Reflections Along the Jesus Way

July 25, 2023 – Quote for the Day:

“The dressing room door opens, and Karen walks out. She is just as beautiful as she was when I waited for her to walk down the aisle on a summer day in England just over 41 years ago. But, now, the summer of 2010, she is wearing a hospital-provided blue smock.  As our eyes meet, the technicians say they are ready.

We walk through a massive, one-foot-thick steel door into the radiation chamber. It’s a large room, about the size of a handball or squash court, dominated by the overwhelming presence of a Trilogy Linear Accelerator. The Trilogy is a state-of-the-art machine used by radiation oncologists to treat cancerous tumors with the most accurate radiation beams available.

I sit down and wait, as Karen inserts the mouth guard the dentist has fashioned. She takes her place on a long bench, and the technicians start to position her, finally fastening the custom made mask around her head and neck.

Sometimes, as I watch her being prepped for her treatment, I remember her as she was more than three decades ago – an involved, supportive mother of our now two adult children. Sometimes I visualize images, ingrained in my memory from old faded photos, of Karen as a little girl, long before I knew her, growing up on farms in Nebraska and Brazil, and finally in Longmont, Colorado. I imagine Karen skipping rope and playing hop-scotch, when she was the ages of Alexa and Kendall, our six and eight-year-old granddaughters. Whatever memory floods my mind when I watch her waiting for her treatment to begin, I always think, ‘she doesn’t deserve this.’

I sit with her in the chamber until the machine is properly programmed, and then I leave the room along with the technicians. She is alone, the lights are dimmed, the soothing music Karen has chosen starts to play and the treatment begins.  About ten minutes later her daily treatment is over, she is released from her mask, and returns to the dressing room.  During the time when I wait for her, my mind often replays other past memories – each and every time, as I visualize her life and the contributions to the lives of others, I always think – ‘she doesn’t deserve this.’

…During the months of May, June and July I watched, helplessly, as Karen experienced ever increasing levels of pain and suffering – all in a bid to ‘beat cancer.’  She fought the cancer and the painful side effects of radiation treatment while gamely celebrating Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, our anniversary, my birthday, her birthday and the birthday of our nation.  Sometimes she was barely able to talk.  From the earliest stages of the treatment she had a hard time swallowing – even liquid.  As the treatment progressed, she needed to lie down and rest after the effort of ‘eating’ her liquid meals.

I found myself joining all those who stand by, watching their loved ones suffer, wrestling with the question, ‘why?’  Karen has now lived with me more than twice as long as she did with her now deceased parents.  I presume I know Karen better than any other human does, and I can tell you she didn’t deserve the treatment she was going through.  I am the only other human being whom I know as well as I do Karen, and there is no doubt in my mind that I, of the two of us, deserve this kind of pain and suffering more than she does.  I am not asking for such pain and suffering – I am simply saying that if God gives us what we deserve in this life, then I deserve the pain she endured more than she did.  I’m not being noble, just truthful.

I can only conclude that we don’t always deserve what we experience in this life.  Life truly isn’t fair, but then, did God ever tell us that it would be?” 

Originally published in:

Rejecting Religion – Embracing Grace

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