Grief: Finding the Candle of Light

Note: I want to give fair warning on this post. It’s both commercial and personal, and deviates from my normal approach on this blog to a considerable extent.

When I married my wife Jody, our son (my stepson) James Webb was already in chemotherapy for cancer. Over the next five years we experienced remission twice, but always the return of the cancer. Finally, it returned in multiple locations, and on the evening of September 22, 2004 James passed away.

Both my wife and I are teachers in the church, with ministries that are relatively small, but extend beyond the boundaries of a single congregation. We teach about various topics including [tag]prayer[/tag]. Teaching was very interesting while James was ill. There were some who assumed that if we really knew anything about [tag]prayer[/tag], we would be able to pray “properly” for our son and he would be healed. We experienced the complete range of reactions from other people. I would like to emphasize that the vast majority of responses to our situation were very supportive and helpful.

Some responses were well-intentioned, but not very much on target. I myself made any number of errors in supporting my own wife through this situation. Our relationship was strong enough to withstand those errors, and I would suggest to others that they are unlikely to make it through such a situation error free.

Amongst Christians there were some very interesting views on [tag]grief[/tag] as well. Some felt that there should be no grief. James went straight to heaven, so what’s to be sad about? Other’s would see every moment of peace or joy during his illness as a sign of denial. I was approached about both my wife and James with the suggestion that they were in denial. The only thing I could tell people that as a hospice nurse with 12 years experience, and a manager of an oncologist’s office prior to that, Jody was more aware than any of us of the realities of cancer and its treatment.

Over time, James became an expert far beyond his years. He was more aware of reality. I remember when the cancer returned for the final time. Jody was in Hungary on a mission trip, and so James came to me to report pain in his side. We had to decide when to go. I said that under the circumstances a few days one way or another wouldn’t make much in the way of a medical difference, so I’d go with what he wanted to do. He chose to go to his primary care physician immediately.

I related his pain to a pulled muscle due to practice for marching band. I didn’t catch it at the time. I was too anxious to believe what I wanted to believe. (Though few people ever thought I was in denial I was the least fully aware of the situation from beginning to end.) But James gave me a look of pity; he was pretty certain this was cancer again. He was right.

Jody has been planning to write about this for some time. This year it came together. She has combined her years of nursing, and especially 12 years as a hospice nurse with the skills of Janet Wilkie, LCSW to produce a short, simple, concise, and practical guide for dealing with grief as a Christian. She’ll answer questions about resentment, anger, the reality of grief, and how to deal with the various stages and with other people.

It is unplanned, but this book has just arrived, and it is also just past the 3rd anniversary of James’s death. In a way, we can celebrate his life in this way with a book that will hopefully help others in the same situation.

On our Energion Publications web site we will be honoring the prepublication price of $7.00 through midnight tonight. There are already a couple of slightly lower offers through various internet dealers, though I believe combined with our $2.50 shipping and handling charge, the prepub offer is still a good deal. (Some dealers are listed on the detail page for the book.)

As I said, this is both personal and commercial, but I hope the material is also helpful.

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One Comment

  1. An honest candle is a real light. Thanks for the reality of your grief. We must all bear it. For every tear to be wiped away prematurely would not allow our reality to be what it must be. I am just translating psalm 80 – you make them eat the bread of tears – then tears collective is pluralized! tears upon tears.

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