So when you are faced with the reminder that life is short, and can be much too short, what do you do when the reality of discovering if there is an afterlife becomes a looming possibility? Obviously, the first concern is keeping the grim reaper at bay for as long as possible, through whatever methods necessary. When tough medical diagnoses are given, though, it is impossible not to think “What if this is it? What happens next?” For many, including myself, that process leads to talking to God. So… how does the Lord respond to pleas from the oncology unit?
For starters, I should probably lay my religious cards on the table. A practicing Catholic (Italian Mom, Irish Dad from the greater Philly area – really, what did you expect??) actively involved in the St. Sebastian parish here in Fort Lauderdale, I went to Catholic elementary and high schools, kept my faith going through and after college, and have become more spiritual as life has progressed. Having in-laws that live three houses down from our church doesn’t hurt either. I’m not overly evangelical or a Crusader (hey wait, I went to Eustace…); religion and faith have always been more about my relationship with God than spreading His word.
This ordeal has, more than anything else, slightly altered the nature of my faith, what I ask from God and what I provide in return. Things like asking and granting forgiveness (there’s a lot of asking), really listening to what is said every Sunday morning for an hour, and how to apply just one small message each week to my life; these have become priorities. That whole “Golden Rule” thing was always something I believed in but didn’t execute with consistent regularity; now, I look for opportunities to be that person and, by example, bring Christ’s peace into the lives of others. Now that I have a small voice, it is part of that opportunity to help spread the message of God, of believing, of having faith, though I don’t need a pulpit or Scriptures verse to do so. I just need to be me. Sounds so simple, right?
Yet when you start asking for big favors, it feels kind of hollow to wish for a large intervention when you feel like your contributions here on Earth might not match the request’s weight. Until you realize that prayer isn’t the same as bartering at the Pennsauken Mart. Early on, I had a conversation with the Lord that went something like this: "God, please let me handle Your will with strength and courage." I followed that up with several sound arguments as to why keeping me around a good deal longer would serve His benefits as well. He really doesn't want to deal with the questioning of unanswered prayers from this group, I assured him many times. I always came back to the same thing - if this is what my challenge is, you can be damned sure I am not just going quietly, and I will accept what happens with grace and courage, but also with a hell of a lot of fight. We are just going to assume “go peacefully without much impact on others” was not part of that big plan. If it was… sorry, God.