By Samuel Waters
Second of a two-part column
Why were all of these answers similarly insufficient for me to fully believe in a life after death with God? What was more, these adults who were guiding me in spiritual wisdom didn’t come across as particularly scientific in the way they answered my questions. The certainty of their beliefs did not have that foundation of “healthy skepticism” that we were being taught as essential to critical thinking in school.
You would think that on an issue of such importance these adults would have taken the time to hypothesize, test, and analyze their spiritual theories; the same way that scientists test their theories until they are accepted as fact. I wondered if I, a mere child compared to these adults, maintained a higher level of scientific skepticism, then might it be possible that they were missing something? Might they, in the pursuit of quelling their own fear of that black expanse that I had envisioned as a child, have overlooked some crucial fact? Might they be blinding themselves to some great scientific truth?
To this day, I still don’t have a definite answer to all these questions about the universe and existence. I don’t believe anyone does. All I can say is that these were thoughts that occupied my mind growing up, prior to ever having been diagnosed with cancer and since then, I’ve grown up a great deal more.
I won’t try to cram five years of life-altering moments and experiences into this one column, but in the words of the Ghostbusters:
I have talked to God and he has talked to me. I have physically felt what it is like to be in his presence, to have his hand actually resting on me. I have lost my faith completely, and then found it again, twice. I have had glimpses of what heaven really is and the amazing promise that lies before me. I have stared Death in the face multiple times and said “no.” Eventually my fear of Death began to give way a bit and I learned to use my awareness of its presence for a richer life.
And now, after having this unique opportunity to almost “hang out” and get to know Death better over the years, I realize that he (or she I guess) is only as good or bad as you make him out to be.
I long for a new body, a new vehicle for my soul that isn’t constantly fighting against me. I want to be able to eat food again and enjoy the taste. I want to run outside and enjoy the weather instead of collapsing 100 yards out the door, feeling the fluid around my lungs contracting tight against my chest.
I want to sing again without feeling pain and exhaustion throughout my body. And mostly, I want to meet my creator and finally rest in the peace of knowing him fully. I wake up in the morning sometimes and I feel like a stranger to this world. Someone passing through who is ready to move on to the final destination.
Are there good things left for me in this earthly life? I hope so. I’ve decided to move forward with the experimental immune therapy trial and sign yet another consent form just as I’ve always done. I am optimistic that this will produce good results, just as so many other treatments have in the past despite the slim chance of success they offered me. I’ve outlived my relapse prognosis by at least two years at this point, and life has continually surprised me with unexpected gifts during that time. I hope that this will be the same.
In the meantime, I will attempt to find some peace and rest in the image of hope I now have for life after death. I count myself lucky to have been given these years of trial and growth to develop an assurance, even an eagerness, for the eternal life the Bible promises. I will continue to draw my strength and courage from this promise, even when it feels like I’m drowning.
Editor’s Note—Samuel Waters passed away yesterday morning. He was rejected for the experimental program he referred to here because he was deemed too weak. A 22-year-old from Falls Church and graduate of George Mason High School, Waters was a vocal performance student at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and was home battling the progression of the cancer, rhabodomyosarcoma, that he had been fighting for five years. An obituary will appear in the coming week.