Happy: A Quest for Life After Death

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Walking on Water: A How-to Guide

Wednesday, June 14 was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Mat and I met with Dr. Ryan to review a new MRI that would show how well the treatment of Temodar and Avastin was working. We got the answer pretty quickly.

Dr. Ryan walked into the room and said, “I don’t think this is working,” and proceeded to describe the MRI images that showed nearly 50 percent growth in the two largest tumors in Mat’s liver over the previous two months.

I felt like I was drowning. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t breathe. Mat’s prospects had gone into free-fall. In my mind, Mat’s cancer went from being indolent (the medical term) to ruthless and aggressive. I tried feverishly to calculate in my head: 50 percent growth in two months … how big is a liver? how much liver does a person need to function? Could he have two years left? My guess turned out to be optimistic compared to a guess Dr. Ryan later gave Mat: one year.

I read religious books and magazines every night before I go to bed. It’s part of my bedtime ritual. I didn’t feel like it, but that night I opened a church magazine, the Ensign, to the place I had left off the night before, and dutifully began to read. These are some of the opening words of the sermon I read:

… I speak to those trying to hold back floodwaters of despair that sometimes wash over us like a tsunami of the soul. I wish to speak particularly to you who feel your lives are broken, seemingly beyond repair.

And then:
… whatever your distress, please don’t give up and please don’t yield to fear.

And one of my new favorite verses:
… I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day. (Alma 36:3)

The sermon described Peter walking on water and then, yielding to his fear, sinking into the sea. And then Christ reaching out his hand to save Peter. (Matt. 14:27-31).

I felt as though the entire sermon were addressed to me personally. Had I been on a very slightly different reading schedule, I would have read about the Church as the restoration of Christ’s original church. An excellent discourse, I’m sure, but not the life preserver I needed.

By the end of the sermon, I realized I had two choices: I could listen to Dr. Ryan and every shred of physical, rational, scientific evidence around me and drown. Or I could rely on repeated spiritual experiences that told me Mat will recover, fix Christ firmly in my sight, and walk on water.

I’ve tried drowning. Now I’m going to walk on water.

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. (Mark 9:23-24)


ellen said...

You are an inspiration.

Kristiina said...

Powerful ideas, those. Fear can be so consuming, so overwhelming that it's hard to imagine anything but sinking and drowning in it. And yet think of Christ's words to the stormy waters: "Peace, be still."
Much peace -- and great pizza -- to both of you.

Rachel said...

Well said. Without hardship in life, would we truly learn to rely on God? It seems He has to hit us over the head sometimes.

The Raymonds said...

that's sad news, but i'm glad your head is still on straight. the gospel helps give us a good perspective to keep our lives in check. and i must say that i think god has more power than dr ryan!

Amanda said...

Kimberly, you are an incredible example. Thank you for writing this for us.