We had a guest in the house this week. Actually we had a few guests in the house, such that our guest rooms were full one evening. And so, I received the privilege of Nely’s company in my room for a night. And the encounter, like those with Christ himself, left a mark on me.
First, let me tell you a little about Nely. Nely es la hermana de Jenny, one of the Misioners who I live with.
Nely is older, with 4 kids. And stage 2 cancer in her womb. which she just discovered last week. Nuestra casa is a much closer to a hospital where she can receive the care she needs that her own house, so she spent a few nights here with us. But this one evening, other guests occupied our guest rooms and so Nely was entrusted to my care.
Have you ever experienced that feeling of being around someone especially…fragile? you know, the very sick or elderly? Someone with the flu that’s fevering and moaning, leaving you helpless to alleviate an ounce of their suffering? When a loved one of a loved one dies and their heart is ripping and you feel like being near them just might rip yours up too?
[I honestly think that those are some of the main reasons people don’t like being around the poor. It’s uncomfortable to not know how to help or what to say.
But it does help. We always think we have to DO SOMETHING to help. Sometimes. But more often, we just gotta love. Which often requires no actions nor words.]
Well I’m going to admit that I felt a little nervous letting Nely into my upright little world. That beast Cancer intimidated young and healthy and independent Kate. But with Nely I was so wrong. It was not at all a case of “I wish I could help you but I can’t and I feel bad that my being healthy is probably insulting to you somehow.”
Let me tell you some things about Nely.
- She was diagnosed with Cancer approximately one week before I got to know her.
- She does not look or act like someone just diagnosed with Cancer.
- She is more often smiling than not-
- Especially when she is talking about God’s faithfulness.
“All I have, God has given me,” she shined. (Ps. NELY HAS CANCER). “This cancer is just a new opportunity to trust him. He has given me a new chance to live every day, and having cancer does not mean he is going to stop taking care of me. God is going to help me get through chemotherapy and every other struggle that I will go through.”
This woman’s fidelity to the God who has given her life and could take it with this disease upturned my own reality. She knows her life is not hers. And unlike the most of us, she has made peace with it. For Nely, Cancer is not a thing to fear. Cancer is one more thing to lean into the arms of God and, with Job, proclaim:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
For over two hours, we talked of God’s faithfulness and how she knows God is caring for her through it all and I can only say that I encountered Christ. Paz con su enfermedad. New joy every morning at another day gifted to live. Peace tambien with what the Lord has taken away from her.
This is faith. Healthy, sick, young, old – faith can distinguish the difference between the unbreakable and intimate l o v e our Creator has for us from the t h i n g s he puts in and out of our lives.
Dorothy Day tambien grasped some of the essence of this faith too, in a different but equally real context. From within a strung-tight life of service that would have exhausted anyone living on their own strengths, she states:
“We may be living on the verge of eternity – but that should not make us dismal. The early Christians rejoiced to think that the end of the world was near, as they thought…Are we so unready to face God? Are we so avid for joys here that we perceive so darkly those to come?
We must just live by faith, and the faith that God is good, that all times are in his hands, must be tried as though by fire.” – Dorothy Day, The Reckless Way of Love
Before she went to bed that night, Nely got on her knees and offered her vida entera right back to the One who gave it to her. It left me to look at myself and perceive how I’m leaning away from trials of faith and therefore opportunities to be purified. While I find good reasons to keep my life in my own hands, Jesus is patiently asking, “My child. Do you believe that I love you?”