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April Fool's Day
By Jerod Jarvis

I don't celebrate April Fool's Day.

Losing your mother on national pranking day has a way of taking the fun out of it.

It was cancer that took her. They told us the odds of her getting cancer were long. The odds of getting gall bladder cancer were even longer. But there it was.

Those were long days. Days of doctors and hospitals and my mother slowly withering over the course of two years.

I don't remember much about the months before she died, those weeks of chemo and radiation. But I do remember it took months for reality to set in. It wasn't until the first round of treatments failed that I realized my mother might die.

I was 18. I didn't know how to handle that. To be honest, I still don't.

A few months before she died, I became angry with God. Furious. I knew God was there; I was in no danger of fading into atheism. But that only made it worse, in a way. If God was there, why didn't he do something?

The Bible says that God works all things together for the good of those who love him; the Bible says that God allows suffering into our lives to force us to grow.

I wanted to throw my Bible across the room. God had no right to use my mother to teach anyone anything.

She was my mother. Mine. How could a I serve a God who would use people like that? Who would allow such pain? What kind of loving God would take away someone I loved so much?

Yes, I knew God existed. I just wasn't sure I wanted anything to do with him.

I came close to walking away from my faith. Not many people know that. It wasn't something I shared. It wasn't even something I spent much time thinking about. It just bobbed up now and again when things got bad.

##

There isn't a person in the world who doesn't have a hidden side.

People don't know how to handle the fact that the smiling person in front of them might be dying inside. Deep, lacerating pain isn't a popular subject of small talk. Weeping openly doesn't win you many friends.

Most of the time, I couldn't even handle that side of me. I pushed it down, put it off, postponed processing it. I didn't want to feel it. Didn't want the leaden ache to become white-hot agony.

But one morning a few months before the end, after dropping my brother at school, I broke down. I pulled into the Yoke's Fresh Market parking lot, turned off the car, and wept. I raged and I prayed and I slowly began to realize that I was not alone.

God was working. Not healing, per se. But working. I could feel my anger flowing out with my tears.

Something that I didn't expect replaced it: Joy. Not happiness; I didn't smile, I didn't laugh. My mother was still dying. The ache remained. But joy in the form of a bedrock sense that things were under control crept into my being.

Not my control. God's control.

As I sat in that car, I realized that being angry at the God of the universe was a rather silly concept, even a shameful one when I remembered that the God I serve has nothing but the good of his children at heart.

And if I can believe that God created the universe in a week, that he set time in motion, that he stitched together every fiber of my being, was it such a stretch to believe that he could control this, too?

And if he was in control, then he had a plan. And if he had a plan, I could trust him.

##

Not long after, my mother died.

Memory is a brutal beast. It seems that our minds are determined to store the details of things that we'd much rather leave in the past. How is it that I have difficulty remembering correct answers on exam days, but I can remember every vivid detail of the night she left, April 1, 2007?

It was one in the morning. I wasn't with her when she left. I may never forgive myself for that.

##

It is difficult to accept that "hard" does not equal "bad," that "pain" does not equal "wrong." It's also difficult to grasp anything when you're numb from weeks of dread, dread that hangs over you like a lead cloud, clogging your lungs and deadening your senses.

But the truth is, God remains present through suffering. Our fallen world is a fact; suffering will come. Yet we serve a God who remains faithful through it all. We serve a God who heals all wounds.

And God did heal her. I know that my mother is alive today. Free from the disease that wracked her body for two years. Totally free, and completely alive, waiting for her family to join her in a place called Home.

I still don't know why God took my mama. I don't think I'll ever know, this side of Heaven.

But I know he had a purpose. And I know that he was there with me in that car. Weeping with me. Replacing my agony with peace, bit by gentle bit.

I still don't celebrate April Fool's Day. But even on that day, I have a peace that surpasses all understanding, because I'm trusting in a God who exceeds all expectations.





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