Love is a commitment. It is unconditional. It can be hard work. Love can hurt. Love can make us feel wanted. We love our family. We love our friends. But, who do we like? My mother says you choose your friends but you don’t choose your relatives. The implication is that we can love our family, but we don’t necessarily like them. In my Mother’s terms, it’s a bonus if you like someone you love.
God is love
Growing up the son of a preacher, I warmed a few pews. Religion taught me many things about life and how to live it. In a church going environment, you hear the message over and over, “God loves you”. While I believe in a higher being and believe that divine love is real, I have often wondered if that same loving God actually likes us.
A question not worth asking
Millions of people have wondered, especially when tragedy or illness strikes. It’s normal to ask "why me"? If every action has a reaction then every event in our lives has a reason. So what is the reason why I got cancer and why did our son die at the age of 32? I could go on. Death and major illnesses invade all of our lives. No one is immune.
If you live your life in go mode, if you look to the future not the past, the question “why me” will be nothing more than a speed bump. It is easy to sink below the surface of depression. It’s easy to say it’s too hard. After all, it is often difficult to believe that God likes us.
If you meet tragedy or major illness head on, if you accept the support and love of those you truly like, if you seek knowledge and opportunity, it’s amazing what will happen and who will become your inspiration.
Learning is a way of life
To grow is to seek knowledge and understanding, to embrace change. Cancer is life changing and so is the loss of a loved one, especially a loss that makes no sense. Over the past few months, several things have happened that have helped change the way my wife Terrie and I view the recent events in our lives.
- A friend and mentor Roy H. Williams, wrote in one of his weekly memos. “It is easy to believe God loves us. It is somewhat harder to believe that He likes us.” I learned that "why me" is another way of saying the same thing.
- A mutual friend asked me to speak with a former employee who had just lost their only child in a drowning accident. I did and learned that I could.
- As a cancer graduate, I took the training required by the Canadian Cancer Society to become a mentor to people with head and neck cancers, people seeking additional support. I did and learned that I could.
- I read and re-read the many articles written about athletes and post concussion syndrome. I learned that brain injury can trigger suicide and I gained the confidence to write about the death of our son. Click here to read it.
- My stories about our son and about my cancer have now been read by thousands of people and have resulted in invitations to appear on national radio talk shows. I have learned that not only can I speak openly about cancer and suicide but can do it with impact. I can make a difference.
- Ron is a former boss. He didn’t know about the death of our son until he read my blog. He contacted me to express his condolences and to catch up. I didn’t know that he and his wife also lost a son. It was a car accident. He was 19. I learned a new way of handling what had become a dreaded question. Do you have family?
Daughters and sons and God
We have not enjoyed meeting new people or even spending time with those we haven't seen in a while. The chit chat of how are you and nice to see you, often included the inevitable question. “Do you have children, or how are your children?” Not wanting or willing to talk about our son, we would lie. We don’t want to lie. Ron explained what he and his wife do. They say they have two children. “One lives nearby, the other lives in our hearts.”
Our daughter Natalie and her husband live nearby and have given us the gift of a grandson. Our son Jonathan lives in our hearts. We are blessed. Not only do we love our children but we like them. They became our friends. We have made and continue to make memories. We no longer mourn the loss of our son. We miss him but we have learned to allow him to continue to make a difference in our lives, to help us grow in new and different ways.
I stopped asking "why me" many months ago, because as hard as it is to believe sometimes, I am sure God likes us. Our journey is long from over.
"If you couldn't play tomorrow, how hard would you play today"