Yesterday, my wife and I received the sad news that a dear friend had passed away after a long battle with cancer. Well, it seemed like a long battle, although after talking it over we realized that it had only been about nine months from the time she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her funeral is on Saturday and we'll be leaving town on Friday in order to attend it.
Her death is a true tragedy and any words offered as condolences seem like trite platitudes at this point. For there are no words that can ease the pain. What do you say to a husband who's just lost his wife and the mother of his children? What do you say to two young daughters whose memories of their wonderful mother will grow increasingly vague as they grow older? What do you say to a mother, who suddenly lost her husband a few years ago and now must cope with a parent's worst nightmare; the death of one of your children?
There are also no answers to the inevitable question of why? Why did it happen to her? Why did a young woman in the prime years of her life face such a horrible affliction? Why her, a caring woman who lived a good life and wanted nothing more than to raise her children and grow old with her husband? Why? Why? Why? There are no answers to offer.
It's a time when the clichés about "putting things in perspective" "making you realize how lucky you are" and "not taking anything for granted" don't seem so worn after all. It's a time to mourn what you have lost, but also cherish what you have and recognize how fleeting it all can be.
I don't want to turn this into some maudlin, "Cats In The Cradle" like heart-tugging reflection, but it does serves as a cautionary reminder. Even though at some level you know it's not true, you assume that your friends and family will always be there. So if you're too busy today, you can always call or visit them tomorrow. Or the next tomorrow. Or the tomorrow after that. It shouldn't be, but it always comes as a shock when one day you hear the news and realize that there is no tomorrow.
It's also a time to wonder where God figures in all this. It's disquieting to consider a world with God where such awful things happen. But it's even more disquieting to consider such a world without God. For with God there is hope. And at a time like this when words will not suffice and no answers are to be had, hope is about all we have to go on.
Gina Johnson R.I.P.