I had never prayed as hard in my life as I did the morning of March 16, 1997. It was a Sunday morning, about 6:30, and I was driving from Children’s Medical Center in Dallas back to our house about 35 minutes away. Four hours earlier, Susan and I had been told by a doctor at Children’s that our 9-year-old daughter Ashley had a brain tumor.
That 35-minute drive seemed like it took hours. I sobbed uncontrollably. I prayed from the bottom of my heart. I even bargained with God. I begged Him from the very depth of my soul to heal Ashley, to make it as though the tumor had never been there, to spare her life and take mine if need be.
For the next year-and-a-half Ashley went through hell on earth as her little body was ravaged by radiation treatments, chemotherapy treatments, and surgeries. She lost her beautiful blonde hair. She had nausea and vomiting spells that lasted for hours. She regularly had to be rushed to the hospital, and quite often ended up spending days or even weeks at a time confined to a hospital bed and a wheelchair.
This stupid monster of a disease that we call cancer had ripped her life apart and had left her completely spent. But she fought bravely, and never once did she give up.
I’ve never been so inspired by another human being as I have been by my sweet Ashley as she courageously fought just to stay alive, never feeling sorry for herself, despising the thought of anyone taking pity on her, and never wavering in her faith.
Ashley emerged from her year-and-a-half battle as a survivor! For the next three years she worked hard at reclaiming her life. All during her struggle, and for the three years she was cancer-free, I repeatedly told people that God had answered our prayers. I repeatedly gave Him glory and praise and honor for bringing Ashley through this horrible ordeal — for healing her. I prayed to Him constantly, thanking Him for sparing Ashley’s life.
Then came September 11, 2001. We watched the events of 9/11 unfold on various television sets throughout Children’s Medical Center. Ashley had been experiencing suspicious symptoms, and we were there for her to have scans that would tell us if her cancer had returned. We got the call early the next morning. Her cancer was back.
On November 24, 2001, at age 14, Ashley went home to be with Jesus. Once again, I cried like a baby. Tears roll down my cheeks even now as I remember. My heart is still broken, and I suspect it always will be until we are reunited on the other side of Jordan.
I don’t know the answer to the question, “Why?”
I’ve spent almost every day of my adult life serving my precious Father as a minister in His kingdom, and I cannot answer that question.
I know that there are perfectly logical reasons why bad things happen to good people, and I have even taught Bible class lessons and preached sermons on that very topic. But I still can’t answer the inevitable question.
There is not one ounce of doubt in my bones that God is all-powerful, and that He could have completely eradicated Ashley’s cancer at any point in time. Thousands upon thousands of people all over the world begged Him fervently to heal her. So why didn’t He?
My only solace is a deep faith in a loving God who, for reasons I may never understand, decided that the best answer to all those thousands of prayers was … “No”. Not a harsh “No”, not an uncaring “No”; but rather a tender, loving, perhaps even tear-stained “No”. He understands the pain of losing a child. He understands my pain. He has not failed me.
And so in my own broken and completely inadequate manner, I simply strive to continue moving forward, serving Him, cherishing the memories of the precious gift that He allowed me to hold for 14 years, and looking forward with Hope to the day I can hug her and kiss her precious little bald head once more, and never have to let her go again. That’s how I get through the day when my feeble mind and fragile heart fail to understand the things in life that don’t make sense.
If life has been harsh and unfair, and you are struggling to understand “Why”, my prayer is that you will just keep struggling and not give up. Just keep struggling toward Him.
As my Ashley would say, “Trust in God, and never give up.”