on faith

I am not a girl who was blessed with the gift of faith.  I fully embraced my secular family member’s values of critical reasoning from childhood.  And in many aspects of life, it helps to not place too much stock in what you believe to be true.  It may well be completely false.

But losing my moms taught me how to embrace faith.  I am changed now, and I understand how faith can be as important as the air we breathe.

Part of me still rebels against the very idea of faith. Despite the fact that my most brilliant family members include devout Christians,  I long attributed faith as something embraced by those less-intelligent than myself. Bad things happen, why dance around like everything will be okay?  Don’t believe that a God will make it all better– he/she probably won’t.

I grew up and became a nurse. The optimism of doctors in oncology was particularly annoying. Whatever, this patient is going to kick the bucket, why not face the music and get them go to hospice?  Maybe it made me feel superior, feeling like I could predict life and death.  The thing is, sometimes those patients did survive. Or they walked out of the hospital. Or they lived long enough to clap and laugh at their child’s birthday. Miracles happened, and sometimes I was too busy rolling my eyes to notice.

Mom, she had faith. Deep into her illness, she still believed she would get a bone marrow transplant and achieve that long-sought remission.  Or at least, that’s what she told me.  Who knows what is in another’s heart?  It drove a wedge between us, because I believed she would die only a few months after she started chemo.  She will die, she will die, she will die. It was all I could think about.

And she did die. But unfortunately, we didn’t bridge that gap between her faith and my obsession. In a certain way, we were estranged during the last year of her life. I did the best I could do in a painful and heartbreaking situation, but I still wish that things were different.

With my patients I’m not crippled by fear. I find myself saying so much more often you will do this, and its going to work. You’ll do very well. This cancer will be beat. I can’t predict that my patients will survive any more than I can predict that I will survive.  But hope is everything. I wasn’t able to embrace hope with my mom because I was too fearful. But if we only have today, this present moment, this now, why not be optimistic? Why not count on the very best?

In the end, we can’t fight what will and will not be. The cosmic die are cast, and are tumbling towards destiny.  We don’t know what is ahead of us tomorrow. So why not embrace the light, count on the miracle, expect the very best? The present moment is all we have.  Believing in a bright tomorrow helps one relax a bit, don’t you think? The energy we spend dwelling over the certain destruction ahead can be better spend enjoying the sun, the smile of a loved one, the wagging tail of a dog.

The monsoon has come to the desert, and we have spent this 4th of July doused by the rains. I raise my face to the sky, embrace the drops stinging my face, and join the chorus in faith that these showers will transform the sterile, dusty earth to a green paradise, full of life.

8 thoughts on “on faith

  1. kellig

    beautifully written.
    i was not raised with faith. i cannot grasp the stories told in the bible as true, I never understood how seemingly rational people so strongly believed. i too, was busy rolling my eyes.
    but there came a day, in a rehabilitation center, in a starkly lit, blinding-white corridor, my mom dying in the room behind me, and the air thick with the sounds and smells of the sick and recovering, that I understood faith. in a moment I completely understood the how and the why of faith. and i desperately wished that I had the comfort of it.
    i still don’t believe, but i accept, with grace, that other people do.

    1. bornbyariver Post author

      I have had similar experiences. Sometimes I too wish I had faith in the god that comforts, that makes this happen for a reason, in an afterlife. But I’m learning to embrace faith in the good, in the possible. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Stephanie

    My husband was raised in a fairly strict faith but ceased practicing it as the rest of his family does when we were both still in college. When he was dying, he described himself to his sister as having a lot of faith, though not subscribing to the rituals of the religious faith in which he was brought up. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone with his kind of faith–in nature, in other people, in goodness, and in grace.

  3. manyhats13

    My goodness but you write beautifully.

    I am an atheist. As much as people try to change me, it won’t happen. I am not going to forego my life on earth in the “hope” that there is something else out there.

    Cancer is simply a consequence of being alive. It happens to people and animals. Being alive has only one consequence..and that is death. It will happen to each of us.

    1. bornbyariver Post author

      I have a similar perspective. Its interesting for me to experience faith in positive outcomes, rather than in the paternalistic, God-like higher power that I always linked the concept to.

  4. rachturner

    I think even those with the strongest faith wrestle with their belief at times. Doubt creeps in and we live in that tension between what we want to believe and what our mind is telling us at the moment. It’s complicated, messy, and painful – especially when what we want to happen, and what we believe will happen, doesn’t take place. Thanks for sharing your heart so openly.

  5. Heart To Harp

    For me, faith and religion are two different things that should never be confused. Religion relies on belief in dogma, on what someone else says is so and has convinced others to believe as well. Faith relies on mystery, on possibilities. No belief is really required, only openness to unseen, unimagined wonders.


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