I'm glad I posted my retrospective yesterday because this morning I received some news that might have coloured it slightly. Back in April, one of the guests at my 30th birthday party was Martin, the husband of one of the designers I worked with, Allison. He looked a bit peaky back then and in conversation said that he was going to the doctors to see if there was anything wrong with him.
Martin was diagnosed with stomach cancer and given a prognosis of six months with the chemo. When I last saw him, he was in Velindre hospital - the specialist cancer unit - looking very ill, but alert and happy. Although I didn't feel like I had much faith, I prayed with him. There have been lots of prayer meetings, special mentions in our prayer times in work, and regular emails.
Two days ago he took a sudden turn for the worse and was rushed into hospital where he died.
It's not as if we were exceptionally close. We met a few times before he got ill, and we saw him a few times in the past eight months. But he was a warm, kind, interested guy, with a creative artistic streak, a good sense of humour and a sincere smile. After talking to him for a few minutes, I felt like I'd known him for ages, and that's rare for me because I don't really like people that much and find it hard to make friendships.
I've heard the 'explanations' for why good people die young and none of them really help. When I was a headstrong and certain teenager I could put up a good argument why, even though God could step in and save people He would perhaps choose not to. Now I feel like grabbing him, shaking him by the cosmic shoulders and telling him, in no uncertain terms, to get in the game.
I was talking today to an older and wiser friend - a man who's been a doctor for nearly 40 years, and a believer for longer - and his honest gut opinion is that cancer is evil. It's satan's last desperate throw of the dice because satan hates human beings (I don't give satan a capital letter for a reason - see here). That doesn't help lessen the pain, but at least it gives a focus for my anger.
And I think back to what Luther said - that the only place we really see God is on the cross. And how Paul described Christ emptying himself. And I try to get my head around the idea of death and finitude and mortality becoming part of the eternal nature of God - that in that mysterious trinity, not only is death experienced for eternity, but the pain of abandonment, and the pain of harrowing loss is also part of God's nature. And I remember Peter's assertion that God didn't abandon his Son to the grave. That somehow life triumphed.
On a rollover inspirational calendar that Cath has by the computer it said this a few days ago: "Faith is seeing light with your heart, when all your eyes see is the darkness ahead."