Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
In 2008, our family moved back to the metropolitan area after spending three years living down in Coos Bay. It was nice to be back within easy driving distance of my parents and my sister. We began attending a new church in Salem and during our first visit to the church, I noticed a distinct family sitting in one of the back rows.
What struck me about this family is that the dad and the two sons all rocked in similar fashion during the entire service, while the mom sat – seemingly nonplussed by the odd behavior of her menfolk – perfectly still and attentive to the church service. The husband and boys were a bit messy looking and it was clear that they shared some sort of neurological disorder. The mom was beautiful and poised. As the months passed, my son became friends with the younger of those two boys and we made plans to spend time together as families.
I learned that the mom had been battling cancer since she was nineteen years old and had recently had another relapse. She was scheduled to have her right arm surgically removed in an attempt to isolate and eliminate the cancer for good. She went through with the surgery and continued working – her job required continual data entry and, although she lost her dominant arm, she adapted to one-handed typing and was able to keep up with her work and continue to support her family and keep her health insurance (her husband also worked).
It was during all this upheaval in her life that I went through some traumatic personal problems – not cancer or any other physical ailment. But my life was turned upside down very unexpectedly. Guess who showed the most love and compassion? This woman who had spent her entire adult life battling to stay alive extended her love, support, and prayers to me while many people I thought were my friends disappeared. It was a humbling experience. I certainly didn’t deserve her friendship, but there it was.
In addition to losing her arm, she had to undergo more chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The therapy rendered her birth control ineffective and the couple conceived a third child during this time. In order to preserve the life of the baby, this woman had to discontinue some of her treatment until after the birth.
Soon after the baby was born – a beautiful little girl – the mom was informed that all forms of chemotherapy and radiation and all other possible treatments were ineffective and there was no more that could be done to cure the cancer.
In the last weeks of her life, my daughter and I spent time with her and her newborn baby. By this time, she had lost right arm and all her hair. She didn’t have the strength to navigate a wig or makeup. Having been beautiful her entire life, the loss of her looks was not easy to take. The impending loss of her life was something she didn’t seem ready to grasp, though.
I have beautiful pictures of her on our trips to frozen yogurt store and to the mall cradling her baby in her one good arm. Up until the end, she was a loving and concerned mom. We talked about how her boys were doing in school and how they were responding to her death sentence. She had been referred to and end-of-life counselor, which as far as I know, she never called. She wasn’t ready to go. She had a family that needed her.
She died when her little girl was about six months old. She was thirty-six.
Have you ever stood (or sat) and someone’s funeral, saying to yourself, “but I prayed for her to live. I prayed for her to be healed”?
I don’t understand why some prayers are answered and some are not. I don’t get it. In the past few years, several good people my age and younger have died – people I went to school with. People who had kids left to raise. One of my classmates, Brian Cheney, who had an encouraging word of welcome and a hug for everyone at our twentieth high school reunion died a few weeks later. Such a well-liked guy. Another woman, whom I had gone to school with since our days at Beavercreek Elementary, died a few months before our reunion.
I’ve heard that when bad things happen to good people or when prayers for healing are unanswered, it is the most likely time for our faith to be challenged. Do you find this to be true?