No one ever though to warn me about survivor’s guilt. I don’t blame them… It’s only something that has overwhelmed me the last few months. 10 years ago, it was most likely the last thing to cross the psychologist’s mind as he did a post-operation evaluation. But it’s real. It’s hard. It’s the stuff of nightmares.
When you do life with people who have chronic diseases, you get used to fighting with all your might for the next breath, the next smile, the next anything. My friends and I made pointless bets about who got to Heaven first. We weren’t obsessed with dying. We were ready for life.
Recently, I sat and talked with a father of a friend who “beat me” at the betting game. He and I talked about the fact that, on Saturday, it had been 9 years since my last life-altering brain surgery. 9 years since my parents had to literally tell God He could have me if He deemed it necessary. It’s something to celebrate, really, and my friend’s father helped me do just that. We celebrated.
But then, almost instantaneously, his smile changed and there were tears in his eyes as he hugged me tighter and changed the subject.
I miss her. I barely knew her, but our struggles united our prayers more than any sister-like friendship ever could have. I miss her, I want her back but wouldn’t ask her to sacrifice her eternity with Jesus just because I want her now. Her parents feel the same way, which gives me freedom to have a relationship with them.
However, there are days when I feel guilty. Guilty that my parents’ tears didn’t join the others’. When I make eye contact with someone who knows full well healing after a death never goes away… my longing for Heaven slips and there’s only one thing that fills my heart:
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Thank you for giving my friend life and allowing me to stay longer… but he or she could have done so much better. Why were you done with them when it makes so much more sense to be done with me? Why am I still here?
Though it’s done out of love, compassion and mercy, I never feel justified for asking that question. If anything, I walk away with my eyes filled with tears and God whispering in my ear, “How dare you? How dare you act as if you know your friend’s role on this Earth better than I do? Who are you to strip a family’s time of sanctification and redemption simply because it’s temporarily easier on your hearts? Child, ask your questions, but trust Me.
Survivor’s guilt is real. So is God’s mercy. So is God’s grace. So is God’s joy in anticipation. I’m not the One who wrote this story, but I’m learning to trust the One who did.