White House spokesman Tony Snow has cancer that has spread to his liver. This hits close to home. Four years ago I was working in the White House when a brain tumor hit and four years ago a young White House researcher named Jen Reilly lost her battle with colon cancer. She was also a friend. Now this.
There is no making sense of this last week – of brave Elizabeth Edwards and brave Tony Snow, Democrat and Republican, man and woman, mother and father, attacked again by cancer. Anyone who purports to have an answer lies. There is no answer; not on this side of eternity. There are only questions: Why them? Why again? Why when they have young children? Why when they are trying to do good things for the country? Why, why, WHY? All we have is mystery… and the author of that mystery. Somehow, some way, we have to be willing to fall in love with that mystery and that author over and over and over again.
Some months ago my friend – and I am blessed to count him as a friend – Andrew Sullivan and I had dinner. We talked about our battle with disease – his HIV, my brain tumor. He gave me much hope because he helped put words to my world by describing how he had come to see his world. He described his revelation (as described in one of his books):
It was like being in a movie theater when something goes wrong in the projector room, and suddenly the film slips, and the images are out of focus and slipping haphazardly beneath the screen, and the light flickers and the figures jump. And you wait for it to be fixed, for the movie to jump back into its space, for the story to go back to itself, for the scenes that have already been lost to be pieced together in retrospect. And you wait and wait. And then it dawns on you that, in fact, the movie will never be fixed, that from now on, this is the movie, and that from now on, you will have to find a way to watch it differently, to adjust your eyes and vision and hearing, to glean from its new disorder an order that you can remember and comprehend. (from Love Undetectable, p. 29)
As I sat there listening to him, the tears flowed freely because I knew he was right. I knew I had to surrender something; I knew I would never know again. Till that point I had been rebelling – I had tried everything to make my picture stable, to pray and will my way back to “normalcy,” to live outside the mystery. I just couldn’t anymore, I had to let go. I wasn’t letting go into a black hole of nothingness though, I was letting go into God.
Today, with Tony Snow’s news, I let go again. I let go my right to know and to understand and to make sense of it all…or of any of it. But I do not despair because one day I really do believe I will know in full.