It can be terrifying that life is constant change and loss. In fact, besides the church being true, loss is the one constant I can count on. When I lost my twin sister to suicide, I had never been alone before. I lost my best friend and my identity in one quick minute, which left me wandering around bumping into doors and falling into holes as life took a surprise detour. Next, Losing Jason’s father smashed my future plans like crystal glass against rocks. Years later, in Provo, 1986, my dreams and identity splintered again when my husband, Randy, lay down behind a car exhaust because “his heart hurt too much.” Four years later, just after Jason left on his mission, Jim came along and volunteered to help build Beau’s Pinewood Derby car. For the first time in decades, I felt “safe,” a particulaly important feeling for women. But,I became ill with an auto-immune disease, and after many years of my up and down health, he crumpled under a strong desire to just be happy, and he left us. He just walked away. Then I lost Megan to addictions and watched her die--not just once but over and over--in front of me. After that loss, I actually disappeared, melted down, and became dust and ashes. And my identity? What’s that?
But, Sara is right. Illness is the last betrayal. I always picked up the pieces of a crushed life and walked on. There was no alternative—though this last crash has taken me years to put Humpty Dumpty together again. But being ill was worse than losing people I loved, or the abandonment and rejection, because it left me too vulnerable—-without strength to reach down and grab handfuls of courage that we all have in us but seldom know about until we desperately need it. For a couple of years as I lay in bed and memorized the ceiling—-unable to even read my beloved books—I watched my family fall apart from behind helpless eyes. Not only did I see a good husband collapse under the pressure of caring for a spouse whom he expected to be strong and walk by his side, I also watched children in great pain because they had no mother. I was useless flesh that needed to be fed and taken care of by others, and sometimes they’d forget. I remember one morning—-as the family rushed along without me—-eight-year-old Beau slowly walking into the bedroom, trying to balance a bowl of Cheerios he’d filled too full of milk. “Aren’t you hungry, Mom?” I pushed my tongue way back into my throat and vowed to love him forever. What do we do when we can’t be who and what we want to be? When our futures float away and our present moments are dense with dread? Well . . . Dear Prudence, we are not our illnesses or our losses unless we choose to be. We’re something awfully fine, even related to gods, no matter what happens during the minutes of our days.
This is what faith is all about. Faith is this huge gift; it’s our armor, our safe and golden magic wand, but unlike those fake Halloween props, it really honestly truly WORKS. It brings the eternities back into focus even when our eyes are blurred and hearts are numb. It softens every black cruelty. But I have learned that it goes away when we don’t use it or exercise it, sort of like leg muscles that atrophy when we’ve been laid up in bed too long. I believe in God. I know He’s alive and real. My life has become an often failed, but constant search for him, filled with a longing to get closer to Him and to understand Him better, because He is my true home. I have felt peace and light and love there. AND IT’S freedom all blended in with safety. When my faith is high and active, I walk the earth like a giant woman, taking huge strides, happy to plant sunflower seeds, coloring the sky bright blue even when it’s black with clouds. I feel alive and well and the world is a fine place even when I break and die a little more every hour. But, fear keeps me from faith. It blackens everything it touches and suffocates me. I am more afraid of my own fear than I am of Satan because it drains away light. I don’t want to give it room in my head or attach it to my identity because I am more than my fear, losses, or illnesses. As trite as it sounds, I am the child of a God, walking (sometimes crawling) home, and it’s a whole lot easier to do when I keep my faith fed and operating. “Across the Universe; nothing’s going change my world.”
Illness is very difficult, Sara Lee, but don't identify with it. You're above it, and you'll be OK even if you're ill for a long time.