This post is for anyone struggling with questions like, “If God is good and in control, then why do horrible things happen to the people who love Him and serve Him?”
Continued from “Are You There, God? Part 2″
Many of my readers know me personally and are aware of what is going on in my life right now, but many of you don’t know about the biggest issue my family and I are facing in the near future. I haven’t really talked about it until now simply because there has been a lot of hope for a reversal of circumstances and also because the situation has deteriorated so quickly.
My father, 62 years young, a man in the utmost perfection of health all his life, strong, a man that everyone who met him said looked 10 years younger than he was, has been battling a chronic illness the last few months. This is a man who had most of his 8 children after the age of 45, a man who has never been anything but hard-working, strong, capable, a provider, energetic, hardly ever even came down with a cold. A man who did not drink, who stayed active, who ate healthy and took vitamin supplements religiously. This man has been battling liver disease, probably much longer than any of us realized, but we’ve only been aware of it for a little less than a year.
It started with an aggravating cyst behind his knee. My dad does not like to go to doctors unless he has to, part of his motivation to stay healthy. He has been a truck driver for years, so routine physicals were part of his job requirements, but he was always pronounced more than healthy and in the most recent years even his weight was great, something many truck drivers have trouble with. Of course, being sedentary for many hours at a time and sporadic sleep patterns are not the healthiest, so when my dad’s cyst lingered and became more and more bothersome, he went to the V.A. hospital to get it looked at. During that visit they took routine blood samples and ran routine tests for a man his age with his background. (He fought active duty in Vietnam the last 2 years of the war.)
What came back was surprising and a bit unsettling. My dad had Hepatitis C, they wanted to run more tests. (This came, most likely, from the immunization method back in the day when soldiers would be given their shots using the same needle, simply wiping it off with a towel before sticking the next man, back before blood born diseases were a big thing. This is what the doctor said. The disease can go undetected for years, especially in the case of my dad where he remains mostly healthy all his life and doesn’t go to the doctor very much.) This we found out about February of 2011, I can’t remember exactly.
They did run more tests, on his liver, and they found out his liver was in fairly bad shape. They wanted to do MORE tests. Long story short, as the situation unfolded, they found my dad had cirrhosis of the liver, he was in stage 3 of 4 stages of liver failure. As this information unfolded gradually over a few months of doctor’s visits and tests, my mom began to research liver disease too. She and my dad began to adjust their diets to help combat the disease and make things easier on his liver. They had never been drinkers, especially not the whole time I was growing up, but they cut out even the occasional beer or glass of wine. (We’re talking one every two weeks if that.) They began to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, drink filtered, distilled water, cut back on coffee and drink more herb tea. By May 2011 my dad had dropped about 20 lbs. and he felt fantastic. He had passed a bunch of gall stones that the doctor was amazed he had been able to pass instead of having surgery. Things were great, he looked great.
However, somewhere around September he found himself filling up with fluid. He had a strange abdominal swelling and swelling in his legs, it was harder and harder for him to get in and out of his truck. For the first time in 62 years he realized he would have to quit working – indefinitely. The swelling was all fluid from his malfunctioning liver, the liver was unable to process toxins normally and an acidic fluid was leaching back out into his abdominal cavity and swelling his legs.
At first, being more active and getting adequate sleep improved his condition, but soon he went back on the decline. The first time he had to go in to the doctor’s to have the fluid drained with a needle was very upsetting and traumatic for him, but this has since become more and more frequent and is now a weekly routine. His weight has kept dropping and except for the weird swelling, he is very thin. You feel his bones when you touch his back even while he is wearing a heavy coat which he needs to stay warm since his temperature stays a couple of degrees below normal. His mind is beginning to be affected now, something the doctor said would happen. In fact everything he is experiencing is something the doctor warned us about and is part of this chronic disease at this stage, but nobody could prepare us for how quickly this has unfolded. Really, September, when Dad quit working, that is the first time where we all realized this was very serious. In less than 6 months it has just been a downward spiral and we are all left trying to catch our breath.
The person who is the most courageous in all this (in my opinion) is my mother. My mom met my dad when she was 16 and he was 30. They were together from that time until she married him at 18 years old. This September 11th (of all days) will make 30 years of marriage. That is a long time to be with one person. She has been a stay at home mom, wife, and homemaker almost completely during that time, save for a few short-term jobs here and there over the years to help with bills every now and then, but she mostly found work from home as a baby sitter or close to home taking care of a neighbor or cleaning a house. Later, once she had my five little sisters, totaling 8 of us, she was very busy taking care of them and also being a full-time teacher as she home schooled us all. My youngest sister is about to turn 9 years old, so that gives you a picture of how much my mom still does every day. The first three of us, myself and my 2 brothers, have moved out of the house and have life and families of our own, but my 5 sisters remain at home, 16, 15, 13, 10, and 8. And now she has my dad, too.
The man who has taken care of her and his family so well and always with so much strength and vision, so much definite leadership, this man is currently dependent on her for so much. Where she once rested knowing every day that “Chuck will handle it, ” or “Chuck will know what to do,” she now finds herself having to take over and make all the decisions not only for her and the girls, but also for my dad, more and more.
We have all come to terms very recently with the fact that my father is probably not going to be alive much longer, though we still don’t know how long he has. He has declined so much in such a short time, and while we all still hope for a miracle (because we believe miracles do happen) we are preparing for the worst.
So how does this tie in with my last 2 posts? Well…
I have asked God for 3 years now why my daughter had to die, not angrily, but just searching for His purpose because I believe that all things do work together for good for those that love God. None of us have really ever had to face something like this, not only the death of a loved one or someone you are so close to, but being the family that must make arrangements and carry on after the passing. Nobody in my family was directly responsible for caring for a sick loved one and then funeral arrangements, or had direct experience with deep grief, then I lost my daughter so suddenly and unexpectedly.
Because of that I am not only sensitive to and compassionate toward my mom and other family, but I am able to have valuable first hand insight into what we will all face and be able to help my family cope, physically, emotionally, mentally. Already I feel I have been able to help my mom and sisters especially just by understanding the myriad emotions and the roller coaster of feelings they are riding. Just for myself, I am able to cope much better with the prospect of losing my dad, not that it is easy by any means, but at least those feelings of the unknown don’t plague me and scare me the way they did with my daughter.
We are still in the midst of handling all of this, I am so far away from having all the answers or seeing all of the picture. I don’t think that will happen till I get to Heaven, honestly. Still, I feel I can absolutely say from my heart and believe with the core of my being, there is a God. He cares for each and every one of His children. Bad things do happen because of mortality, imperfection, and evil, but God cares and He is able to take the most wretched circumstances and make them into a beautiful tapestry. This is not something I say just to repeat something I was taught that I blindly and naively follow. I have tried and tested these things in my own life and they are truth for me.
Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps there is nothing on the other side but darkness and ceasing to be, but living life with this thought, for me, is so horribly unbearable. With that thought, there is no hope, but with my belief, there is hope. Hope that this life has meaning, that even a tragedy has a purpose, that I will see my daughter and my father again where there is no more pain, loss, or tears. If I go to my grave a fool with hope at least I had hope and that is not foolish at all, we all need hope. Hope is why I can smile right now, in the face of uncertainty and pain.
I am 26 years old. I am still young. I am a Christian. I believe Jesus Christ came to set the captive free. He did not come to condemn, He brought freedom. He has freed me, this I believe with all my heart. I am not perfect, I fall, I make mistakes, I don’t have all the answers, but I know the Man who does. This is my testimony, I pray each day that I be worthy of it.
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