Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Ashley Dilemma

Like many people this week I have been struggling with what I have come to call "The Ashley Dilemma."  Why would God ... whose very essence is Love ... allow a young woman of incredible beauty, strength, popularity, influence, and intelligence to suffer the ravages of Leukemia three times, defeat it three times, only to succumb to a virtual side-effect of her bone marrow transplant?  Where is the logic in that?  How can that possibly make sense?

My faith in God, my belief in God, remains unshaken.  I have known Him too long and walked with Him too far to believe at this increasingly advancing age that He sometimes decides to do us dirty.  Nope.  Doesn't happen.  There has to be another answer.

To say that Ashley was unique is probably an exaggeration.  I believe there are other Ashley's out there right now.  They are loving, serving, giving, and caring.  They are imperfect, blemished and flawed.  But I would not short change the current generation of young women by saying that they do not exist and that when our Ashley left the planet her uniqueness left as well.

But that is beside the point.  And the point is ... what is God thinking?

I knew many great Ashley stories going into this last week.  I lived some of them out with her.  I heard a great many more stories during our moments of grieving.  My favorite one was unknown to me until I heard it first from her parents and then from another young woman at yesterdays funeral.  It seems that when Ashley was a freshmen in high school she was preparing to attend "homecoming."  That is a very big deal at Civic Memorial High School.  Ashley had a friend who seemed to be everything Ashley was not.  She was not popular.  Not well dressed.  Not able to afford to attend Homecoming.  And all of that was not acceptable to Ashley.  And so, very quietly, with absolutely no fan fare, Ashley paid for her to have a new dress with her own money.  She dressed her up, helped her with all of the details, and invited her to attend with her.  And so off they went.  This unlikely duo attending homecoming surrounded by very popular ... and probably very confused ... teenagers.  Ashley became not only her friend, but her advocate.  When a party was given, the girl was invited or Ashley refused to attend either.  Are you getting a picture of what kind of person Ashley was?  She was not perfect.  But ... well ... she loved.  And that's just pretty rare these days.

I've spent many hours this week praying.  Prodding God really.  Asking.  Wondering.  I usually did it with a strong case of nausea and a spinning head.  I did it during the sleepless nights and the tossing and turning and sweating and telling God over and over again what He should have done and how maybe this one time He should have checked with me first.  I do not know where the bug that I was battling ended and the pure stress of fulfilling Ashley's fathers request that I be Ashley's voice at the funeral service began.  It doesn't much matter.   Pardon my earthiness but puke is puke.  Finally, late last night, after all of the memorials were finished, the remains of my friend were buried, and my house was quiet and dark, and sleep was still not coming, God whispered.

God did not allow Ashley to suffer even though she was special.  Ashley was special because God allowed her to suffer.

Her pain taught her that life was not about her.  Her desperation taught her that she had to rely on one bigger than herself.  Feeling helpless and hopeless taught her to care for others that feel helpless and hopeless.  Wondering if her life was going to end early taught her to love others who maybe wished their lives would end early.  And I believe in the middle of all of that, in those very early teenage years, Ashley ran head first into the Christ who had suffered as well.  His suffering resonated with hers.  And she fell in love with Jesus in a way that did not prompt her to pursue a perfect Sunday School attendance record.  She did not separate herself from those lost in the battles of earth by sequestering herself in the faux holy halls of self-righteousness.  No, she got down and dirty with them.  Just like Jesus did.  Ashley could have gotten bitter.  Instead she chose to get better.  Her battles made her the phenomenal woman that she was. 

And she changed her corner of the world.

I will miss you, Ms. Brown.  We got separated a bit there at the end.  I went to Cleveland and you went to Murray State.  We didn't talk much until you entered the world of pain again.  But thank you for teaching this old guy some things.  Thank you for being real, and earthy, and oh so much like Jesus.  One of the last text messages you sent me said, "Ohh, thanks Ron.  :) I really appreciate it! I'm glad you're not super embarrassed for me.  But ya know, I have a little more anger I have to deal with these days and so I have to vent somewhere!  But thank you for all of your prayers ... It's getting closer and closer to the end of the treatment!"  The anger is gone, Ashley.  Yours.  Mine.  I hope your parents and your brother's too.  And yes, you were closer to the end of those treatments than any of us realized.  Enjoy heaven, my friend.  Don't booby trap my room before I get there.  Because I WILL hunt you down...


Anonymous said...

That was so sad... it made me cry my heart out. I can not imagine what her family must be going through. She was such a sweet young lady.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ron...both you and ashley have been good for all of you brother, Ron

Anonymous said...

Beautifully said.

Anonymous said...

WOW! This breaks my heart! Thanks for sharing this. Ashley was a sweet young lady.

Anonymous said...

Let's all be strong and fight our demons Like Ashley did in her name, that would be the best gift we could give to her.