Friday, 24 January 2014


At the University (of Windsor), I'm taking part in the co-op program. I need the money. I need the connections. I need the experience. And now is that time of year where you scramble to get uninteresting resumes, semi-convincing cover letters, and less-than-impressive transcripts in. (Don't forward the link to this blog to any of the employers). Hence, the time is also coming for interviews. I have not paid too much thought to who my references will be. But I decided to start and, a couple days ago, I was looking for my old reference sheet from a couple months ago to see what needed to be updated. In my valiant search for the damsel in distress, I came across an article I had written, which I had completely forgotten, which is a rare occurrence. My search, as valiant and noble as it was, had to be put on hold, because I was slightly caught off guard by my own words which I couldn't help but read and read again. The memory and thought that the words triggered was surprising, but also a little unsettling. They had something to say about me, mom, life, faith and doubt. This is what I wrote: 

My mom was diagnosed with Cancer about nine or ten years ago. Breast Cancer. She’s gone the longest time fighting and surviving it without Chemo or radiation. It’s been a hard route, she [...] has done a pretty good job when it’s come down to the wire.
She went to Switzerland a couple times to receive treatment, but learned a few things during diagnostics, namely that her cancer is partly due to an infection in the oral cavity because of a surgery she underwent years prior. Many months ago, if not a year, it had come to the point where my mom had to take radiation. At first she took it in lower doses in cohesion with another natural treatment. Coming back, she continued with it. Then, she had to take more, I guess, and her treatments were at the hospital in Toronto, which is a longer drive for my mom and dad to do. Originally, they were supposed to do a series of lower doses of Chemo, but they decided for the sake of convenience to do fewer doses, but at higher concentration. Obviously at this point we were starting to see the destructive effects of Chemo. 
It is definitely not a cure, nor a miracle treatment. It not only destroys the Cancer (if it even does that at all) it takes the body and its immune system down with it. When I left for Windsor three months ago, my mom was very thin. Her hair was starting to grow back, but she remained extremely thin. When I left, I thought she was thin. I got a text this week from her saying “I am very thin now”. She also says that she might be staying at the hospital to give my dad a break.
My dad a while back got a pretty good, well, better job at Intact. He used to work for an insurance company called Kingsway, which was bought by Jevco, which was then bought by Intact. His job now still has its usual responsibilities and stresses, as it always had I think, but now he’s got more freedom which is awesome. He now pretty much works from home and that lets him help out mom.
I’ve become extremely talented at hiding emotions, particularly negative ones. I don’t get worked up a lot, only certain things do that to me. However, it would be erroneous to say that I am not a particularly emotional person. I mean, my mom has lived through Cancer for, what, almost a decade. Eventually, I became numb to it, especially when I’d hear news like, “I’m cancer free” or “the cancer is pretty much isolated” and such. But hearing what, in texts like these and the emails I’m getting and the very recent memories from three months ago and at thanksgiving, I think I’m finally becoming anxious. I want to see her and be able to at least get a precise idea of where she’s at and how she’s doing, but right now I just can’t help but think negatively and think the worst is coming. It’s a mental battle.
How to remain thoughtful, reasonably optimistic, and faithful to both her and God at the same time can be challenging. As I grow into my prime adult years, I begin to question what are more traditionally interpreted to be promises of literal, physical healing, such as in Isaiah 53 or Psalm 103. I begin to question the rationality of common, abstract thoughts like, “It’ll be okay”. I begin to wonder what is okay, and what isn't, and whether there is such a thing as something that is “not okay” if even the worst of things work in God’s master plan. I begin to wonder if we can even offer supplication in moments like this without positing my will before his. My motive is often, very often, at conflict with itself. As a person who requires a singular, concise answer to many and most questions, I struggle to find it in this cataclysmic arena of thought, love and emotion.

So anyone who thinks they've got one, an answer, please, I’m listening."

My mail box is still open.
There's much I could add to this train of thought, but before doing any such thing, however, I'd like to make a couple points which I think people reading this should consider. One, this blog was not conceived to be a melodrama. If you disagree, we can discuss it over coffee. Or you can stoop to the comment box below. Secondly, the article above was not originally meant to be on this blog, or be out in the open like this. I never considered doing anything like that while I was writing. It was never "published". Lastly, the article was written in November.
If you've spoken to me about it, or caught word of it over Facebook or a phone call or a text message or an email, then you'll already know this. If you've read my previous two posts, then you'll know as well (I would encourage you to read them if you haven't already, for context). If you're not sure where I'm getting at then you probably have no prior knowledge of what I'm about to type, and that's okay... I lost my mom nearly a month ago.
The last few weeks I've just continued to ponder, trying to process everything. I still feel the disappointment. And against all odds, I'm actually okay. I know that's a bit anticlimactic, but I'm okay. Praise God that I am. I've written about this disappointment, as well as what I consider the hypocrisy of denying and rejecting God in this situation. Last week I talked about what I feel is a wrong statement. Now, I want to contemplate something else. Something that's eating away at me. I'm not too sure what to call it.
Though I'm gradually moving on from this tragedy, I can't help but feel the aftertaste of the funeral. I'm sure that's normal. What I'm finding, though, now, is that almost everything finds a way to remind me of mom. It's wonderfully horrific! Movies, stories, church, friends, bands (particularly worship bands and artists like Hillsong and Kari Jobe), those text-messages I haven't deleted yet, the crappy food I feel guilty about consuming (no joke, mom would've been driven insane knowing how unhealthy I ate), the game on Saturday night, night-time walks, life-choice debates, my artistic friends, school, God and almost everything else in between. It's almost impossible for me to escape remembrance. You hear people say, often in situations like mine, I remember him or her every day. And you'd think that'd be pretty difficult to keep up. It's actually pretty darn easy to do, that is if you lose someone who was closest to you.
Memory can be a joyful thing. I like to remember the good moments, those happy moments that you really wish could've just been a perpetual experience. In many ways, I can say I'm glad for her memory. There's a flip side, however, and it's burdensome to talk about publicly as it is to ponder in solitary confinement. Often, I just want to forget. I want to forget those moments, the funeral, the laughs, the tears, and the memory that's been impressed on my mind. Every time I'm reminded of my mom, there's the risk of joy turning into pain and agony. It's wonderfully horrific. I'm not too sure what you call this. Denial? I don't know.
I try to suppress this pain mainly in two ways. The first is usually quite toilsome. It involves changing your thoughts and exchanging the bad with the good. The metamorphosis, as I call it, preferably, is quick to work to minimize the angst. However, this plan is usually inefficient and just overall ineffective because my thoughts and conversations with myself are like an acid-base reaction. The exchange between the good memories and the bad go both ways. So I would prefer to set my mind on something else entirely. Art can be a good escape, at times. However, when drawing up a sketch or writing a poem, my mind is at risk of being dragged back into the memory. So it's a gamble. I find that the piano is better because I am more concentrated when I play and my thoughts don't tend to wander as much.
Maybe forgetting isn't the way. And perhaps that's logical because, again, it's almost impossible to do. Instead of avoiding the pain, maybe the only way out is to tough it out. Does time heal this wound? I try to go back and live normally. I'd say I've done a pretty good job. I hang out with friends and converse. But still caught in my conundrum. Perhaps there is only to embrace the uncertainty, the lack of understanding. Maybe instead of trying to forget, maybe there is only to remember the blessing she has been - her legacy. Remember what she has poured into your life. Remember that life wasn't for naught. Praise God this is true.
The problem of pain can be tricky for us, both as seekers and discoverers of the answer to it. Ironically, it's a subject I've become fascinated with over the last few months. Why is there pain? Why do we get diseases? Where does God fit into it? Where does pain come from? I don't really know these answers, unfortunately. Again, my mailbox is open. Despite the fact, however, I feel like I've made progress. Diving into the scriptures and seeing what I can pull out has been a great help, actually. No sarcasm, either. Even then, I'm still left slightly perplexed. It's interesting, though, you hear all the time though that leave their faith because how could something as bad as this happen to them, and how could God allow them to happen? Those are some tough questions. Looking at this situation from a different perspective, though, and still acknowledging my lack of knowledge, this experience has actually drawn me closer to my faith in Jesus. I still find comfort in his promises, and the joy I've had in my walk has not turned into bitterness and contempt. I don't know why God took my mom when He did, but maybe I don't necessarily need to know. At least not now. It is clearly evident to me that He is still present. I wish more people had the same clarity.
It's weird to hear about other people being diagnosed with cancer. I know I hear stories on TV and the internet, but I haven't heard of too many people I know (or even friends/family of people I know) that are diagnosed. I got news of one, in particular, over Facebook, and it was a different feeling. It was the I-sincerely-hope-your-loved-one-has-a-different-fate feeling (again, no sarcasm).
I suppose I will leave it at this for now. My train of thought has abruptly arrived at a bridge currently under construction.

Hold your family near, even when their distant. Ask questions.

Friday, 10 January 2014

"I Completely Understand."

     Experiences, in one way or another and by varying degrees of intensity, differ from one person to another. If not already, it should be considered a scientific law of the universe. Life experiences - human experiences - cannot be duplicated because of various factors such as differences in environment, upbringing, previous experiences, emotional condition, physical condition, personal values and beliefs, perspective, and so on. What I mean is, one person's experience at a concert will vary from their best friend's experience. To say their experiences were exactly the same would be as preposterous, and ludicrous, as saying that two objects can occupy the same space. So saying to someone who has recently lost a good friend of their's, or a family member, that you "completely understand" would be to be exactly that - preposterous. What turns out to be ironic is that a person's declaration of complete understanding is a black-and-white indicator of their lack thereof. As similar as any two experiences may be, Billy's loss is not equivalent to Justine's loss. Let's take, for example, a case where I lose a loved one. A person tells me they "completely understand what I'm going through". Though he or she too may have experienced a loss of a loved one, that person's loss was not the same person as the one that I lost. Our relationships with them differed, they died at different moments in our lives, they died of different causes. Need I continue? Any loss ever experienced cannot ever attain equality with my loss. To assume otherwise, besides being incredibly stupid, would be borderline offensive as well (especially in the case of losing a loved one), because it suggests that the person in my life who is now dead was not a unique individual. So my message to the world is this - to lack understanding, is to understand. Sympathy doesn't need to be accompanied by understanding to be a comfort. In fact, it's almost more comforting to sympathize without understanding. The only thing that is left for the sympathizer to do is to carry the burden of pain, offer up your experience as well as any other useful advice you can extract from it, and hopefully it will provide ease into the victim's situation.  


Monday, 6 January 2014

An Anger of Sorts

Hello readers,

Welcome to my blog. I hope that through my writings and commentaries on this 21st century world you will find some benefit of new knowledge, new perspective and new encouragement. Take note of a few things, though, about me and this blog that I think you will find to be particularly encouraging:

  • Though I'm preachy at times, I don't preach.
  • I'm just another ordinary fellow.
  • I love people.
  • And I think there's hope for everyone... even you!
The main focus of my blog will be issues and experiences on the personal level as well as my view on life - particularly Church life and student life - and occasionally I'll write on big debates (i.e.: the origin of life).

Right now, though, I want to discuss the loss I've suffered. Much goes through my head, though sometimes I feel nothing does. I want to do everything. I want to do nothing. I am content. I am regretful. I am disappointed and heartbroken. I am grateful and awestruck. 

About three Sundays ago, my mother passed away.

I will not go into the details of how she died because those things, I feel, are unnecessary to disclose. Moreover, I don't think that holding out a basket for sympathy is a good way to kick off a blog. This is certainly not my intention. 

Three and a half months away at school, I was. I came home in time for Christmas. Bittersweet. I'd pretty much gotten used to life without my mom. Don't get me wrong, I always missed her. I was so glad to come for Christmas and being able to see her, hear her, converse with her. But to come home to see her lying in a hospital bed, in a condition unfamiliar to me, was definitely sour. And then less than a week later, she was gone. Bittersweet.

My last words to her, on the second night of my return from school, was "I love you. I'm proud of you." and her last message to me was not in the form of spoken word nor written, but a gesture which, I believe, was for me to continue writing as I have since I was six years old. Though I'm grateful to have had that last encounter, I'm left with a brutal aftertaste. Disappointment.

I wished she could have finished her last painting. I wished I could've confessed to her. I wished I could've told her about my latest poems and newest friends and hardest exams. I wished I could've heard another laugh, seen another smile, felt another hug. But nope, I guess it was never meant to be. However, despite all the hurt, I've got this prosthetic limb called hope. Hope that all is near that ought to be. Hope that all will end in the utmost of glory.

There are no answers to the why questions, or the what-if questions. There's no trying. It's like scratching a mosquito bite. You can gnaw away at the problem, but the problem persists and perseveres despite every technique and angle you incorporate. Why did mom die now? Why in the manner that she did? Well what I do know, is that it would have likely been much more painful had mom lived another couple weeks as doc predicted. So perhaps there's some indication of mercy despite the widespread mystery and confusion. 

One thought I had was, we Christians seem to remain relatively comfy and okay even as we here of random shootings and ravaging diseases elsewhere, but as soon as these things hit your basement, life becomes difficult to bear. I don't blame anyone, for sure. I won't pretend that this is not also my experience. But if we can keep our faith in spite of Earth's global condition, how can we not keep it when that condition breaches the immunity of your own, little world? To me it would be lunacy and hypocrisy to lose hope and faith then. It's understandable, for sure, but it's unjustifiable, nevertheless.

Keeping this in mind, as well as the good memories, the blessings, and the beneficial life that was, has helped me hold on to my saving belief in Jesus Christ and his glorious work on the cross. God's amazing grace has been made obvious in my mom's life and I won't deny it. To deny it would be cold-hearted, arrogant and desperate blindness. There's too much goodness to remove myself from a righter perspective and there's too much apparent love to stoop to a belief in an illogical and chaotic world. 

I read an article, via Facebook, a little while ago. It was basically saying that when a loved one dies, hopefully there's a physicist to tell you that though matter decays, energy lives on until the ending of time because of the first law of thermodynamics and the law of the conservation of energy. I find this problematic - and this opens up a whole other can of worms, which I will probably dive into another time - because of, interestingly enough, the second law of thermodynamics which basically states that over time, the universes energy becomes less and less useful, like the human body or a neglected cup of coffee. This hints that the earth and universe will eventually be reduced to nothingness, due to heat death. So what if my energy remains? I'll leave it at that for now. Naturalistic explanations, assuming they don't somehow still involve God's hand, do not exist to assure me that life has true meaning. Only God, according to the sacred text of the Bible, does. 

However, one of deeper struggles at this point of time is the area of supernatural, physical healing and miracles. There are many different opinions and beliefs and I'm left here pretty confused by them. My main question, I suppose, is does the Bible ever promise physical healing from diseases? My guess is that an answer to that question would answer my other questions as well. I know that it is mentioned all over the place in the Bible that God forgives our iniquities and heals our diseases and such. This is one area of doubt for me.

Despite the encouragement and prayer support I've received over the last little while by so many people, I still can't help but feel this anger. An anger with my numbness. An anger with my lack of understanding of grief, the entire situation. I'm angry with certain people. 

I rest in pain, each day, knowing that my time will come. The pain doesn't come from the 'death' part, but rather that which has to do with my task to be fulfilled and my goals to be accomplished. I know that I have tasks and goals. I don't want to disappear into another realm while leaving the old with my unfinished dreams. But I realize that here, in the pain of fear and anger, lies the terrible, impulsive tendency that I have, that we have. I think that we all have this me versus god mentality, which we subtly disguise as being one of initiative, or pro-activity. I prefer to think of it as the sort of self-reliance and independence that Christianity, at its core, directly counteracts. 

And thank God that's the case.