Snow, Edwards and faith in the face of cancer

Dan Proft Apr. 8, 2007, 6:00am

Last week, Newsweek magazine came out with a poll showing 91% of Americans believe in God. Newsweek surveys this question every year secretly hoping, I think, that the percentage of faith-based Americans will decline-but it doesn't.

I took note of this polling information because it partly answered a question posed by a friend of mine shortly after the news came down that White House Spokesman Tony Snow's cancer had returned.

My friend is a friend of Tony Snow's and she was remarking that it just doesn't seem right that a good, decent family man like Snow, after overcoming cancer once, should have to again stare down death. The same, I should note, could be said of Elizabeth Edwards.

Edwards said in a 60 Minutes interview that she wanted her husband to push on with his presidential campaign and that she was committed to holding up her end because she didn't want to deprive the country of the opportunity to have her husband serve as President.

I certainly would not feel slighted to be "deprived" of the opportunity for John Edwards to be our President but I nonetheless respect the place from which Mrs. Edwards' attitude comes.

She realizes, as George Will said, that work is soulcraft. Work is not just about earning paycheck or achieving a distinction. Our pursuits shape our sense of self and inform the priorities to which we devote our time.

Tony Snow has also allowed the nation to share the immensely personal struggle he and his family are facing. Snow has exhibited an understanding that a consequence of his position as the communications front-man for the seat of power to the free world is a duty to the American people to be transparent.

Both Snow and Edwards are answering to a higher moral calling than our HIPAA laws.

Getting back to my friend's question about the seeming unfairness of it all. Clearly part of the answer is the leap of faith that 9 out of 10 Americans take. We believe that God has a plan for each one of us and we recognize that His plan is played out in His time, not our time. Or, as my grade-school basketball coach used to say, God only gives us the crosses He knows we can bear.

We cannot know the mind of God so we struggle with being forced to accept that bad things happen to good people (even though my Catholic faith/guilt reminds me that we are all sinners).

During this discussion with my friend, I was also reminded of a unique and very mortal take on the apparent arbitrariness of it all offered by former Kansas City Royals great relief pitcher Dan Quisenberry.

"Quiz", as he was called, died about 10 years ago at the age of 45 after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Before his passing, Quiz said in an interview that all of his friends had asked him, "Do you ever say, why me?"

Quiz said he couldn't say "why me?" because, he said, "Why not me? I've had so much go well. I wouldn't wish this on anybody. So why not me?"

Tony Snow and Elizabeth Edwards aren't saying "Why me?" either. They're steadfastly continuing the work they love and, in the process, no doubt inspiring many of the nearly 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with some form of cancer each year to do the same.

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