It was an English composition class. One of our first assignments was to write a character sketch of sorts about someone we knew.
I wrote mine about her.
This is my Aunt Alison. My Confirmation sponsor. My dad's baby sister. The youngest of five siblings. Her mother's greatest blessing. The class valedictorian. The head cheerleader. The most popular in her class. An artist. A friend to many. A really, really good Christian.
She was one of the most caring, funny, holy, and all around wonderful people I've ever known.
She also endured the most scary, devastating, painful disease I've ever witnessed anyone endure.
She had Brain Cancer.
Her attitude amidst a horrific disease was so inspiring that it made my writing assignment an easy one. She used to wear a pin to her chemo treatments that said "I'm having so much fun I could throw up!" She kept a journal every day for most of her life. Even on her worst days, she would find something positive to write about her day and follow it up with the letters "TYJ"... which meant "Thank you, Jesus". She had an amazing spirit and a love for the Lord that was infectious.
If ever there was someone who truly lived life in the moment and "celebrated the little things", it was was my Aunt Alison. And that is why I chose to write about her for my first major college assignment.
I remember driving in the car with my mom and my Aunt Jane and reading aloud to them from my "assignment".
"I don't know why God chose Alison to have such a terrible disease..."
My Aunt Jane stopped me before I could proceed. She said...
"Honey, you know that God didn't choose Alison to get cancer, don't you?"
I don't remember the details of the remainder of that conversation, but it involved a discussion about how sin entered the world and how we all suffer as a result of it. I also remember that it was one of the first times I really tried to understand the age old question of "why do good things happen to bad people". It is a concept that I still struggle to wrap my mind around.
I am now older, wiser and more advanced in my faith. And although my heart still struggles to understand, my head knows that the answer to that question is because we live in a fallen world.
What my Aunt was trying to explain to me at that young age is that nothing bad, painful, or evil ever, ever comes from God. They happen because we live in a fallen world. One that, thankfully, is temporary.
My Aunt Alison only lived a short 29 years on this Earth.
She went to be with Jesus in her eternal home mere months after I completed my assignment.
And while I know that God, in fact, did not choose for her to be the recipient of such a horrific disease, I also know that He did allow it to happen. He could have cured it. He could have miraculously erased every cancerous cell from her body. He could have done it. But He didn't. He allowed it to happen.
No matter how strong my faith is, I will never fully be able to understand His plan, His will, His timing. I will never understand why He didn't cure Alison on this Earth.
But I don't have to understand it.
I just have to know that His plan, His will, His timing is perfect. And I just have to know that everything that happens to us in our Earthly life is part of a bigger plan to get us to our final destination. For we are not destined for this world, but we are destined for Eternity.
I guess that's why it's called faith. It will never make sense to my human heart. And it doesn't have to.
I thought about Alison a lot today. Another young girl, in the prime of her life, heard the same devastating words that Alison heard so many years ago.
I'm on a prayer chain at our church and we have been praying for the 31 year old daughter of one of our parishioners, Sara. Vance works with Sara's brother. Sara has had a persistent cough that doctors could not identify the cause of. After seven months of tests that yielded no explanation, she underwent open lung exploratory surgery this week. They found cancer in her lungs and in the surrounding fluid. And it doesn't sound promising.
This news was another reminder to me that we live in a fallen world. And it has nearly torn my heart to shreds. My heart is so heavy for her, for her family.
I don't know what God's plan is for Sara. I know He did not choose for her to be the recipient of this awful diagnosis just as He didn't choose Alison to endure such pain. But for now, He has allowed it to happen. It is, somehow, part of His plan for Sara.
Even though we live in a world that is fallen, where bad things do happen to good people, we can still be witnesses to miracles. We can intercede for Sara and ask Jesus to wipe every cancerous cell from her body.
Just because He has allowed this disease to invade Sara's body right now, He can wipe it away. I don't know if He will or not. I don't have to. I just have to have faith that he can.
And so that is what I am praying for.
And I have a special Aunt in Heaven who is interceding for her too.
Will you join me in praying for Sara?