pain. But my mom's suffering (or mine) does not make her life (or mine) meaningless. In fact, it's done the exact opposite. Life is fragile so love, laugh, and be happy while you can. This may not be a typical "in memory of" post, but it's my truth. Lessons we learn aren't always rainbows and unicorns. Some hurt. Some hurt bad. But in memory of my loving, wonderful mom. Be happy today. Find it. There are no excuses. She wouldn't have it.