Ever since I was a teenager and developed a strong relationship with God, I’ve never really been afraid of death. I’ve always dreaded the “process” of dying. But I actually look beyond the grave with anticipation, so much so that after I told one of my high-school friends I was looking forward to death, I found myself summoned to the school counselor’s office. Thankfully, I was able to convince her I wasn’t suicidal, just looking forward to the afterlife.
However, my faith was put to the test recently after an annual eye exam. I’ve been blind as a bat since childhood, but my vision has always been correctable. Until recently. I realized my eyesight had disintegrated, but when the ophthalmologist told me the vision in my right eye was no longer correctable, the news rattled me.
Shortly after leaving his office, I resigned myself to having so-so vision in that eye, but still having correctable vision in my left eye. I wasn’t happy with the outcome, but it wasn’t the end of the world.
For some reason, in the coming days, a really powerful, sinking feeling overcame me. I was suddenly struck with the realization that “something” had changed my vision for the worse, and that something might be a really bad thing. Without warning, the idea struck. My original breast cancer had spread to my head, affecting my vision.
I think the idea of recurrent cancer is always lurking in the back of the mind for most cancer survivors. It’s not a possibility that consumes me but I do become suspicious of oddball aches or pains. One of my greatest dreads is wasting away in front of my family and friends, becoming a sallow, hollow, bald shell to be pitied.
“No. Not this.” I said to God. “Please. I can’t do this. Please make it a quick ending.” I’d already imagined the multiple surgeries that would leave me losing more and more of my faculties. Slowly withering away into a frail skeleton, wrecked by all the dreaded drugs and procedures that would attempt to prolong my life.
The morning this idea crashed down on me I happened to be on my way to RVR Horse Rescue for a little grunt work among majestic animals and wonderful people. Scooping poop and filling water buckets for the second-chance horses in a beautiful and serene setting always soothes my soul.
Without realizing it, my doom and gloom vanished once I became consumed with the task at hand. It wasn’t until a couple of hours later, while I was cleaning Freddy and Kimmie’s pasture, that my mind snapped back to my potential health crisis. Suddenly I thought of Jesus and how He asked His Father to take away His cross, just as I had done that morning. Jesus hadn’t wanted to endure the path to His death any more than I did. But He did it without further complaint.
The moment I made this realization, a strange sense of peace calmed me. “I can do whatever you ask of me.” I said and I meant it. Many people go through the process of horribly slow and painful deaths and even if it wasn’t the ending I would choose for myself, I knew God would be with me through the end.
Days later when I went to my follow-up appointment and found out that my uncorrectable vision was simply a newly developed astigmatism, I was relieved – and also slightly irritated at the doctor for not making that clear to me during my initial appointment.
But I was grateful for the experience that had tested me and the resulting peace that had come when I resigned myself to whatever fate God has in store for me.
I still don’t know what cross I will be asked to bear, but when the time comes, I’m hopeful that I will have the faith to handle it with grace.
What crosses have you had to bear? Has God helped you to carry the weight?