Touchy subject, but well worth our consideration…
Often-times we look at the good raw materials that God has given us to cultivate, but not so often do we look at the broken raw materials of our experience on earth that might be re-purposed in a manner consistent with our design as cultivators.
So, here goes nothin!
This past week my dear friend Greg passed on from this experience of life to the next, greater one. And boy did he take his cancer and make something great of it!
We’ll return to Greg’s journey in a minute, but consider for a few moments our culture’s musings about cancer. Take, for example the recent filmic journey created by Jonathan Levine, 50/50.
‘You can’t change your situation. The only thing you can change is how you choose to deal with it.’
Truer words have never been spoken regarding cancer… or life, for that matter. Every day we are faced with the challenges of life in a world that is not the way it ought to be. Each of us groans about this in our own way. Yet at the end of our groaning, we all have a choice. Will we lay down and die a thousand deaths until our bodies go down to the grave, or will we chose to re-make our situation with the raw materials we’ve been given? Because Will Reiser’s script asks this question so poignantly it was rewarded by an audience rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes – a popular film review website. I can think of only one film that has bested it, the Dark Knight.
So, how does this relate to Greg? Well, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character and Greg’s could not have suffered through the final stages of life more differently. While I am grateful for the portrayal we get on screen from these often funny, and eerily sober and heartwarming actors, I think Greg’s re-creation is a more powerful one than that experienced by Reiser and portrayed by his team.
I welcome you to read Greg’s blog on his experience battling back and finally making peace with his disease. In one of his posts towards the beginning of the next chapter, which is how he sees his death, he wrote these words, “It seems that I cannot even hear the words I wrote in my previous post. Saturday started off just fine. A morning clap of thunder gave way to one of those nice easy late summer morning storms with good rain. Then sunshine. Somewhere into the afternoon, though, I began to feel it. The shadows were forming and spreading doubt, fear, some anxiety, even depression, slowly over the remainder of the day. Just when I should revel in the comfort of God my father, I too easily gave way to the encroaching darkness, and soon, what had been so uplifting for me a day ago, though still profoundly meaningful, and right, now seemed so distant, foreign. The concepts God taught me, against the onslaught of the afternoon, I chose to turn from, not run to.
Would that God would be pleased to give me a softened heart, receptive ears, clear eyes that are turned and tuned to his perfect will and provision for me. I also pray for more grace and wisdom for Cynth as she helps me in this particular struggle.”
Rather than railing against God Greg somehow managed to recognize that his doubt was not the state that man’s mind was meant to take on. Rather, he knew that we men are supposed to hope, particularly in the goodness of the God who created us. In this sense his struggle was very different from Will Reiser’s. I am glad that Rogen, Reiser, and friends have found some semblance of peace since Will’s struggle, which inspired the film and grateful for their passion in bringing it to the public eye. However, I find more life-giving strength from Greg’s example.
Thank God for men and women who are willing to share their stories so that those of us who have never experienced these things can learn how to see life before we get there. This new way of “seeing” doesn’t mean the blow will be any less when we get there, but it might mean that we will be better prepared to offer hope for those who follow after us.
What a great legacy you have left your family, church, myself, and the world, Greg. I thank you for opening your home and your friends to me, and I look forward to seeing you someday soon. What a short time we get here. I look forward to hours sitting and listening to your story there. And hopefully those of Reiser, Levitt, Rogen and many others. May they see the world as Greg saw it.