For Better or Worse

A year ago, we received the initial diagnosis of Angi’s stage four pancreatic cancer.

A couple of days ago, I lost my uncle Mark Alfred.

A couple of hours ago, I posted on Twitter and Facebook, “I was going to whine, but I decided I am too blessed for that.”

And I am.

Whether you believe in a loving, forgiving God who brings people back to life, or an angry all-powerful God who strikes people dead, or both, or neither … you can bank on this:

Things can always be worse than they are.

There, I’ve said it. I’m not taking it back. Cheap, televangelist, sop wit philosophy.

Nevertheless: true.

One year ago and less, things were much worse than you know in my world and you still don’t need to know how bad or what it was that made it that bad. Some of you prayed about it, not even knowing what you were praying about, and that didn’t matter because I believe God heard.

And He kept things from being much worse.

You see, last night I dreamed about Angi. Dreams don’t make sense, so just ride with me. Angi and I were touring the local high school. Maybe it was a parent night; I don’t know. In this dream, Angi could talk.

But she couldn’t make sense. Just as she couldn’t in reality, those last few days of her life.

In this dream, she could walk. But barely, and she couldn’t mount stairs without a lot of help — just as it was in those last weeks of her life, while the cancer attacked her brain.

You know, she could have survived. Angi could have survived like that, for a long long time, suffering and struggling to climb steps and make sense and express herself. She could have had the kind of life no one would wish on themselves, and no kind person would wish on anyone else.

It could have been worse than even that. I could have lost her, and a child, or both children, more family, more dear ones. It happens to all kinds of people all the time, in crimes and terrorist acts and wars and disasters.

I could have been widowed plus childless, jobless, homeless, penniless, friendless, hopeless. Any combination, or all.

None of that took place. People who loved us and cared for us … edged quietly in from every part of my life to help, provide, shelter, comfort, to mourn, and to respect the sudden vacuum created in my family’s lives without trying to replace the dearest one that we had lost.

You can choose to believe they did it of themselves. You can choose to believe that God worked through them. Whatever you believe, they were there.

Keeping things from being so much worse than they could have been.

I know what I choose to believe.

I don’t think the phrase “for better, for worse” was a part of the wedding vows Angi and I repeated to each other. We wrote our own, and in the joy of the moment, each forgot much of what we’d written — and winged it. I remember promising “… in good times and bad, wealth and want, prosperity or poverty, illness or health ….”

Things were always better when Angi was in my life.

And I choose for them to remain better because Angi was in my life.

I don’t think it has taken me a lifetime or the 22 years of our marriage or even the past year to come to that conclusion … just to put it into words.

Those are my two-bit words of wisdom: We choose.

We choose how we view and how we deal with what life brings us, and what it takes away.

Every hour, every day, every year.

For better or worse.

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