While Rene was amazing me with her simple theology and delighting her family with her recovery, the doctors were cautious about celebrating. Even after weeks of radiation, followed by a CAT scan that showed the tumor was gone, the neurologist told the family that this could only be a temporary victory. The kind of tumor Rene had rarely disappears forever.
Rene dismissed the doctor’s negative prognosis and resumed her normal life, going to school, visiting with friends, and going to church. She had named the tumor “Herman” and said she was convinced the radiation worked because she had told Herman to “get the hell out of my head.”
Herman stayed away for five years - four and a half years longer than the doctor had predicted – and when he came back, it was with a vengeance. By the time Rene was showing any symptoms, the tumor was larger than it had been originally, and surgery was not even an option. They could try radiation again, but that might only buy her an extra few months.
She was pissed about that. She was also one of the few people I’ve met who openly expressed feelings of anger. She said a few nasty things to God about allowing this to happen to her, and her mother was horrified. “You can’t talk to God like that.”
“Actually, she can,” I said. Then I told Wilma what a very wise woman had said to my daughter when a close friend’s child had been killed. My daughter was angry, and this woman told her to go into her room, close the door, and tell God in no uncertain terms how she felt.
“But I’m mad,” my daughter said. “I want to say ugly things.”
“That’s okay,” the woman said. “God can take it. He’s got strong shoulders. And he’d rather you yell at him, than turn away.”
Over the next few weeks I helped Rene and her mother prepare a memorial service. Rene picked out a couple of readings from the bible, as well as asking for a particular song and a spiritual reading. The family wanted my husband to conduct the service, and his homily was focused on what a blessing Rene had been in our lives.
She was that.