November 19, 2014

Dear Liberty,

     This is the story of two women.  They both faced the same fate after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.  They were brave, amazing women that spoke about their struggles, but for very different reasons.

     The first woman was newly married.   She learned of her illness on New Year’s Day.   After an unsuccessful surgery, she was given a six-month window.   Anxious about the pain and suffering she was facing, she and her husband moved to Oregon, a “Death with Dignity” state, after deciding to take her own life.  Wanting to bring attention to this cause, she partnered with Compassion & Choices to raise awareness for people in her situation.  

     In October, she made and posted a video describing her circumstances and announcing her plan to take her own life on November 1st, which was just after her husband’s birthday.  If she was going to die, she wanted it to be on her terms, at her time, and surrounded by loved ones.  The video brought national attention to her cause and the debate over assisted suicide began.  Living up to her promise, on the afternoon of November 2nd news broke that she did, in fact, take her own life.

     Several hundred miles away, another young woman was also given a death sentence a year ago.  At the time the first woman was diagnosed, the second woman was already coping with the identical prognosis.  Not able to find answers as to why this was happening, she decided it didn’t matter anyway.  She concluded this was God’s plan for her.  While many that suffer from brain cancer lose the ability to speak, she had not lost hers.  She began to act as an advocate for the little children suffering from the same disease who had lost their voice.  Her efforts brought attention to the leading cause of death in children.  Rather than focus on her circumstances, as the first woman did, she chose instead to fight for others.

     The 19-year-old freshman at Mount St. Joseph played basketball for her school.  5 am practice with the team was debilitating for her, but she didn’t want to let her team mates down.  She had lost the use of her right arm, so she had to learn to dribble and shoot with the left hand.  But rather than focus on herself and her condition, she practiced and hoped to live long enough to play the opening game.  Realizing she was living on borrowed time, the local colleges agreed to move the college woman’s basketball season up so she could play in her opening game.  

     She started the game by making the first basket, but lacked the energy to play anymore until making the team’s final shot.  Since then she has been speaking out about her cancer, raising awareness and money for the fight.  She refuses to give up and believes God is using her.  As she expressed many times, her goal is to bring an end to the disease, knowing full well she will not benefit from her efforts.  Following the game, she gave a check for $176,000 to Children’s Medical Center to search for a cure and gave hope to others facing the same prognosis.  By playing the game and partnering with The Cure Starts Now Foundation she brought national attention to her cause.  The date was November 2nd, the same day the first woman took her own life.

     We make choices every day.  Sometimes we have to choose what will be good for us or what will be good for others.  It’s a tough choice.  We all have a desire to put ourselves and our best interests first.  And in some cases, we do need to do what’s best for us.  But regardless of which route your take, Liberty, you must keep in mind that all circumstances can be used to profess God’s compassion.  How?  By how you respond to the roadblocks put in your path.  The quality of your character is not built in the good times, but is forged by how you deal with the struggles placed in your life.  Are you going to curse and be bitter or are you going to find peace in the saving grace of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Are you going to try to control things or are you going to let your Heavenly Father guide your life, and in this case, death.  Even if the second girl stayed quietly at home, surrounded by family and loved ones in her final days, she would have chosen to leave those days in God’s hands.  It’s also still possible to touch others even if you decide to remain private.

     Liberty, this was the case with two of your great-grandmothers.  One died of pancreatic cancer, said to be the most painful forms of cancer.  In the end there was no amount of morphine that could dull the excruciating pain.  Yes, I prayed that God would take her quickly to end her pain and suffering, but I put it in His hands alone, as your great-grandma did.  Another of your great-grandmothers died of another form of cancer.  She spent the last few weeks of her life in a Hospice facility.  While there, where the nurses and attendants see nothing but pain, suffering and agony, your great-grandmother was happy, thankful, and called the workers her angels.  While having some tea one day it spilled out of the cup and onto the saucer.  Quoting from a poem, she lifted the plate to her lips and said, “I’m drinking from my saucer ‘cause my cup has overflowed,” referencing Psalm 23.  Many of the workers told your grandparents how her attitude and faith were an inspiration to them.  They deal daily with people in the last days of their lives.  She proved to be a bright star of hope in an otherwise grim circumstance.  We can be that ray of hope to others simply by the way we choose to live our lives or experience our death.

     I can’t image what the two women, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard and 19-year-old Lauren Hill, went through.  Brittany fought for herself and ultimately individual rights.  Lauren denied herself and fought for others.  By facing death, both taught us to live to be something more than we are.  What becomes clear is that Brittany’s focus on herself left her without hope.  Lauren’s focus on others gave her purpose.  Liberty, live your life focused on others.  By doing so, you walk in the very footsteps of Christ and become a witness to His love.

     Many will ask how you can worship a God that allows disease, suffering, and death to plague the human race.  But how much more glorifying is it to praise a God in those situations than in one of health, happiness, and prosperity?  I have had several struggles in my life and I have worn God’s ear out praying for answers.  I constantly turn to Him, talking to Him and come closer to Him when my life seems otherwise completely out of my control.  In those times of smooth sailing, I find myself occupied with other activities, not focusing on my Heavenly Father and talking to Him as I should.  It’s easy to love and follow God when everything is great.  True faith, true reverence, and true trust reveals itself in times of trouble even if the only people to see it are you and God.  (see Father's Day)  Fortunately, if that faith is honestly there, it can’t help but be exhibited in your daily life.

     Liberty, I do pray that you do have a long, healthy, happy life.  But when those moments come that are trying, and they will come, it is then that God is giving you an opportunity to truly feel His love for you.  Just as you run to your earthly father when you scrape your knee, bump your head or just need to feel his comforting arms around you, I pray you remember you have an Heavenly Father who loves you even more and will console your heart, your mind, and your soul.

     That’s my 2 cents.