Her name is Kim.  Everyone should have the chance to know someone like Kim some time in their lives.  Kim is a vivacious mother of two school-aged boys.  The boys are both gifted, caring, thoughtful beyond their years, the sort any parents would be proud to call their own.  She is wife to a good man who cares deeply for her.  I suppose that description suggests that Kim has a picture perfect life.  Oddly, she would probably tell you that is precisely the life she has, picture perfect. 

Kim’s life took a dramatic turn only months ago.  An unexplained pain that turned out to be unrelated to the Cancer led to tests which led ultimately to a diagnosis of Breast Cancer.   As you might guess, that summary hardly contains all the dynamics of the journey from pain to diagnosis. 

Because of family history, Cancer in the lives of Kim’s Mother and Grandmother, Kim realized that she needed an aggressive treatment response to her diagnosis.  She has had the double Mastectomy and will have a hysterectomy.   The good news is that the surgery has gone well, and chemotherapy is not necessary since it would have minimal effect on the statistical risk of recurrence. 

The word Cancer has the power to bring the strongest to their knees.  At first mention of the word, thoughts move immediately to the worst possible outcome.  From the very first word of the diagnosis, Kim has not broken stride as she moved through each step into her and her family’s new perspective on life. 

In almost forty years of ministry, I have watched people travel the path of dealing with a life threatening diagnosis.  No matter how bravely the people receiving the diagnosis respond, those who love them are shaken to the core.  It is cliche to say it, but it is true.  It is often harder for those who love someone going through a devastating illness and the resulting pain, than it is for the person with the pain. 

There is a sense of helplessness for those who watch and care deeply for someone with a life threatening disease.  Those with the disease sometimes come to acceptance before those who love them.  It happened that way so often for those to whom I ministered over the years, that one of the first conversations we had when I visited was the one about just how much they would be called on to help others come to terms with what was happening to them 

Back to Kim.  Kim has a deep faith that provides her with a sense of security and the freedom to face what is happening each step along the way.  As a result, she can talk and reason and process each option without panic or pretense.  She has talked openly with the boys who share her faith.  Nothing is off the table in terms of talking about the facts of her situation and what each in the family is going through.  Kim, her husband and the boys have all through these past few months expanded their capacity to understand life in all its depth and breadth. 

While Kim appreciates fully what has happened in their lives, she is profoundly grateful for the good gifts this problem has given her and her family.  Of all things she feels privileged.  If I remember our conversation correctly, that is precisely the word she used — privileged.   

I can testify, that not all those who have gone through what Kim is going through (or some other problem like it) have felt privileged.  I have watched some become bitter, fall into despair, lash out at God and anyone else within reach, feel so sorry for themselves that the world shrinks to become solely about them and their struggles. 

Kim is not one of them.  In what could have destroyed her and her family she has found gifts of deep and lasting value.   Faith has revealed itself more powerfully, the quality of relationships grown.  She has become for others a bright beacon of reflected light — reflected because the brightness comes from the unconditional love of a God whom she knows well, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.  While those who read this blog need not share the faith that is the source of strength for Kim and for me, it is nonetheless our understanding of truth.  We cannot describe our experience without  reference to that faith.  If Kim were to agree that her life is picture perfect, it would not be because there is no pain, no fear, no struggling, but because there is a beauty that has become more visible than ever, the beauty of life with meaning, life well-lived, relationships that are real and deep, and hope that cannot be snuffed out. 

Almost five years ago, I did the funeral for a man named Tom.  Tom had a pain in his leg.  Two years later he died of the Cancer that had spread beyond the reach of the treatments available.  While it was hard for his wife to hear him say it, not long before he died he said that the last two years had been the most meaningful time in his life.  He found gifts that opened him to life more fully than ever, life with his wife and children.  Tom touched hundreds of lives as he traveled those last two years.  Tom drew strength from the same faith.

I have written before in the post on this blog some of the gifts that have been given to us in these twenty-two years with Parkinson’s traveling with us.  I would not presume to speak for Mary Ann on this matter.  I have seen pe0ple cluster around and come to know her and respect her and love her as friend — people who came at first to help her, and were ultimately helped by being with her.  She has revealed to all who know her and know of her, great courage and strength and endurance as she has taken so many hits and gotten up again after each.

I have learned more about what it means to love than I suspect I ever would have without the struggles we have encountered.  I cannot know what life would have been without the struggles, but I am grateful for what I have been taught by them.  Our Children and their spouses have revealed to us great strength of character, wisdom, love drawn out by the struggles they have helped us through.  Mary Ann and I have the joy of seeing three Granddaughters reveal a deep love and concern and caring that has been given the chance to be expressed in age appropriate ways. 

Kim would not have chosen the Cancer.   Tom would not have chosen to leave so soon.  Neither Mary Ann nor I would have chosen the Parkinson’s, but all of us have been given gifts of a value too great to be measured.  We have been privileged to find a quality, a meaning in life that cannot be learned from a book or a lecture or a DVD or a blog. 

Problems sometimes give good gifts!  For those of you who are midstream in the struggles, look for the gifts, open them, play with them.  They are more valuable than can be measured.

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