Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Test of Faith

Diagnosis made Caryl part of a select group of sixty-or-so individuals around the globe fighting with an extremely rare lung disease. Doctors called it pulmonary lymphangiomyomatosis.  From her diagnosis to her death, she exhibited a strong and intentional faith, wrapped in the arms of a strong and loving family.

She owned and operated a flower shop in our city until forced to retire. Months of rehabilitation followed four corrective surgeries and a lung transplant at University of Michigan Hospital. In between times, she organized a greeting card company and raised awareness of the need for organ donors and transplantation.

In addition, Caryl raised funds to assist with her personal medical expenses. She spent additional time in an intensive letter-writing campaign advocating for increased awareness for lung transplant donors.

As to her own condition, she conceded, “I know God has placed me on earth for a purpose. I look at it as a God-given opportunity.” 

“She had her days,” admitted husband Michael, “but she never wanted people to feel sorry for her.” I was just so proud of her, he added.

Although making excellent progress, Caryl accidentally choked on a pill one day, lapsed into a coma, and died unexpectedly at the tender age of thirty-four. Wife and I first learned of her struggles through her parents. We had become friends with the parents through a mutual friend we each loved.  Our occasional visits often found us chit-chatting from table to table at a community restaurant enjoying Sunday brunch.

Caryl’s parents occasionally shared prayer requests that we carried back to our church family. They carried a heavy load of grief throughout Caryl’s extended illness and ironic death. Yet, they repeatedly shared with us the faith that made them who they were: “we don’t really understand, but God is good.”

“A lot of people take the attitude, ‘Why me?” admitted Caryl’s mom one day, and quickly adding, “Why not me; why someone else instead of me?” The exended family hitched its hopes to that powerful North Star we call faith. It was first expressed in Caryl’s Grandparents, dearly beloved and  longtime pastors of a local Pentecostal church.

The faith of this expanded family takes me back to those decisive words of Catholic Theologian, Hans Kung, who described Christians as “all those … for whom in life and death Jesus Christ is ultimately decisive” (Kung/On Being a Christian/tr. by Edward Quinn/Doubleday/1976/125).

I no longer have occasion to cross paths with any members of the Ted Flo family, and our mutual friend Jakeway went to his celestial reward at the age of ninety-five. In the meantime, I hope when people remember me, they will remember me for a faith that says, as Kung said so well, “for whom in life and death Jesus Christ is ultimately decisive.” A real Christian can hardly be described otherwise!

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