When Suffering Strikes…Again
An Author Interview with Marci Alborghetti, When Lightening Strikes Twice
By Lisa M. Hendey
Author Marci Alborghetti is proof positive that one can have setbacks in life and move on to make the world a better place. In her new book When Lightening Strikes Twice (Twenty-Third Publications, January 2005, paperback 142 pages), she offers hope and encouragement to those facing the recurrence of difficult circumstances in their own lives. Following a victorious bout with cancer and after six years of good health, Alborghetti received the devastating news – lightening had struck her for a second time: the cancer was back. She found this second battle to be much more difficult than the first, and her experience led her to examine why that was the case. She found that others on similar journeys had the same experience.
In the book, Alborghetti shares her own story, as well as those of others who found themselves faced with repeated tragedies. Marci’s words of encouragement throughout the book spur the reader to proactive solutions and to a greater reliance on one’s relationship with God in the face of life’s challenges. Each chapter closes with a unique prayer, questions for reflection and concrete action steps. Though aimed at those who may be facing recurrent difficulties, the book has merit and value for anyone looking to transcend a time of pain, sadness or personal grief.
I had the opportunity to speak with Marci about her book immediately following the death of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. I was especially moved by her response to my question about how we can respond to the sadness we may be feeling at his death.
Q: Marci, thank you for your time and for sharing your heart and soul in this wonderful book. What motivated you to take on the topic of spiritual encouragement for those facing tragic personal circumstances?
A: Thank you for taking the time to read the book and understand its message. My primary motivation was discovering that, after six years of clean biopsies, my doctor had found two additional melanomas. Thank God, the cancers were in the earliest possible stage and successfully removed. It had been six years since my last two cancers had also been successfully removed, and the news of the new cancers was devastating. I not only felt that I'd "beat" the disease, I'd also felt that I'd done all the "faith work" I needed to do to face crises in my life. I was wrong! It was a whole new process dealing with this "second strike," and that motivated me to write to and about people who were in similar situations.
Q: With the passing of our beloved Pope John Paul II, how might those suffering with mourning transition through this emotions and cope with resultant feelings of loss?
A: I think it's important to act our faith, and it is vital that we do so in the case of losing John Paul II. First, our faith and our instincts tell us that this man is with God, indeed, has been with God in spirit for years and is now with God in every way. This must ease our grief if we live our faith. Second, this Pope, of all Popes, was a man of action, a man whose advocacy of human rights was legendary. Each of us would do well to transform our mourning into concrete action in support of human rights.
Whether we give time, goods, money, and/or prayers, there is an opportunity for everyone to help. In memory and respect for this extraordinary Pope, find a way to give of yourself to his dearest cause: the advancement of underserved and disadvantaged people. Finally, pray for the new Pope and that the church be truly led by the Holy Spirit.
Q: Was the process of writing this book cathartic, given the personal challenges you have faced in your own life?
A: In one way, yes, but in another way, it became this extraordinary opportunity to tell the stories of others who had suffered "second (or third, fourth, fifth!) strikes." So in the process of researching and writing, I sort of lost sight of my own involvement ... if that makes any sense at all!
Q: Why does a “second strike” bring such added devastation for someone who has withstood a difficult time in life?
A: I don't truly know, but I've developed a theory in writing the book. I think it is human nature to start putting a crisis behind us almost as soon as the danger has passed. In many ways, that's a positive response – a sort of survival instinct. But it also allows us to think we're beyond the reach of the thing that has hurt us... as I said before, that we've "beat" it. And so a "second strike" can seem like almost a betrayal of those things we've most come to depend upon.
Q: In the book, you speak of many of the phases individuals pass through when overcoming crises. Which of these is the most challenging spiritually?
A: I can't speak for anyone but myself, and for me, it's surrender. Always!
Q: You share so many wonderful, encouraging stories in When Lightening Strikes Twice. How did you go about collecting accounts for the book? Why does hearing the inspirational stories of others have such a positive effect on someone going through personal challenges?
A: I gathered information for the book mostly through people I've come to know during the past decade while I've been writing about faith and anxiety and other life challenges. As a result of my writing, I've come to know a number of valiant people struggling with the same issues, and many of them were gracious enough to let me use their stories, although in some cases, I did change names to protect privacy. Learning about the experiences of others facing the same things we're facing is such a positive experience quite simply because no one likes to feel alone! And also, it helps immeasurably to know that people have taken this same journey and come through the tunnel ... especially when you feel like you're still stuck in the dark, cold middle.
Q: One thing (among many!) that I admire about your book is that you encourage the reader to take concrete, proactive steps to deal with the tragedies they face. Please speak about the importance of working through the reflection questions and further action steps at the conclusion of each chapter.
A: I wrote these sections specifically to be as accessible as possible to as many readers as possible. I used books, movies, and more traditional methods like prayer and meditation because I wanted readers to move beyond simply intellectualizing the message and actually living it. The reflection questions can also serve groups, classes and book clubs as discussion points. I didn't want readers to move through the chapters without having an opportunity to actually apply what they learned.
Q: For those who are looking to support a friend or family member facing personal struggles, what words of advice would you give?
A: That's a great question. I facilitate a group for people living with anxiety and depression, and I've learned that the best thing to do is listen, and second, to make sure that the person knows they are not alone.
I can almost guarantee that whatever a person is going through, someone else (indeed many "someone elses") is experiencing - or has experienced - the same thing. It's important to seek out these people, to support each other, and to give each other hope. Finally I would say, use some common sense when you respond to someone who is hurting. If they are talking about doing themselves harm or committing suicide, contact a professional.
If they are truly looking for advice or help, see that they get it, even if you aren't qualified to give it. You certainly are qualified to help them find help.
Q: Ultimately, you discuss the fact that we are each a unique “work in
progress” of a loving God. How can a strong faith life help one to persevere through life’s many ups and downs? What pragmatic steps can we, as individuals, take to strengthen our relationship with God?
A: I hesitate to present myself as an expert on these questions! First, I should say that while a strong faith does help one persevere, it is also true that some of the most faithful people in history have experienced periods of frightening doubt and also periods when prayer seemed impossible. So a person who is struggling shouldn't add to their burdens the feeling that they've lost their faith. God is faithful even when we can't be, and that's the most important thing to remember in a crisis.
Indeed, that's the ultimate faith: faith when you're not sure you have any, or at least, not enough. As to the pragmatic steps to strengthen our relationship with God, I would say, again, use common sense. What is the first thing you do when you want to strengthen a relationship? Communicate! Talk to God, be with God, walk with God, sing with God, dance with God, watch TV with God, cook with God, diet with God, read to your child with God ... you name it, if you're doing it, invite God to do it with you. Spend time with God. If you spend time with God, you can't help but feel closer to Him.
Q. Marci, thank you again for your wonderful words of support and encouragement in When Lightening Strikes Twice. Are there any closing thoughts you’d like to share?
A: I think personally something that helped me through my second strike – and that continues to help me whenever I experience a recurring crisis – is that God got me through the last time, and He will surely get me through this time. This is a matter of, again, realizing that God is not only in charge, but on your side. Always. Even when you're not sure which side is yours!
For more information on When Lightening Strikes Twice visit http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1585953784/catholicmomcom
Lisa M. Hendey is a mother of two sons, webmaster of numerous web sites, including http://www.catholicmom.com and http://www.christiancoloring.com, and an avid reader. Visit her at http://www.lisahendey.com for more information.