"No, I don't go to church," she said to me, in response to my question after we'd just met in the bathroom at City of Hope. "We stopped going."
I saw it in her eyes. Something I'd never dealt with before. And I was ill-equipped and unprepared for the rest of her answer.
"My husband just died from Cancer a few months ago. And now my sister is dying," she said.
Her stare challenged me to say something back to that. I looked down, fumbling for what I was going to say next.
"Well, there's always hope (like the sign says when you first drive in to the front of City of Hope, as well as the many scripture references in the Bible). You never know. Maybe..." I trailed off because I knew she was going to stop me. I would have stopped me if I were her, too.
"No, she's on hospice," she said, talking over me. And then continued with a barrage of details so painful I winced as she laid them out for me to see.
Words failed me at that moment. I could think of nothing to say. And everything that I thought of would seem patronizing, trite and clearly lacking personal experience.
I told her I'd pray for her and asked for the names of her and her sister.
I have prayed for them both many times.
I caught sight of the cute smile, chubby cheeks and striking blue eyes after reading she'd died at the tender age of four two years ago.
I saw my daughter in her face and wept.
"It's not fair!" I prayed to God.
I stumbled across her blog because I was looking for the cancer blog that Ryan had been following. He said the person who had Stage IV lung cancer was now on hospice. Being our age and fighting it for years, it gave Ryan some encouragement and hope, until he read the latest post.
I found out the woman I'd been following with Stage IV lung cancer died a few months back, which is why she hadn't posted in a while.
I wept bitter tears and wanted something good to come out of all this pain.
I wanted to know the antidote to failed words.
A friend of mine posted a blog on her Facebook page titled Brendan's Bible Blessings. Intrigued, I read their story and found out their 12 year old son had brain cancer and died five weeks after his diagnosis.
I couldn't believe they only got five weeks together.
I was stunned.
I read that the family is donating bibles to kids with Cancer and asking for donations to help spread the gospel during the most difficult time in any family's life.
It was a good word!
Then, I saw that a Mom who'd lost her courageous and musically gifted son to cancer wrote a book about it. Maybe you've heard of his Number 1 hit song "Clouds" on YouTube? Here's a link to the website: http://flyalittlehigher.com/
And a glimmer of hope, again.
I see the young widow in a lot of places. And when I close my eyes, I see her still.
I pray for her as I read her posts on Facebook, ache for her loss, and hope we don't walk the same path. When I see her in person, I often don't know what to say. I neatly avoid the things I don't want to hear other people tell me.
I know I don't want to add to her grief. Words are failing me, again.
I hear Ryan tossing and turning in the bed and pray that the cancer is gone. I want Ryan to be one of those people who just keeps going. I don't want to be her.
Then, as I pray about the future and slowing down my pace to "take one day at a time" like everyone tells me to - I think about how it "rains on the just and the unjust."
There aren't any free passes out of this life, to avoid pain and suffering. It happens to us all.
And when words fail, then love prevails.
I know how to hug someone, how to listen, and smile. I know how to offer to pray for them, then pray for them often. And I even know how to send an encouraging text of love and scripture, too - or a DaySpring card because the card already says most of what I want to say. And I can make some pretty yummy baked goods, too.
Words often fail me, but love doesn't.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.