Michele, Mary, and Me

Michele Cushatt’s life was turned upside down with a phone call.  5 ½ years ago, two days before Thanksgiving, a doctor called to tell her “It’s not good.”  That was code for “You have tongue cancer.”

(c) Dollar Photo

(c) Dollar Photo

As she describes in her book “Undone”, it felt like a gut punch. 

The breakfast dishes sat in the sink, cereal bowls and coffee mugs dropped in my hurry to get kids to school.  My husband, Troy already late, hustled through the house grabbing computer bag and coat for a full day of customer appointments.  Bread crumbs from hastily assembled sack lunches lingered on the counter, the newspaper sprawled across the table.  All marks of an ordinary day in our home.

Only today was no longer ordinary.  Even as I sat in the living room chair, the phone in one hand and my forehead in the other, I knew my life would never be the same.

Since that two-days-before-Thanksgiving phone call, Michele has had tongue cancer two more times.  She has had 75% of her tongue removed and surgically rebuilt.  She bears the internal and external scars of a horrible disease.

Mary stood at the tomb, frantic.  She had come with a few friends to perform the ceremonial ritual of preparing the body for a proper burial.  He had died just before the Sabbath, so had been hurriedly been placed in the tomb without this having been done.  Despite her grief, she knew that going back was the right thing to do.

Her life had already been turned upside down when he died.  Now insult was added to injury.  Someone had taken him out of the tomb!  Why would someone do something so horrible?

My life turned upside down when my boss stuck his head into my office in the middle of a meeting, 5 days before Christmas.  “Your husband has had an accident with the snow-blower.  He’s at the Marlborough Clinic.  Get your stuff together and go there right now.”  When I asked him more questions, he just told me to get to the clinic as quickly as I could.

I got to the clinic, and asked for my husband.  A doctor came out and ushered me into a side room.  He then told me that my husband was dead.  He had a heart attack while using the snow-blower and died on the driveway.  In that split second, my life was forever changed.  I went from wife to widow.  Married to alone.  Living to feeling as though I were dead.

Michele, Mary, and me.  Our lives turned upside down by circumstances we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies.

But our stories don’t end there.  Not by a long shot. 

Michele?  She’s still a public speaker.  Despite the fact that speaking requires monumental effort with a rebuilt tongue, she shares her message that “Undone is beautiful”.  Michele recently launched a 5-week conversation called “Undone Together” to provide a forum for others with undone lives to share with one another.  Wrestle with the difficult questions.

Far from taking her out, cancer has galvanized Michele’s faith in God.  Because of her experience, she ‘counts everything as loss compared with the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus her Lord.’

Cancer was not the end of the story.  Loss was not the only outcome.  Wisdom, trust, and hope came from the ashes of Michele’s loss.

Mary?  Someone came alongside her.  To comfort her.  The gardener.  “Woman, why are you crying?  Who is it you are looking for?”  Still distraught, she asked him to tell her what happened to the body.  She had to honor him by performing this ritual.  It is then that Jesus revealed himself to her, simply by saying her name.  “Mary.” And as they embraced, her heart was filled with joy.

Friday was not the end of the story.  Sunday came.  The resurrection.  Grief was displaced by joy.

Me?  Like Michele, I wrestled with the big questions: “Why does death happen like this?  To someone good…and young?  Why does God allow such suffering?  Why doesn’t he fix it?” Honestly, I never got an answer to those questions.  What I got was an answer to the questions underneath – the biggest questions of all.  “Are you there?” and “Do you care?”

God answered those questions with words from the Bible that sprung to life from the page.

People answered those questions by bringing me food, listening to me pour out my heart, and comforting me with music.

Death was not the end of the story.  Grief was not the only outcome.  Joy and a new sense of purpose rose from the ash heap of what had been my life.

What has turned your life upside down?  Twisted you inside out?  Failed relationships, job loss, illness, and even death don’t have to be the end of your story either.  Beauty can rise from the ashes of your situation too.

Ask the hard questions.  Grieve your loss.  Accept love and care from God and those around you.  Rejoice in new life born out of the death of the old.  Your resurrection.

Are you asking hard questions right now?  Or are you experiencing resurrection out of a difficult situation?  Share here to encourage and be encouraged. And please share this post with a friend by clicking one of the social media buttons.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Lori Ann Bloomus

    Thank you for that story Kathleen. After my mom was killed I could have easily become a victim as much as she was. I am not just a survivor, I’ve slowly, yet painfully moved on to my new normal. (Life without mom) The key for me was letting go of the anger and unfairness of it all, it helped me focus more on her life verses her death and my life vs the part of me that died that day.

    • Lori, you are indeed much more than a survivor. You have used the hard won wisdom and compassion that came from this terrible situaton to help countless others, including me.

  • Thank you for bringing these powerful testimonies to us Kathleen. You too have gone through a lot and it is wonderful to see your heart to share your hope with others.