Love Showed Up: Be The Miracle

Today’s post rings true and beautiful and comes to us from the Lovely Bethany Suckrow. Enjoy!6787489939_7ed586fe31_b

I have a hard time believing in miracles. It’s not that I don’t believe in God. It’s not that I don’t believe that Jesus really performed the miracles recorded in the Gospels. It’s just that my own story is marked by the miracle that never came: my mother’s healing.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 10 years old. My memories of that time in our lives are still vivid nearly two decades later. I remember seeing her bandaged chest after her mastectomy. I remember her waist-length curtain of dark brown hair falling out in handfuls, and the way she looked the morning after she made dad shave her head. I remember walking into their bedroom to see her laying in the darkness, spent with sickness after another chemo treatment. I remember the prayers I prayed – God, please help mom feel better. God, please make her hair grow back. God, please don’t take her away. God, please. Please. 

I remember other things too, memories that I look back on with deep gratitude and love. I remember the stack of cards that came in the mail, from everyone we knew, it seemed. So many times mom would open them and a slip of paper would fall out onto the kitchen counter – a check to help us make ends’ meet. I remember the people that showed up on our doorstep, arms full of food. Some of these people were flesh-and-blood family, but most of them were our church family. We attended the same small Baptist church in my rural hometown in Michigan for my whole life, and my mother’s whole life. They are a congregation of real salt-of-the-earth people, mostly farmers and their families that have lived in the area for several generations. With the same steadfastness (some might say stubbornness) that survives Michigan winters and plows the hard ground year after year, the parishioners attend that same First Baptist Church on Cochran Road. And with that same steadfastness, they rally around one another in seasons of hardship. At the time of mom’s first diagnosis, and again five years later when she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, they were ever-present with prayer and encouragement and meals and cards and childcare.

Mom lived with metastatic breast cancer for nearly 10 years after she received the second diagnosis in 2002. Considering that her doctors gave her three years maximum prognosis, this was miraculous. Most of that time, she didn’t even look sick. It wasn’t until it spread to her soft tissue in those last three years that things started to change. As her conditioned worsened, mine did too; my faith felt toxic.  I felt like what hope I had left was dying inside of me. The community and meals and financial support were great and all, but God, wouldn’t it just be better if you healed her so that we wouldn’t need it anymore? 

I wanted total healing for my mother, but God refused to give it. I prayed for the miracle, longed for the miracle, tried to will myself into believing hard enough that if I knocked, the door would be opened. It didn’t. In the final year of mom’s life, everything felt desperate and desolate. Mom was in and out of the hospital every other week and every part of her body seemed to be failing her. At home, things were just as dire; my parents were swamped with medical debt and no one had the time or mental where-with-all to keep track of anything.

And that’s when Love showed up in a big way for us. A few friends from church and some members of our family decided to plan a spaghetti dinner and silent auction to help raise funds for my parents. Hundreds of helping hands joined the effort with donations for the meal and the auction, and on the night of the event, hundreds more showed up. Despite how physically weak she was after another stint in the hospital, Mom was able to attend. They sat her in a chair by the door to the auditorium where the dinner was being held and friend after friend came to her with hugs and words of encouragement. All in all, more than 800 people came and raised more than $14,000.

Some days, I still have a hard time believing in miracles. I can’t sugar-coat the reality that the one I spent a lifetime praying for never came. My mom died when I was 24, and every day I miss her. Every day I battle my bitterness and anger. Every day I ask God why. Every day I ask God to prove to me that Love is real. And every day, the memories fall like manna – I remember the friends that showed up with arms full of food, the cards that came in the mail, the funds tucked inside them that helped our family make ends’ meet. And I remember the night of the spaghetti dinner and silent auction as its own miracle – all those people showing up for us, all of them sharing their resources and moving one another toward compassion and generosity – it was the feeding of five thousand, it was water turned to wine, it was Love made flesh and dwelling among us.

Screen shot 2014-06-01 at 2.34.02 PM Bethany Suckrow is a writer and blogger at at www.bethanysuckrow.com, where she shares both prose and poetry on faith, grace, grief and hope. She is currently working on her first book, a memoir about losing her mother to cancer. She and her musician-husband, Matt, live in the Chicago suburbs.

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  • Sara

    Your mom was an inspiration for us & I wish I had gotten to know her, and you better. But we can’t look back. In my faith journey I have learned not to ask “Why” because God won’t answer that question for me. He will answer “What do I do now?”. Your mom was completely healed, just not the way you wanted it to be. I can picture her now with our Lord perhaps singing with her beautiful voice & enjoying her new perfect body. Someday you will be with her again!

  • aluna13

    “Every day I ask God to prove to me that Love is real. And every day, the memories fall like manna…”

    Reminders. Love is real, Bethany. Love is real.
    I am proud to know you and grateful for you in my life.
    Love is real in you.

  • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

    This makes me weepy, Bethany. I love your honesty and I hear your pain and echo your thankfulness for the blessing others became.

  • Daniel McDonald

    Thank you for this. I could not help but feel a sense of the sharing of something sacred both in your sharing of joy and of suffering in the faith. If I can say anything comforting it might be that when we pray to be Jesus’ hands and feet on the earth; perhaps we unknowingly pray for scars on our hands and feet. I am deeply moved by your expression of both sorrow and joy. May God’s peace beyond comprehension abide upon you.

  • http://www.addingaburden.com/ Jill – addingaburden.com

    Your story made me think of the image of a little flower growing thought a crack in a dry and barren ground. This is what it looks like to have faith in a awfully broken world. Thank you for sharing!

  • http://karissaknoxsorrell.com/ Karissa Knox Sorrell

    This is beautiful. I lost my brother in a motorcycle accident and have asked time and time again why God didn’t just protect him, especially when my mother had specifically prayed for his safety that day. I still struggle to connect the idea of a loving God with a world of suffering. I don’t believe it was God’s will for your mom to suffer from cancer or for my brother to die, but when they did, God put on human skin again – this time in his people. His love came through in the form of money, prayers, food, visits, etc. He is incarnated over and over in the beautiful acts of humans, and that is miraculous. Thanks for your honesty.

  • http://paulagamble.blogspot.com/ Paula Gamble

    Bethany, this brings tears. It is so beautiful how Love shows up in our greatest needs and desperate times. I’m sorry you lost your Mom. Your words bring hope. Thank you for sharing.