When my sister Kristin died from a reoccurrence of malignant melanoma that had metastasized into her lungs and brain, I thought of cancer as evil. Kristin was only 35 years old. My little sister. She was a wife and mother. Her little boys were only 3 and 7 at the time. I was devastated by her loss. How could something like this happen to someone so young, in the prime of life?
I spent a considerable amount of time with Kristin in the last 5 months of her life. She tried valiantly to find some way to forestall the inevitable, hoping for a miracle. She even went out to the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, only to find that what we feared was true. Cancer was going to bring her untimely death – a death out of season – and all I could do was create memories with Kristin to last my lifetime, because her’s would end all too soon.
I learned many things from Kristin’s life, her presence in my life, her cancer and her death. The most significant lesson was that as painful, devastating and incomprehensible it may seem, people come and go; but God never leaves you. Your life goes on, sometimes in a dramatically different way, as a result of the loss and of that presence. It is not easy, requiring effort, patience and grace; but life does go on.
On the first anniversary of Kristin’s death, I was chaperoning a group of high school choir students, including my son, Bryan to a performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, starring Donny Osmond. It was an auspicious day.
My memories of of that day – now 20+ years ago – are not very specific – save one. There had been a tremendous amount of hype about the production, full-page ads in the newspaper. “Donny Osmond IS Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!” screamed the headlines. I was very excited to have the opportunity to attend a performance. I remember we rode together in a school bus downtown. We had lunch at a chinese restaurant that no longer exists. We saw the understudy in the lead role because, unbeknownst to us, Donny was experiencing anxiety attacks during the run of the show and was not able to perform that matinee. Disappointing as that was at the time, that was not the significant memory. It was the pre-show symposium that changed my perspective on life without Kristin.
In addition to members of the production staff and a member of the cast, who shared information about the production in order to provide enrichment to the performance experience, there was a professor from Luther Northwestern Seminary. I do not remember his name. His role was to give historical and Biblical perspective on the story. In his performance of that role, that nameless professor changed my life. When he said, “The morale of this story is: God never leaves you.” I started to cry and knew, with utmost certainty, that that was the message I yearned for and needed to hear at that moment in my life. That statement powerfully brought me to the place in my grieving journey, my life journey without Kristin, where I could move forward with confidence.
Kristin’s spirit had come to me in a dream shortly after her death. In that dream her comforting voice told me, “Everything will be okay.” Together the two phrases: “God never leaves you.” and “Everything will be okay.” have heartened my life, no matter what narrow spots I face. I am so very grateful.
I have often heard the statement, “People come into your life for a reason, season or lifetime.” After a little research, I believe here is the text as it originated.
Acts of Faith: Daily Meditations for People of Color
by, Iyanla Vanzant (1993)
People come into you life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do. ~Michele Ventor
When someone is in your life for a reason, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. They have come to assist you through a difficulty; to provide you with guidance and support; to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up or out and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on. Next!
When a prayer is answered, there is no need to cry.
When people come into your life for a season, it is because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But only for a season. In the same way that leaves must fall from the trees, or the moon becomes full and then disappears, your seasonal relationships will end at the divinely appointed time. When that time comes, there is nothing you can say or do to make it work. There is no one you can blame. You cannot fix it. You cannot explain it. The harder you clutch, the worse it will feel. When the end of a season comes in a loving relationship, the only thing you can do is let it go.
For everything there is a season.
Lifetime relationships are a bit more difficult to let go of. When a parent child or spouse is involved, the wounds are very deep. When the end of a lifetime relationship comes, you may feel that you would be better off dead. The pain seems to grow, the memories linger, a part of your life is dying. You relive every painful moment in an attempt to understand. Your job is not to understand. Your job is to accept. Lifetime relationships teach you lifetime lessons; those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. They are the most difficult lessons to learn, the most painful to accept; yet these are the things you need in order to grow. When you are facing the end of a lifetime relationship, the key is to find the lesson; love the person anyway; move on and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships.
A new life begins when a part of life ends.