Friday, March 1, 2013

Aslan's Country

One year ago today, my friend, Laura, lost her daughter to cancer. Shortly after Anna's death, I wrote this piece, which I thought I'd share with you again today. 

The death of a loved one, particularly a child, is never easy. I'm sure Anna's family would appreciate your prayers today.

* * * * *

At the end of the movie The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the little mouse, Reepicheep has a decision to make. Will he stay with the children he loves in Narnia or will he follow Aslan to his country?

It doesn’t take long for Reepicheep to make his decision, if there was even one to be made at all. He boldly goes where no mouse has gone before, leaping into the wall of water that will surely lead him to that great place.

C.S. Lewis’s narrative puts it a little differently, but the sentiment is still the same:
     “And suddenly there came a breeze from the east, tossing the top of the wave into foamy shapes and ruffling the smooth water all round them. It lasted only a second or so but what it brought them in that second none of those three children will ever forget. It brought both a smell and a sound, a musical sound. Edmund and Eustace would never talk about it afterwards. Lucy could only say, ‘It would break your heart.’ ‘Why,’ said I, ‘was it so sad?’ ‘Sad!! No,’ said Lucy.
     “No one in that boat doubted that they were seeing beyond the End of the World into Aslan’s country.
     “At the moment, with a crunch, the boat ran aground. The water was too shallow now for it. ‘This,’ said Reepicheep, ‘is where I go on alone.’
      “They did not even try to stop him, for everything now felt as if it had been fated or had happened before. They helped him to lower his little coracle. Then he took off his sword (‘I shall need it no more,’ he said) and flung it far away across the lilied sea. Where it fell it stood upright with the hilt above the surface. Then he bade them goodbye, trying to be sad for their sakes; but he was quivering with happiness.”
            The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis

The movie version shows Reepicheep whooping it up, kicking up his heels as he runs straight for the water. He glances back, briefly, at the children standing on the shore, before becoming completely engulfed.

And Reepicheep enters Aslan’s country.

I remember seeing that scene for the first time, unable to control the flood of emotion that came over me, tears pouring down my face. For I knew that Reepicheep had made the better choice. He was following Aslan, receiving his reward.

And yet, the children stayed behind because they knew their time had not yet come. Aslan had other work for them to do. They would follow another time, but not yet.

Would they miss their friend? Oh yes. Their hearts would break for the emptiness they would feel at times. But did they know that Reepicheep was exactly where he needed to be? Indeed, for as the text tells us, “They did not even try to stop him.”

* * * * *

I have written about Anna a few times in the past. Some of you have followed her story of courage, determination, joy, and pain. Many of you have prayed for Anna’s complete healing.

Well, Anna has been healed. Completely. She is now free of pain, completely restored, and walking the shores of Aslan’s country.

Her dad has written about her journey so eloquently, so beautifully, that I could not add anything of value to their story. You can read about it here.

What I can add is my own story of how Anna has touched my life.

Ten years ago I was numbed by the news that my friend’s daughter had cancer. Cancer! Of all things. Nobody expected this diagnosis of a healthy, vibrant, 17-year-old girl.

Over the course of ten years I have watched, prayed, cried, and learned so much from this faithful family.

I have learned that sharing our experiences is much better than keeping them private. Through Anna’s blog, her parents have given so much of themselves to others, taught us how to pray and to care for their family, and showed us some of the incredible results of Anna’s ministry. Surely there are aspects of their story that are private, meant just for them, but they have shared much of Anna’s journey so that we might learn, grow, and be comforted by it. That has been a gift.

I have learned that determination trumps defeat. I will never know how many times over ten years Anna’s parents probably felt defeated, and yet their daughter’s determination to find the next treatment, the next cure, the next glimmer of hope has kept them going. Even when she knew that her fight would end as it did last week, Anna continued to seek experimental treatments so that other children might benefit from her experience.

I have learned that God is completely sovereign, even in death. So many little details came together to make Anna’s final moments God moments. I will never forget how He tenderly made sure that Anna’s oncologist was at their house even as she took her final breath, giving her parents exactly the strength and support they needed at just the right time. Even this is an encouragement to me that God is in the smallest of details.

I have learned that, if we let them, our trials can turn to triumph. From the moment she was diagnosed, Anna knew that this was God’s working in her life, and she was determined to share her faith with the world. Only God (and Anna now!) knows the thousands of lives that have been changed because of her willingness to let this illness be used for His glory.

Oh, it is so hard to let our loved ones go, and Anna’s parents are surely grieving right now as are her siblings, relatives, friends, and even those who did not know her at all. But our grief remains shallow compared to the depth of God’s love for us, and for Anna, with whom He is surely walking alongside today.

To Anna: A life well lived.

1 comment: