Hope in the Little Stories

"It's as though I looked into the eye of the dragon and said, "You may take my life, but you are not going to destroy me."

That's Sister Mary Andrew Matesich talking with Religion and Ethics Newseekly about her battle with terminal breast cancer and her decision to take part in clinical trials of cancer drugs. The drugs haven't cure her--in fact they've things worse--. But Matesich sees the trials as part of her calling.

We are challenged as Christians by Jesus Christ to lay down our lives for one another. I respond to this by laying down my life consciously, choosing to be in these trials, not necessarily be cured -- that's very unusual, but so that we might learn more to help more people. That's a strong motivation for me, too.

The recently presidential election has skewed things for a lot of religion reporters--by tempting us with the BIG STORY. Sister Mary Andrew reminds this reporter of the power of the small story; in this case, how one woman retains hope in the face of a horrible, slow, painful death.

These stories are everywhere. In every congregation and faith community, there are people choosing to respond to pain and suffering with hope. Not Pollyana hope, but the real deal.

Reporter Betty Rollin did a marvelous job capturing Sister Mary Andrew's hope and the reality of death in the near future that she faces.

ROLLIN: When you pray, what do you pray for?

Sister MARY ANDREW: I have a very hard time praying for myself; I always had. And so I pray for strength and to know what to do next. And I praise God. I thank God. We are here to praise God. Basically our very existence, every breath that we take praises God, and sometimes I just sit there and breathe and praise God in my breath. When I receive Holy Communion, I think about Christ being within me, and I do send him places. I say, "Do check out the hip; do check out the lungs."

ROLLIN: Are you afraid to die?

Sister MARY ANDREW: I'm not afraid to die; I'm afraid of the process.

ROLLIN: Of pain?

Sister MARY ANDREW: Pain, loss of control, anguish to others. I used to fantasize about being a snake and crawling out of my skin and leaving it behind. And then I thought, was that what death was?

ROLLIN: Do you think it's possible to die, just to die, and -- "The End"?

Sister MARY ANDREW: My faith tells me no. But, as we are reminded again by St. Paul, the reason we have hope is because don't have certitude. If we had certitude, we wouldn't need hope. And so I think there is always that question. But I'm not afraid of the disease anymore


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