December 2023
Spiritual formation
When a Friend Has Cancer, Be the Kite He Cannot Be

The living have a call to do what those who are dying cannot

Over the last several weeks, my mind has felt like a kite weighed down by a stone on a string. I haven't been able to stop thinking about a friend with stage-four cancer, who probably doesn't have much time left. As I walked out of the building where I work and stepped into the biting November breeze, I thought, "What would I wish for, more than anything, if it was me right now who had stage-four cancer? What would I want most?"

It was at that moment that I had an epiphany. What I would want most would be to do what I'm doing right now: walking outside on my lunch break, but not just walking. I would want to walk with a mind that was free and clear of the despair of death, of the looming threat of endings. I would want a light mind, a clear mind, a mind unfettered to doubt and fear. I would want to walk with a mind like a kite in the wind. That's what I'd want.

And so I walked with my head up high, staring into the canopies of the towering oak and pine trees. I walked with my eyes gazing into the blue sky and the wisps of clouds. I looked—I really looked—at the leaves blowing all over the road like thoughts of a child, scattering into the currents of whim. I walked with my mind as a kite in the wind, weighed down by nothing, my frame tight and secure, the fabric of my heart whipping in the glory of potential. I walked like the kite he could not be.

As I sit back down in my chair and type these words, I am alone with a sobering thought: I won't always be a kite gliding in the sky. One day I'll be weighed down, too. And when that day comes, I hope to have those I love become the kite I cannot be, to fly unhindered in places where my mind can no longer fly. 

Of course, all of this sounds rather hopeless, as if life were the passing of myriad torches, one hand turning cold and handing off the baton to the next warm hand. Sometimes we feel this is the most rational way to look at things. Our daily experience tells us that our time is filled with patterns of death and birth, loss and laughter, passion and peace. And then some day the pattern stops. It just stops

In some ways, maybe that is a rational way of looking at life. But I am not a rational person—at least, I'm not only a rational person. I am a hopeful person, too. And do you know what a hopeful person does in the face of cancer? He dreams. And he knows that there is great power in the dreaming. But these are not whimsical dreams, floating on fancy. They are dreams carried by the promises of God's own speech. And one of the most glorious promises comes in Revelation 21:4, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

Former things—that's what cancer will be one day. And so will brain tumors (from which my father died when I was eighteen), and cerebral palsy, and pancreatitis, and Alzheimer's, and . . . every rotten thing. I dream of newness, my friends. Do you dream of newness? If you don't then being the kite that your cancer-ridden friend cannot be is little more than an exercise in positive thinking. That is not good enough for me. I don't want positivity; I want promise. I want fulfillment. And I'll get it, just as my friend will, when the speech of God resounds throughout the world, and God himself ushers us into his presence—a presence of newness. 

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