I See The Big Picture - May 2022
by Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW
Not long after my husband died, a friend brought me a small picture in a dark red frame. It was a colorful picture of the earth with elephants, alligators, people, buildings, trees, land, water, and sea creatures. In the right-hand corner, the sun was shining down, and a caption read, “I see the big picture, God.” The picture was a visual portrayal of the question I had for a long time—Why did my husband die? It also reminded me that God understands our situation when we do not, and He is watching over us.
My niece and her husband also have some why questions after her husband was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. He is a clean-living, hard-working, wonderful husband and father. In many ways he reminds me of my husband who was also diagnosed with cancer at the age of 58. He, his family, and doctors are wondering why he got cancer; there are no obvious risk factors. This wonderful man is loved and needed by his family, but without a miracle, his prognosis is grim.
There are thousands of why questions. Why did almost 3,000 people die on 9-11? People had gone to work that day as usual, never expecting an airplane to fly through their building, killing many innocent people. Why do some die in tornadoes or floods yet others are spared? Why do babies and children die—they have done no wrong. Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a thought-provoking book entitled When Bad Things Happen to Good People as he searched for answers following the birth of his firstborn son Aaron who was diagnosed with progeria (rapid-aging disease). Progeria only strikes one in every seven or eight million, yet Aaron was one of them! Why?
By twelve months, Aaron’s hair was thinning, and the signs of aging were already setting in. He never grew taller than an average three-year-old, and by the age of ten, physiologically he was like a man in his sixties. He died in his mother’s arms two day after his fourteenth birthday—he only weighed 25 pounds. Later the Kushners had a daughter, but why did Aaron die? The parents never understood. But Rabbi Kushner’s search for answers has helped others come to terms with their sad situations. The book points out that bad things happen to all of us—good and bad.
Since I could not change the outcome of my husband’s death, I had to set aside my questions and live life in spite of what had happened to me. I do not believe God was trying to punish me, but I do believe that I have learned some lessons as a result of it. I realized I had a choice. I could become a “bitter” person who spews out anger and frustration on others. Or I could try to make life easier for others who have experienced losses.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s story The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf and Frodo, the main characters, have a conversation about their stressful situation. Frodo says to Gandalf, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” And Gandalf replies to him, “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide.” Gandalf continued, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” I am sorry for my husband’s death which robbed me of a wonderful husband. My daughter and grandchildren lost someone they adored, but we had no choice but to go on and live our lives.
There is a poem called “The Weaver,” written by Grant Colfax Tuller that reminds us we see life from the “underside,” but God sees the “big picture” from the top side. Here are some verses:
My life is but a weaving,
between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors,
He weaveth steadily.
Oft times he weaveth sorry,
And I in foolish pride,
forget He sees the upper
and I the underside.
Not ’till the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
If you are grieving, you may never understand the whys of your loss. Since we only see the “underside,” life sometimes does not make any sense. I, like Frodo, wish my husband’s death “need not have happened in my time,” but it did. So I had to “decide what to do with the time that is given” me.
I wish you hope, healing, a renewed sense of purpose for your life. Someday we will see “the big picture.”
Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
709 Liberty, Clay Center, Kansas
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator