I have two photos on my desk at work. One is a picture of my two adorable nephews. One is a picture of my dad and me the day I graduated from college.
My dad died of cancer a year after that photo was taken. The two adorable boys will not know this amazing man in this life.
Two hours ago, I was in the home of three adorable children, all 5 and under. Their father has been diagnosed with stage IV melanoma. He will probably not baptize any of them. He will not teach his sons to throw a football or interrogate his daughter's dates. He may not be at his baby's first birthday party or his 9-year wedding anniversary.
I hate cancer. I hate what it does to people's lives, their pasts, presents and futures. Their hopes and goals and bodies. Their optimism. I hate that it has taken from me a relationship that has defined who I am for my entire life. I hate that I don't get to dance with my dad on the day I get married and that I'll never get to introduce Husband-When-He-Comes to the other most important man in my life. I hate that when my children call a man Grandpa, they won't be talking to my dad. I hate how my dad suffered for so long and felt like he was useless. I hated seeing him in pain and not being able to do anything about it. I hate how it has torn up my family, how my brother runs from everything associated with my dad and my sisters never got the last words that they needed. I hate the void that will always, always be there.
I hate that loving others scares me.
I hate that my mom is alone.
I hate that it has been six years since he's told me he loved me. Or told me he was proud of me. I hate that I wonder sometimes if he would be proud of me. I hate that as a missionary, I never got a letter from him, and that I couldn't call him on Mother's Day and Christmas.
I hate that, with all of our technological strides, we can't seem to beat this disease. One in three people gets cancer. Those are terrible odds. That means one other person in my immediate family is going to get cancer. And it may not be when we're all old. My friend Sharolyn is fighting her second bout of cancer right now. She's 33. (I think. My bad if I just aged you, SG.) Dad was 55 when he died. Leo Teemant just turned 38. Cancer should not be striking these people. It should not be so prevalent.
Our society shouldn't have allowed this to happen.
I don't have the answers. I never will, and if I had them, I don't know if I'd like them. Sometimes I just have to have faith in God without knowing why things happen.
Or maybe, a small part of cancer is because of what it does to other people. Maybe I wouldn't have faith in God if my dad's mortality had not caused me to question the existence of life after death. Maybe, had he not been ill for so long, I never would have learned how to truly love and serve another human being.
Maybe my mom and my sister wouldn't be fighting cancer and my nephew would be named after somebody besides his grandfather.
Maybe my life would have less meaning.
And maybe, just maybe, with enough prayers and enough faith, Leo Teemant will get his miracle. Maybe his family doesn't need the same life lessons I do. Maybe what they need to learn is that hundreds of people around them care deeply for them and are going to fight, that they are not in this alone. Maybe we all need to learn that sometimes God really does reach down His hand, touch a frail body, a fragile love or a tenuous life and command it to be whole.