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Making Sense of Schuylar’s Passing

For those who loved Schuylar Barnes, watching her fight cancer was excruciating. She wasn’t just fighting for life. She was fighting for all the years to come that Vander would need her as a mom and Joe would need her as a wife. And she fought courageously. Even at the end, they refused to…
By Seth Barnes

For those who loved Schuylar Barnes, watching her fight cancer was excruciating. She wasn’t just fighting for life. She was fighting for all the years to come that Vander would need her as a mom and Joe would need her as a wife. And she fought courageously.

Even at the end, they refused to stop believing in a good God, a God who heals. When most people would have given up, the whole family drove Schuylar from Virginia to Georgia to pray for healing and to be baptized.

Watching Joe get in the water with her pierced me to the core. What courage. What love. The way he held her – Joe was amazing.

In the last days there was more prayer and transfusions of stem cells. And in the wake of all that, one can’t help asking, “Where was God?”

Michelle Gunnin wrote a reflection that helped.

I watched Joe and Schuylar’s courtship across continents. I witnessed their love for one another as an observer. I saw the joy that radiated from her while planning their wedding. The same joy that jumps out of pictures when Vander was born. Even with her bald head while enduring treatments, she was smiling. Her grit and determination showing how very much she wanted to stay.

But she couldn’t and it breaks my heart. To see Joe’s pain. To see Vander’s confusion. It is all just too much pain for those so young. It isn’t supposed to happen this way.

And so, I rail against God, I plead, I bargain, and I cuss. I so want things to be different, but I am powerless to make them so. I turn instead to the one who had the power and didn’t use it. I ask God hard questions through tears of grief. I demand to know why.

He does not answer me. He knows “for my glory” will only anger me further. He is silent. Yet, he is here. Right beside me. I can feel him. Sitting here as I write. Guiding my thoughts and my fingers. He has not forsaken or abandoned anyone, even though it feels that way.

I will never know these answers I seek in my sorrow for my friends. And I guess answers are not the point, otherwise I would have them. But I am not afraid to ask, if answers are not the point, what is? That is the bigger question.

What is the point if not healing? What is the point if not supernatural belief? I have no idea. Maybe trust? Maybe understanding that not knowing is okay? That not having the answers is acceptable? Saying what I feel instead of what I am ‘supposed’ to say is more honest?

The realness of such circumstances is where humility is born. Pain gives birth to many things that become foundational. I just wish it didn’t have to work that way. Especially now, for this little family. Words don’t help. Prayers didn’t come out as any of us had hoped.

I can only offer my sorrow, and that just doesn’t feel like enough. Yet, it is all any of us have to give. All of us together, sitting with Joe in his grief, holding space with him and for him and Vander, may bring some comfort.

It may give him some sense that he is not alone, that none of us really have the answers, but we all feel the loss and we are in it with him…maybe that is the point.

This coming weekend, those who knew and loved Schuylar will come together to celebrate her life. This woman who lived life so fully, who helped so many others celebrate all that was good about life, was a gift.

She gives us the best answer to the question, “Where was God?” God gave us Schuylar and she reflected his love in the way she lived. He shone brightly for 31 years through her.

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