On Grief and Breathing
There are moments sometimes in life that knock the breath out of us, moments when you wake up with a Facebook notification that makes you cry. Today, Hudson Wade, 11-year-old son of Kirk and Laura Wade, died after a four-month battle with leukemia.
Hudson was diagnosed with leukemia in September and since that day, family and friends have joined in helping Hudson and his family face the battle against cancer. It’s been a beautifully messy story, a testament to God’s grace amidst utter confusion and pain.
I’ve been following his story for a few months now through the family's online Facebook community. I got to write a feature on him and the support his family received from the ACU community. I talked to his mom on the phone in October. I talked with his 11-year-old friend who started lemonade stands for him. I joined thousands of people in praying the last few days as his health was up and down.
Bleary-eyed, I sit this morning with one thought in my mind. Why do 11-year-old boys die of cancer?
You see, this is where the lines of faith get fuzzy, and we look upward, stupefied and ask why our prayers didn’t work like we wanted to. Did God not hear us? My reflex is to point the finger, to question, to accuse. Waves of grief muddle our thinking. We are tangled in our emotion, in the bittersweet space between here and heaven.
In the days that follow, people will speak well-meaning words that sound somewhat hollow. “I’m sorry for your loss.” “God has a plan.” “All things work for his good.” "He's OK now, how awesome is that."
But do any of us really know what to say?
I have a friend who doesn’t tell people he’ll pray for them, but rather that he will breathe for them. It sounds a little weird at first, but sometimes words are hard to come by in our darkest moments. Sometimes remembering to breathe is even harder. When we don’t know how to pray with our words, we can pray in each breath we take, the Holy Spirit interceding for us.
Hudson’s family has had the air knocked out of their lungs. There are no words in times like these.
In my experiences with grief, with life and death and mourning, I’ve come to decide that I want to be one who breathes for people. God, in the beginning, breathed life into Adam. God, even now, gives and takes away.
I don't know why an 11-year-old boy dies from leukemia, or why the prayers of thousands were answered differently than we all hoped they would be. I can't really think of any more words than that. When we can't speak, let us breathe.