1: Finding Faith at the Run for the Cure

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Finding My Faith

Finding Faith at the Run for the Cure

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.

~St. Thomas Aquinas

I was afraid to ask the question because I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer. My sister Deb and I were stuck on a bench outside a public washroom because she did not have the strength to walk back to the campsite. Her breathing was shallow and raspy, and she looked so small in her now oversized jacket. Cancer had taken its toll, and my big sister was fading into herself. The trek had been a mistake. I didn’t want the question to be one as well. There had never been boundaries in our past conversations. Deb and I talked about everything. So, how could I not ask the one question that tore at my heart and threatened my foundation of faith? After months of my vision being blurred by hope-filled glasses, I realized there might not be a next time to ask the question.

“Aren’t you angry at God for putting you through this again?” The words came out in a hesitant whisper.

I waited for an emotional rant of “Why me?” Here she was losing the fight against inoperable lung cancer after battling through and surviving breast cancer. I would be mad at God. I had lashed out at Him for so much that now seemed so trivial. I was taught that if you were a good Christian and believed, you would be blessed and healed. Deb was a good Christian. She was involved in her church; she dedicated her life to the ministry of leading women to faith-filled lives; she shared her faith wherever she went. She didn’t deserve this. She deserved a miracle, and God hadn’t given her one.

In the little voice she had left, she answered, “No, I’m not angry at Him.”

“What do you mean ‘no’? You never once got mad at God? Look at what you are going through. Going through cancer once is bad enough, but now this?” My raised voice tried to bully her whisper away, as if volume were more important than conviction.

As she struggled for the breath to reply, she looked at me defiantly, and her eyes glazed over with tears. My stomach sank. Deb cried more in her lifetime from laughing than from sadness. I knew I had upset her, and that was the last thing I wanted to do. She looked down at her hands cradled in her lap.

“I would never have made it through this without God. How could I be mad at Him?”

I had made the commitment not to cry in front of Deb, for I was her cheerleader. But the grace in that statement, the magnitude of faith, was overwhelming, and I could not stop the flow. On that quiet evening, outside a public restroom, on a bench made for stopovers, not long conversations, I saw the power of faith.

This faith, her faith, was strong enough to carry me through her last breaths, the funeral and the many steps over the past year I have walked without her.

Today, as I stood outside a public restroom, waiting impatiently for my children to join the Run for the Cure, I felt as if this faith, which had carried me through all of the heartache, had run out. I was miserable as the fear of being late for the start of the race wrestled with the anxiety of completing it without Deb. I scanned the sea of thousands, looking for a familiar face, a tether to the oasis of family and friends we were supposed to meet. In the current of pink and white moving past me, I saw a young family go by — a man pulling a wagon with a toddler inside and a woman wearing a pink bandana that didn’t quite mask the baldness underneath, holding a little girl’s hand. At first, they were just part of the stream of people flowing into the mass gathered at the starting line. Then the “I am running for. . .” sign on the small child’s back caught my attention. It simply said, “Mommy.”

The words sucker-punched me, and I struggled to breathe. In that moment, I felt the pain of losing my sister. I remembered Deb walking years before in the same park, wearing a pink bandana that didn’t quite mask the baldness underneath, holding the hand of her granddaughter, one of the people she had fought so hard to live for. I saw the hole left in a family when a mother dies and leaves such big shoes to fill. I felt that family’s pain.

I sat down and cried. How could God let this happen? As I struggled to regain my composure, I concentrated on the crowd heading to the starting line, trying to distract myself from the pain. Teams danced their way forward, wearing pink from head to toe, topped with strange hats and feather boas. A group of men, who might have refused to wear a pink shirt in their ordinary lives, looked extraordinary in their sequined pink bras. People walked arm in arm, each wearing “I am running for. . .” signs that listed those who mattered today and every day. And, somewhere in that crowd, my team waited for me. I started to feel the power of hope.

Over the din of thousands of people, I could hear the whisper of my sister. “No, I’m not angry at Him.” She had endured suffering I hope I never have to know, yet her faith never wavered. I looked back over the past year, feeling again the anger and pain, the abandonment and loneliness. Then I donned my hope-filled glasses and began to see the blessings. The presence of God shone through new faith-filled friends who carried me when I didn’t have the strength to go on. The story, The Promise, was a gift that allowed me to have a conversation with God through fiction, one I could never have had in real life. The love of my family was a balm soothing my battered soul. My broken heart had finally healed. I was here, being a witness to and a participant in this incredible display of love for family, friends and co-workers. Faith that a cure would be found was abundant. Hope for the future was infectious. How could God not let this happen?

As my daughters came bounding down the stairs toward me, smiling and laughing, proudly wearing their shirts with love letters to their Auntie Debbie written all over them, I thought, “How can I be angry with God? I would never have made it through this without Him.”

~Darlene Gudrie Butts

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