NOTE: The following is an excerpt from the book Dare to Trust, Dare to Hope Again: Living With Losses of the Heart © by Kari West. All rights reserved.
50. I didn’t deserve this
O God, you have ground me down and devastated my family . . . My eyes are red with weeping; darkness covers my eyes. Yet I am innocent, and my prayer is pure. —
You don’t want to dig too deep in Susan Howard’s garden. It is where she buries her troubles and battles her anger. If anyone understands how Job dared to question God and why he cursed his life, Susan does. Two years ago she lost her eldest son. But that’s only part of her story.
In the early years of her marriage to Rick, both of Susan’s parents died, her brother-in-law was killed in a shooting accident, and she gave birth to two sons with cystic fibrosis. “This disease is progressive, long and tiring,” says Susan. “At both Morgan’s and Loren’s births, my husband and I agreed that the only way we could survive was to keep things as normal as possible.”
Two years ago Susan was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but she had to delay chemotherapy because of stress over her son’s upcoming surgery. Morgan was scheduled for a living donor lung transplant—one lobe from a teacher, the other form his dad. After the procedure, the endotracheal tube came loose. Morgan went into cardiac arrest and had a stroke. He was neurologically damaged from oxygen deprivation to the brain.
With Rick also in the hospital as a donor-patient, Susan bore the load of breaking the news to him and Loren, and consulting with physicians. For four weeks, she hobbled along the corridors with an elephant leg on her left side and enlarged lymph nodes in her groin—painful reminders of the growing lymphoma. She lived in the waiting room, bathroom, and her car. Morgan never recovered. He was twenty-three years old when he died.
“I would give anything to hear him cough again,” says Susan. “If you’re the mother, it affects you differently You carried this child inside you. I told God, ‘I don’t want to be here anymore. Take me instead.’” A year later Susan entered into chemotherapy, but her hoped-for spontaneous remission never came. She admits there were days when she raised her hands to the heavens and asked, “Is not enough enough?” Yet nothing compared to losing Morgan—not the death of her parents, not the cancer.
“I still have no desire to get up in the morning,” she says. “I have trouble getting through the day and going to sleep at night because I’m haunted by what they did to my baby.” But regardless of how bad it gets—including Rick’s recent diagnosis of type II diabetes and Loren’s third back surgery—she is determined to find something good in each day.
“I never ever said, “I don’t deserve this.’ Who is to say who deserves what? There’s always somebody worse off than you are,” says Susan. “Instead, I ask, ‘What am I supposed to learn?’ Then, I semi-raise my sword to this dragon of adversity in my life and say, ‘I acknowledge you for what you are. Now I’m going out to the garden and dig a hole.’ Each time I pull weeds, pick a flower, or trim trees, I try to look for something positive, even if I don’t see it.”
PRAYER PAUSE: Lord, haven’t I borne more than my share? Show me what I can’t see. In the meantime, give me strength to crawl out of bed tomorrow and get through the day.
There are times … when things seem so bad
that you’ve got to grab your fate by the shoulders and shake it. —
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