With the Jewish holy days upon us, I want to share a story about my relationship with G-d. I leave out the ‘o’ in G-d, as many Jews do, as a sign of respect. I’m definitely not in a position to show disrespect to G-d!
Shortly after my diagnosis in February, Felice and I were on a walk somewhere. I don’t recall the specifics of the walk, but I recall the conversation. Felice questioned whether there really was a G-d. Of course, looking back, it’s an understandable comment. Her father passed very quickly after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis about 6 years ago. This left her as the care provider for her mother, Arlene, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Arlene passed away Thanksgiving weekend this past November. Less than 2 months later, I began the diagnostic path that led to my diagnosis. So, in retrospect, the comment shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise.
At the time, I was focused more on the fresh challenge that was dumped on us like a ton of bricks, and shocked to hear those words coming from her. Felice is grounded in her faith and has always had stronger ritualistic conviction than I, by a lot! I reacted with , ‘what the hell are you talking about?’ She continued that it is hard for her to believe in a G-d that would allow so many bad things to happen to good people. I suppose that she was grouping me in with ‘good people’ :-).
I stopped and looked at her and said, ‘there is absolutely a G-d and G-d is good. Look at our beautiful children that G-d gave to us. Look at that adorable little grand daughter of ours that G-d blessed us with. Look at the wonderful life that we have shared together and the opportunities that were given to me to pursue and live so many dreams. Of course there is a G-d and there is a reason that this challenge has been presented to us. G-d owes me nothing, we’re all square’.
I’ve never been one for the strong ritualistic practice of Judaism. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have faith. Judaism believes that G-d is omnipresent and that our prayers are always heard. I believe that and accepted that as fact from the time I was a young boy. I buy into the importance of synagogue and understand that many people feel a greater spiritual experience from community prayer. I believe that synagogue and observance is important out of respect to those that sacrificed in order for us to have the freedom to practice our religion, and I respect those that honor and preserve the sanctity of institution based practice. I just don’t believe that ritualism is the measure of how religious somebody is. When people see me at the occasional religious service, it is generally to be there with Felice. Think what you may, no offense or disrespect intended, it’s just the way it is. Make no mistake though, I believe in a greater being and believe that I have experienced the miracle of prayer. People everywhere are praying for me. I have prayers coming from all religions and I truly believe that when I experienced the Abscopal response that neutralized much of my cancer, that it was a sign that prayers were heard.
My plea to G-d wasn’t to spare me or even to cure me. I asked to level the playing field. I told G-d that I trusted that there was a reason that I was saddled with this situation, but that I felt ‘sucker’ punched and would appreciate a chance to fight this with a level playing field. If G-d was trying to get my attention, the approach was very effective!
Possibly G-d brought this challenge to me so that I could deliver hope to others that face overwhelming challenges in their lives. Possibly to awake awareness in others about the fragility of their health, not to take it for granted and to relish the day -each day is a gift! I have to assume that it’s more than just the bad luck of the draw, I have to believe that there is a reason. Without that core belief, then I might question whether there is a G-d also.
So now, I have a fresh challenge. While it might knock me back a bit, I still have complete faith that G-d has a reason and I will continue to have faith that regardless of what happens next that G-d will watch over me.
So during this time when Jews all over the world are observing Rosh Hashanah, and begin this period of renewal and introspection leading up to Yom Kippur, I want to wish L’shana Tova to those that are celebrating the Jewish holidays and share my appreciation to all of you, from all religious walks, that bring me such inspiration through your power of prayer and the sharing of your positivity and support.
Mike #cancersucks #ShaneStrong