Several years ago, two friends of mine from college died from cancer. Both in their twenties. Both were mothers. Both were beautiful, vibrant, genuinely kind women—they were strong Christians with a tough faith.
When I learned of their deaths, I felt the rush of memories of people I had not seen in some time, the sadness for their families, and the unfairness of it all. Their deaths affected me for a time, but life continued.
At the time of their passings, I was single. Several years later, I met my husband. We had our first child in April 2012, and are expecting our second in January 2014. I had never felt a love so fierce, so protective, so pure until I gave birth to our son. I understood after that why people said parenthood teaches you about God’s love for us. I would hold him as he slept, and as I put him in his crib at night, I prayed confidently for angels to protect him. I started driving more carefully when I had found out I was pregnant; I’d never been reckless, but I waited the extra 5-10 seconds to let someone turn in front of me, I obeyed speed limits more closely, and I stopped my attempts to make it through yellow lights. After giving birth, I was even more careful. I believed, and still do believe, that it is my job as a mother to be as safe and responsible as I can, and to let God handle everything.
Then, about eight weeks after I delivered my son, in July, 2012, my husband and I were getting pizza for dinner, our son with us. My right arm began tingling and feeling numb at the same time. I thought I had pinched a nerve or that my arm had fallen asleep, and I kept shaking it, trying to get the feeling to come back. It had just thunder-stormed and there was a beautiful rainbow outside. I pointed it out to my husband, but I couldn’t think of the word, “rainbow.” My brain wanted to say, “refrigerator,” but I only knew this word in concept. I couldn’t come up with the actual noun. I asked my husband what the “thing is that you put cold food in,” and he laughed, thinking I was being silly. I was half-laughing, thinking my blood sugar perhaps was just really low, but as I felt weirder over the next minute or two, not being able to put thoughts into words or even recall the words I wanted to use, I thought, “This must be what it feels like to have a stroke!” And then the realization that something was wrong hit me, and my husband and I headed to the emergency room.
After hours of waiting and then a CAT scan and a few other tests, I sent my husband home to get some rest. When the staff made the decision to keep me overnight, the nurse sat down and asked what questions I had, and then proceeded to tell me I had had a mini-stroke (no one had told me this yet as I was still doing tests, and the nurse had to explain what a mini-stroke was). He shared with me the worst-case scenarios, and I started crying. What he didn’t tell me was that, at this point, my tests were clear, and would be continued the next day. He painted a picture of me possibly having a major stroke in the near future and dying, leaving my husband alone to raise our motherless son.
I’ve had dark nights, but this was the darkest. I spent the night alternating between fear, grief, and determination, researching mini-strokes. By morning, I felt empowered with new knowledge but scared at the same time. After finishing the remainder of my tests, doctors could not conclude the origination of the blood clot that had caused the mini-stroke; they had theories, but nothing solid. The consensus: start small, daily doses of baby aspirin, take care of myself.
The next few days passed in a blur as I returned home….and then the anger came. I held my son, realizing my faith was completely rocked. I remembered my two beautiful, amazing friends who became mothers and then were taken from their children. And I was ANGRY. My thoughts were not faith-filled. What kind of God allows children to be taken from their parents or parents from their children? How dare He allow my friends to have babies, only to let them die from cancer? One friend, who died of melanoma-related cancer, didn’t even grow up in Florida like the rest of us did, roasting ourselves in the sun all year! How could He consider and call Himself a loving God when things like this happen?
The realization that I could be taken from my son any time hit me hard. Until the mini-stroke, I had been comfortably complacent in the security that I was called to be my son’s mother and would be here as long as my son needed me. And now, I realized, that wasn’t true at all. My friends’ children needed their mothers, and they were still taken. Now they were going to grow up knowing the women who birthed them primarily only through pictures and others’ stories. How was this ok?
I wish I could say that my faith quickly came back as I realized that God is loving, just, compassionate, and crazy-in-love with us. To be completely authentic, my faith still isn’t back completely. I’m still shaken by things like this. Logically, I know we live in a fallen, sinful world. I know Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, and we all most likely would have succumbed to temptation at some point, so we can’t just blame them. I know health cannot be taken for granted, and I know just because I’m a mother doesn’t mean I am immune to disease or death, and I must take care of myself. I get the logic. It’s the faith I struggle with, especially when I hold my son first thing in the morning or last thing at night, and nothing else matters but his head on my chest, his little smile, and his arms wrapped around my neck. I am SUPPOSED to be his mother. The thought of God taking me from him or him from me is too much to bear.
In the car recently, the song “Held” by Natalie Grant came on. It’s not a new song, but it had new meaning for me. She sings:
Two months is too little.
They let him go--
They had no sudden healing.
To think that providence would
Take a child from his mother while she prays
Who told us we'd be rescued?
What has changed, and
Why should we be saved from nightmares?
We're asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life,
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell, we'd be held.
When I get angry at God and ask myself why He allows all of these bad things to happen, I reflect on this song. I know our questions will be answered on the other side, and often they’re answered on this side. I don’t believe God wants me to blindly accept pain and suffering. I believe He wants me to trust Him unconditionally and feel secure and confident in His love and mercy as I move through life. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV).
Lori Kucharski has loved Christ since she was a little girl, but she hasn't always lived it. She and her husband are parents to an energetic little boy and are expecting a girl in January. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Colorado Springs. When she isn't writing, her family enjoys skiing, hiking, and traveling.