Do you ever have those weeks when everything seems to go wrong? I don’t mean in a funny, laugh about it afterwards way, but in a depressing, wondering why I bother way? I guess that’s just part of life, a ‘down’ that allows us to have ‘ups’. This week two friends have died. True, both were old, but that doesn’t make it any nicer really, just less shocking.
It brings back lots of memories of when Dad died. I’m not sure I’ve ever really talked to you about that time, everything was such a muddle, so much to organise, both of us worrying about Mum. We never really sat down and talked did we.
I was in such a bad place while Dad was alive, really angry with the world. I was having headaches all the time and not knowing why, felt stressed and was finding work/family a lot less fun than I had thought they would be when I was 12! I had sort of given up on God a bit, decided I would ‘go it alone’, see how I got on. I didn’t get on very well actually.
Then, when Dad was diagnosed with cancer, I somehow got this feeling that it was my fault, a sort of punishment for giving up on God. It sounds silly now, if it was someone else saying this I would have all sorts of sensible things to say to them, but at the time, that’s how I felt. And it was horrible.
Cancer is a horrid disease. It kind of ‘eats’ people. When the nurse told me that Dad wouldn’t recover, that it was just a matter of time, I set myself a challenge. I would watch him die. I figured that all my life, Dad had taught me about God, had claimed that He was always there, helping Dad through life. I decided that during life, you could fool yourself into believing something like that. But death has a horrible honesty about it. If God was real, He would be there at every step while Dad died. If He was just in Dad’s head, a fabrication to make life easier, then as he died this would be evident. You can’t pretend when you are dying. So I watched.
I saw the cancer destroy Dad’s body, saw him become weaker and more in pain, fed up with all the medical intervention, exhausted by what the disease was doing to him. And I saw him change.
At the beginning, as the disease began to take hold, Dad complained all the time. He told me about every ache, every loss of appetite, every sleepless night. To be honest, I got a bit fed up with him (as I said, I was not in a good place.) Then gradually, as his body got weaker, I saw him draw closer and closer to God. His conversation changed. Instead of talking continually about his health, the latest ache and pain, he talked about what he had read in his Bible, some new insight that he had found. He laughed again, was excited about what he was discovering about God. I felt that I was watching him become less physical and more ‘soul’. It was as if his spirit was taking over.
Dad never wanted to die, he fought it until the end. But I can honestly tell you, he died a good death and God was there, every step of the way. Dad taught me more about God in his dying than all the sermons during his life. His cancer was horrid, a particularly painful type. But he died the beginning of January and at the end of December, just days before he died, he told me he had just had the happiest Christmas of his life. Like I said, you can’t pretend when you’re dying.
When Dad did die, when we were burying his body, on a suitably grey wet day (though not ‘Dad’, not his spirit, I had watched that getting stronger and stronger until he finally left his body) that was when I realised that I could not have caused his death. Death is too big, nothing about me would result in that.
Perhaps I needed to feel like that, to have that nasty patch in my life, to make me see clearly again. I don’t know. All I can tell you is that for me, it was all the ‘proof’ I needed. And of course, the good thing about coming back to God is that He makes it so easy, it’s just like turning around really. And I haven’t regretted it since. I’ve had some knocks in the last few years, life has sometimes been less nice than I hoped. But I can never again doubt that there is a God. Or that He cares.