I saw my friend Bobbie at Mass this morning for the first time since she started cancer treatment. I sat next to her during the Chaplet of Mercy afterward.
She greeted me with a joyful smile. Her face, under a hot pink baseball cap, glowed with a spiritual radiance that you see in nuns and in people who have been very ill. She had the calm gravity of one who has looked long into the Abyss and decided not to jump.
Bobbie and I ended the Chaplet, as always, this way: “Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.”
Bobbie’s husband was waiting in the car outside to bring her to their umpteenth visit to Johns Hopkins cancer center. On the way out of church, I asked her how she was able to see God’s will as “Love and Mercy itself” when things happen in a way she wouldn’t have chosen, like cancer.
She looked at me seriously for a moment. Then she smiled, and seemed to pity me for not knowing the secret. “Well, I would never have had all this help and this love in my life otherwise,” she said. This wasn’t a fake answer. She had found the pearl of great price and treasured every moment of the love that poured on her in extra measure in her vulnerability.
Then she added, “But it’s because I have God. Without Him, it would be horrible. But it’s not me. It’s Him that’s doing this.”
Maybe we are presented two choices in a crisis: to look down and see the black hole of despair, or to look up and see a break in the clouds where God’s rays of mercy and healing stream down. A vision of hopeless hell or the heaven of love. Turbulence, pain, and fear are all real, but they are all passing away. Only love is eternal. Bobbie has chosen love, a beautiful choice that warms everyone who sees her.