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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Purple (11/05/09)

TITLE: The Exchange
By Brenda Kern


If she had known...

Yes, if she had known, she would have been deeply hurt.

They had been so happy, at least at first. They had both lost mates, and attended the same church, and she thought they shared the same faith.

After a whirlwind courtship, they’d married in a civil ceremony. They’d combined their households, and their lives, and acted like giddy teenagers in love. Their grown children and other family members, though uneasy with the speed of the marriage, couldn’t miss how happy they seemed. The relationship reactivated both of them-—they were really living again!


Just before their second anniversary, two months before he was to join her in retirement, a shadow appeared in the noonday blaze of their happiness. Her appetite was faltering. She complained of headaches, fatigue, depression. As they visited one kind of doctor after another, and she worsened, the shadows lengthened, late winter afternoon, and the first chills of icy fear set in.

Brain tumors: two, then three, then five or more detected. As they grew, she shrank, due to weight loss, then from the stoop of walking with a walker, then to the seated height of a wheelchair-bound woman. Her family, firmly rooted in their Christian faith, along with her church and many others, turned to prayer as the first charge into battle, asking for miraculous healing. She was not physically healed; she was not rescued from the malignancy of her cancer.

She endured the usual earthly weapons-—surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, with little progress against the disease, and her care became too much for him. He checked her into a convalescent facility, where she would live out the rest of her days.

As the inevitability of her death approached, she made arrangements and gave instructions, as she was able. She wanted to be buried next to her mother, in the state of her birth, and she wanted to be buried wearing purple. It was her favorite color, and she had plenty of it in her closet to choose from, including dressy things. She said she was ready to go, and looked forward to heaven, though she wished she had more time with those she loved on earth.

Her family members wished it, too, but did what they could to see that she was comfortable, and rarely alone, while they searched their hearts and tried to understand it all. “Why now?,” they asked themselves. Why so soon, after she had just begun a new chapter in the book of her life?

As they staggered under the burden of watching her die, and wrestled with the great unknowable nature of God, more gray crept in to the already overcast picture. An unthinkable suspicion materialized, at first easily brushed away, feather-light. This gloom grew and gained mass, as surely as her tumors, into too many sightings, too many questions, becoming heavy as lead.

Adultery. Though his wife’s prognosis was by then measured in months, his affair, with a married woman, couldn’t wait. What had been covert became flaunted, in public places, including the church, and was not denied when family members confronted and asked. Nursing home staff knew, too, and joined the family in a miserable blend of horror, impotent fury, and sorrow.

Sorrow upon sorrow, grief upon grief. A new goal was added to the previous efforts to ensure her comfort and keep her company: she was never to know about his hideous betrayal, the collapse of his fidelity to her in her final weeks. The family worked to shield her from the awful reality of what he was, and what he was doing, so she’d die believing she was loved, and was the only woman he loved.

If she had known...It was ridiculous to think that, “If she finds out, it will kill her.” No, the cancer would kill her; that seemed clear.

If she had known... If the cruelty had become known to her, and understood by her, she would have suffered one of the most vicious blows of her life, sustaining a bruise reaching to the depths of her soul.

But God, He of the great unknowable nature, stepped in. No, she was not physically healed; she was not rescued from the malignancy of her cancer. She was, however, rescued from that man, and from the malignancy of his cancer, the cancer of adultery.

She was spared from the ugly purple bruise, and buried instead in a lovely lilac suit, an exchange only our Almighty God could accomplish.

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This article has been read 766 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Noel Mitaxa 11/14/09
Congratulations on giving us a glimpse of how God needs freedom to answer our prayer from a deeper perspective than our preferred agenda. You have taken us into the pain - and beyond it. Great sensitivity in your surprise ending.
Barbara Lynn Culler11/16/09
This story held my attention all the way through, and is so sad. I am sorry something like this is really going on in your life. You wonder what hurts worse- the cancer or the betrayal. Good job.
Loren T. Lowery11/16/09
Your title is so fitting, the story almost beyond comprehension. Such indifference is impossible to fathom - it is good that we have a God that can rescue our brothers and sisters from depths we can never understand.
Jan Ackerson 11/16/09
You can really feel the raw reality here. Love the ending, with its visual imagery.
Jim McWhinnie 11/16/09
Jan may have captured my experience of this piece in the most descriptive way - such a portrayal of raw reality - it possesses an almost documentary tone in its pacing ... my, how hard the human heart can become -

Bravely told.
Kate Oliver Webb 11/16/09
I agree with previous comments: a horrendous story, but told with sensitivity, strength and understanding of the grace of God. My prayers are with the family and friends.
Yvonne Blake 11/18/09
So sad... God doesn't always heal the physical pain, but His ways are much better than we could ever know.
Carol Slider 11/18/09
This must have been a terribly difficult story to tell, but you managed honesty without bitterness... a difficult balancing act, to be sure. Thank you for your courage in sharing this sad, sad story, and for the tribute to God's mercies, too.
Bryan Ridenour11/18/09
A tribute to the grace and the wisdom of God. Very well written.
Laura Manley11/18/09
What an exchange! Beautifully written! Laura