Contributed by Cherissa Roebuck
The day before yesterday we received the hard news that my mom’s cancer is growing and spreading at a rapid rate. Without miraculous intervention, she may not have many good days left. It’s a reality that our family has been living with for the past two years, but each report brings even more clarity to that reality: My mother is dying.
It’s sad. But not tragic.
The distinction between the sad and the tragic has been one of the most tangible and valuable gifts I brought home with me from my visit to India.
My sweet mother is 55 years old. She’s been fighting terminal lung cancer for more than two years now, and the fight has not been easy. At various points on this journey she’s been poked, prodded, drilled, radiated, poisoned, medicated, sleepless, exhausted, uncomfortable, in pain and SICK. And after all of this, aside from God’s direct and supernatural intervention, she will still die of cancer. It is sad. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.
But it’s not tragic. Tragic is what I saw in India: the 2-year-old child drugged and stuffed under a bed while his mother sells her body day after day. Tragic is the woman with acid burns scarring her arms, too terrified to flee her abuser—worse than what most of us could imagine. Tragic is the shriveled, dying man, lying utterly alone in the dust and filth of a Kolkata street. And the greatest tragedy of all: these people and millions more are living in real despair, without the hope of Jesus Christ. That is true tragedy.
My mom’s life is not tragic. Her life is 55 years—stuffed-to-the-brim—full of hope, love, faith, joy, happiness, peace and trust. She has loved and been loved. Her life is also an eternity stretching out in front of her—an eternity that’s far more amazing than anything our little human minds could conjure up.
I‘m not sure what the next few weeks or months will look like for my mom. God has done so many miraculous things with her life already that I don’t really have any reason to believe that He won’t continue to do so. But worthless speculation aside, I do know that the days ordained for my mom were set long ago, so there’s really no good to be found in trying to figure out how many days that’s going to be. If she lives three more weeks or 30 more years, it’s all pretty short in light of eternity.
I think it’s okay to be sad about this process of saying “goodbye” or rather, “see you later!” I certainly hope it’s okay, because I’ve experienced a lot of sad days in the last two years. But the amazing gift of perspective God gave me in India has really helped me to see my mom’s life in a new light.
If our all-knowing, all-powerful, utterly good and wise God allows my mom to die of cancer sometime in the near future, it will be sad. It will be hard. But life will go on. Both for her and for me! For her, she’s going to be checking into a new home in heaven that is overflowing with treasures she’s been sending that way since long before I was born.
For me, there’s life after cancer. There’s a husband to love, children to nurture, a Church to serve and a world in need of the Gospel. And I’m forever thankful that I’ve had such a beautiful example of just how to go about doing all of those things and more by faith.