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Cancer, Death and the Daunting Question, Why?

Judy Moss died this morning at 8:00 am. I wrote my thoughts down last week after visiting her in ICU but didn’t get them in my blog before she died. My words are inadequate but I pray you will get a glimpse of this generous, gracious woman who loved well. As I reflect upon her life and her death she remains a wounded healer.

My friend Judy is dying of cancer. I met Judy after her children, Mike Moss (B9) and Liz Moss (B23) went through Barnabas. Immediately, I found her to be kind and accepting. Theologically, she is probably more conservative than I am but she has accepted me with enduring grace and unconditional love. Though we never spent much time together, when I was diagnosed with cancer last year, I received a card from her with a check in it to help with my medical bills. When I began treatments she sent a wooden cross to me to hold during chemo. When her daughter Liz came by to check on me during my illness she told me that her Mom wanted to know how I was feeling and how my family, particularly Ricardo, was holding up through my illness. Judy was doing all this while fighting her own battle as cancer was spreading throughout her body.

Watching her journey over the last few years and seeing the torment she is now enduring ignites anger in me which asks, “So what are you doing now Lord?????” Clearly in my humanity I cannot understand how God interacts with such evil tragedies like death by cancer. Seeing her in ICU today it’s hard to believe she is still alive with so little left of her physical body. Yet her spirit is clearly alive and her countenance is the same as it was before she got sick: kind, humble, thoughtful and full of faith. Many would say that the Spirit of God is always evident in her presence.

Too often Christians comfort themselves or others with beliefs such as, “God has a purpose which will be revealed later” or “this must be God’s will.” I don’t buy it. Surely the creator of the universe and the lover of our souls doesn’t sit on a throne as a parent unmoved by His children’s pain. Surely our God of grace doesn’t roam the earth deciding what illness or tragedy should be assigned to certain families. I’m not willing to get into a theological argument about what God planned or even foreknew. No one can answer the overwhelming question of “why?” If they try, they haven’t suffered.

So what is true in all of this? What is God doing? He is present. And that presence fills the room with peace. His presence lifts my heart out of the questions and calms me. God’s presence is tangible as He waits for Judy to be ready. When that time comes, the absence of her Spirit in the room will be deafening. Our memories will return to life before cancer and we will be comforted by the life she lived. Her family will grieve deeply because of her physical absence but will be grateful her suffering is over.

For now, those of us who stand by them can offer our presence and that will be enough.
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