by Rev. Richard Burguet •
How will you respond when a loved one gets the soul-crushing news that they have an illness that may not be cured? Will you go into the rescue-savior mode, and try to fix it? Will you go into depression and despair? Will you face that awful diagnosis with denial? I guess you won’t actually know what your response might be until you face that news in reality. I have walked beside so many who have gotten a hard diagnosis, and have responded in one of those ways. Admittedly, what we usually do is cycle through most all of those responses. Over the years I have found that I learn best by watching what other people do. Let me share my experience as a man who has walked through the hard diagnosis with more that a few, and observed life.
I want “to protect the innocent”, but this story is true. I have a friend diagnosed with a disease that almost everyone we know said, she was far too young to have. She was in the early years of her career, busy with work, enjoying life and marriage; but her friends started to notice that “something just wasn’t right”. Her husband couldn’t see it at first, or at least didn’t want to think about what it might possibly be. After lots of urging and encouragement to go to the doctor and get checked, she went and the diagnosis that came back was not good news. Now life became a blur of doctors, labs and technicians, medications and genuine physical struggle, and insurance paperwork. In the middle of that was a husband and wife relationship, and the dynamics of a couple in love trying to work through how to make the marriage work. How would they keep their relationship alive, and cope with this unwanted guest that now lived in their midst. I will tell you that it has not been without struggle. But they have made it work. It is still “a work in progress” and now and then they stumble; but they are stronger, and more in love now that they were five years ago.
One of the keys to success for them has been their faith. They look to Christ for the strength and encouragement to continue pressing on, even though the disease will not leave her body. They also have a deep commitment to “seeing this through together” no matter what. They are committed to their marriage. Because they are married they no longer think as individuals; but think as one. If life continues for both of them, then they will do whatever it takes to finish well together. They have stopped thinking about this disease as something that will take her life early, or a mistake, or even as “God somehow being unfair”. They have committed to seeing that this is an opportunity to trust Him and one another in new and deeper ways. This couple have actually found that they have more deeply cherished hours together because they have a new appreciation for the fact that life really is like a vapor. They have found, too that their friends are more of a support than they ever could have imagined. The small loving things that church friends and family do to support and encourage are so deeply appreciated.
I actually believe that the Tim McGraw song: “Live Like You Were Dying”, has something wonderfully important for us to learn. None of us actually knows how long we may live in this world. Whatever you and I can do to make those days count for something significant is a good thing, and one of the best things any of us can do is to invest in our relationships. You have probably heard Tim McGraw’s song. It tells the story of a man in his early forties who gets the news that his father has a life-threatening illness. The wisdom of the dad to his son is that he should to live life to the fullest and do things that he had always wanted to do, such as skydiving, mountain climbing, fishing, and bull riding. He also says that he became a better husband and friend. In the middle of the song, Tim McGraw then switches perspective to himself, talking about how going fishing with his dad stopped being an imposition and how he finally, after reading the Bible, took a long hard look back over his life and took his father’s advice by going skydiving, mountain climbing, horse, and bull riding.
At times it is the hard things in life like breast cancer, or a terminal diagnosis that we need to help us gain our focus on the things in life that really matter. Sometimes in life, we as husbands are required to lay ourselves aside, and support our spouses, and invest deeply in our relationships. I would however change a few lines in Tim McGraw’s song. I think reading the Bible is a good place to begin, and a great way to take a long hard look at our lives. But I would suggest two changes regarding the song. The first is that we need to keep on reading the Bible repeatedly and get God’s perspective on our lives; and secondly I really don’t believe that I would want to admit jumping out of a perfectly good airplane!