It’s not as if I’d have been the first person to lose their faith through the experience of loss and grief following the death of a loved one. And I certainly wouldn’t have been the first or the last to cry out and ask how God can be a loving God when he’s allowed this death to happen. And why didn’t God answer all those fervent and desperate prayers for healing?
Faith – or lack or loss of faith – so often comes to the fore in life when death is all around.
Last month I found myself remembering the moment exactly 20 years ago when my mum breathed her last – pretty much a year to the day after her original cancer diagnosis. That moment, that loss, was – and still is – many things to me, but, more than anything else, it was a moment when my faith deepened.
I might even go so far as to say it may well have been one of the big turning points in my faith that eventually sent me down the path to ordination some 15 years later. And so I find myself blogging as a vicar, something only a very small handful of British women were at the time of my mum’s death.
And yet I’ve known so many people go the other way faced with the loss of a loved one to cancer. People who once shared my Christian faith who simply couldn’t or didn’t find God in their loss and their search for meaning in the face of such awful suffering. People no longer able to understand God as love, given all that they had been through, only for it to end in death.
And over the years since I came into ordained ministry, I’ve had a lot more brushes with cancer – friends, parishioners, the family and friends of parishioners, even children. All have been through gruelling treatments, some for years and years on end. Some have come through and been given the much longed for – and prayed for – stamp of remission and a return to a healthy, active life. And some I’ve walked with, and am even walking with right now, as I did my mum, to the very gates of heaven.