During last summer I wrote about Olivia (Philip’s little sister) and her diagnosis of brain cancer. Since that time she has undergone more surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy to battle the growth. It’s been a hard 6 months, but in spite of the difficult road, there was a good deal of hope. This past week, the family found out that the very aggressive cancer had spread through her brain and her spine, and that there really is nothing they can do. While Olivia, and her whole family (4 siblings, her parents, and Hannah, her sister-in-law) are believers, there is great sadness and sorrow as everyone deals with the knowledge that she will no longer be a part of their lives. Yet, there is hope of the resurrection.
Éva is seeing lots of family these days. And lots of tears. But not a lot of Olivia, her aunt who loves to share ballet with her. She’s been praying for Jesus to make Olivia better. What can a four-year-old grasp out of this situation? A lot more than you might think.
In the middle of dinner last night she looked up at everyone and said (rather matter-of-factly), “Olivia’s going to die. We’re all going to die. Olivia is going to go to heaven. Jesus will take her to heaven. I’m going to heaven.”
A bunch of stunned adults looked at her. She’s right. Olivia is going to die. And she’s also right that we are all going to die. That actually should come as no surprise, but we rarely live like we are going to die. Somehow we often think we are insulated from death. For Éva and for Olivia (and for all believers) the true sting of death has been removed by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Éva’s got her theology in place.
What she doesn’t have yet, is the experience of how sad it is for those who remain when a loved one is released from this fallen and cursed world to be welcomed by their Savior. There is great sadness. We can imagine for her all the things that she will never experience with Olivia. We can imagine all the memories that will not be made. That is where the sorrow lies.
But perhaps Éva is actually more wise than her four years might seem to hold. She is focusing on the inevitable death of the body, but also the definite hope of the resurrection. She doesn’t use the word “resurrection” but her words about heaven are much more real than some adults would express. She is (in a way) untainted by the experience of sorrow so that she can see clearly the hope in this situation.
I know she will eventually be sad as the reality of the days and years ahead unfold. But for now, I’m comforted and challenged as I sit at her feet and hear her talk about death and Jesus and heaven. Right now, she takes the cake over any theology class.
Please do pray for the Walden family as they walk through this time with Olivia. And pray that the medical team is able to relieve Olivia’s pain.