Ginny Earnest, a member of Circle Community Church in Mt. Rainier, Maryland, and a former member of Sojourners Community in Washington, D.C., died of cancer on September 9, 1993, at the age of 41. In the midst of her struggle with the disease, she preached this sermon at a Circle Community Church worship service on May 18, 1993. Two memories dedicated to her have appeared in Sojourners (a column, "A Sacrament of Healing," December 1993, by Jim Wallis; and a poem, "At The Landing," September-October 1994, by Rose Marie Berger). -The Editors
I DON'T KNOW A WHOLE LOT about healing-maybe five or 10 years from now when I've had more time to reflect and get wiser, I'll have a better understanding of it. I would like to share my experience from the last six months, and hope that will be beneficial for me and, in the process, for other people.
I've realized that in the moment when a doctor that I had only met the day before stood at the foot of my bed and said I had cancer, everything changed for me. But, in a real way, nothing changed. What I mean by that is I responded to cancer in a way that is consistent with all of the limitations and all of the gifts that have been part of my adult life.
I think the main thing that's changed for me is what I would call the loss of innocence. In a moment the things that I had thought about philosophically all my adult life, such as the fact that we ultimately don't have control, that we're vulnerable, that the world's not a safe place, that we're mortal; those kinds of ideas stopped being just philosophical musings and became the gut reality of my life. I needed to deal with the fact that I had a deadly disease, and I could die.
Even if I go into remission and live for another 40 years, I don't think I'll ever live with the same sense of innocence or security that I had before. In a way, I think that's been a good thing. It's helped me to live on a more real level than I had before.