A woman diagnosed with the return of cancer, this time at stage four, comes every week for choir practice. When she told me of her diagnosis, I wanted to weep for her, but she would not have it. She feels a peace and a grace I can only gawk at in response.
The Church assures us that whatever the circumstances befalling us, we will be given the grace necessary to cooperate with God if we so will it. Still, it’s one thing to know that God is with us in all things, even suffering. It is another to witness to that presence, such that others see Christ in us more than the cross.
Her luminous witness of a peaceful spirit despite real and ever present danger has directed the attention of everyone around her away from the cancer to the Divine Physician. She is embracing her cross like a lover, revealing thus the one she loves.
We are told that if we would follow Him, we must take up our cross. But on any given day, a tremendous amount of energy is spent avoiding the cross. Who wants to suffer? Who wants to partake of the cross? Who wants to do the work of not only suffering but suffering well?
Only one who loves the One on the cross enough to trust, holding onto Him, can do this. I think of my friend and her response to what she knows will be a battle that must end in her suffering and death. She knows deeper than the marrow of her bones what she faces, and she knows deeper than the cancer can ever reach that her Lord suffices. Thus she can be a singing warrior, for she knows the battle against sin, suffering, and death has already been won by this One she loves.
There is a radiance to that sort of true hope. It differs from mere optimism. She is not unaware of the diagnosis, its meaning, or the likelihood that she will endure much before dying. She is not naïve about her prognosis, nor is she demanding of God that He drive the cancer out. She knows the miracle cure has already begun, and is not yet fully rendered, and yet reveals itself even as it is ongoing — the cure of the love of God, and God’s love for her. For how could she approach singing as a duty and a joy and not be consumed with fear or grief or bitterness over her circumstance, save by grace?
Loving God through the white martyrdom of everyday life, she is fully awake and aware. The moment draws ever closer while the rest of us waste minutes on everything, spilling time like water, not recognizing we too are always coming closer to the moment when we will be called upon to witness to Christ. Her singing and her life at the beginning of its end, has a fierce radiance, like a supernova of faith being revealed to the world. One must witness this sort of love. One must imitate it too.
What strikes me most about my friend is how she is still doing what she was doing when she was cancer free. She was always a supernova of faith — it merely took the darkness of suffering to reveal how luminous she truly is.