Rest well Kevina, my friend
Death is the only guaranteed thing about life and somehow, the hardest thing to accept and understand.
Last week my friend Kevina Santucci died and I truly have not been the same since hearing the shocking news of her passing.
Kevina was a strong warrior of a woman. She was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer – spindle cell rhabdomyosarcoma – in 2014. Although she lost her eye to it, she fought hard and celebrated five years of being cancer-free in October.
She showed up for herself and her daughter daily, with a grace and dignity that I admired beyond words. She motivated and inspired me with her will to live and to do so with joy and authenticity.
Despite every obstacle she was faced with, she believed that God would heal her, allow her to raise her daughter and experience a fulfilling life.
God brought her through time and time again. And then, in what still feels like a dream, God gave her rest.
It is in these times of mourning that my faith is truly questioned. Logically, I understand death. I understand that we all must die. But emotionally and spiritually I struggle to accept the void that death leaves in our lives. I question why good people suffer. I question why a loving God would allow it.
Death and suffering just seems to leave me with so many unanswered questions. It’s the one part of my personal faith that I find hard to reconcile and understand. What happens after death? It is a question no one can answer. But every time I grieve, I return to it.
Most religious people agree that death is not the end of the journey. Christians, Muslims and Jews all generally believe in an afterlife of some form. Whether it is called heaven, hell, janna or jahannam, the afterlife is a promise of reward or punishment depending on how one lived.
Buddhists and Hindus have a different view of death, believing that we engage in endless cycles of birth and rebirth until our purpose is fulfilled. These cycles are known as samsara. The goal for Buddhists and Hindu believers is to fulfil one’s purpose – or dharma – and then exist in a state of endless bliss for ever – nirvana.
I personally have not figured out which doctrine I believe about the matter – or if I believe any of it at all.
But what’s common amongst all the varying beliefs is that what happens after death is directly related to what happened while we were living. It is all about who we chose to be, how we chose to live and what we chose to do with our time here.
And so, amid this grief and endless questions about life after death, I turn my energy to the things I am certain of – the way my friend Kevina chose to live. She lived with integrity, courage and strength. She exemplified kindness and love in the most extenuating circumstances. She was a bright light in an often dark world.
Her faith in the God of her understanding was unwavering, despite every reason to give up believing. She remained steadfast in her commitment to God, to service and to loving her neighbour. She is my modern-day Job, because though he slay her, she continued to trust him.
Although this grief challenges my faith to the limit, it is through lives like Kevina’s that I continue to believe that God exists. I’m so grateful to have shared time and space with her. Her strength, her fearlessness, her eternal optimism and her courage are qualities that only a superior being could give.
Rest well my friend.