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Kristina’s World
(IN 1948, Andrew Wyeth painted a young woman crawling on the ground in a treeless field toward a gray house on the horizon— Christina’s World. The woman ...


Andrew Cowan

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

(IN 1948, Andrew Wyeth painted a young woman crawling on the ground in a treeless field toward a gray house on the horizon— Christina’s World. The woman, Christina, had an undiagnosed muscular deterioration that paralyzed her lower body. In 1971, another young woman, my Kristina, came into the world with what later would be diagnosed as cystic fibrosis (CF). This is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about seventy thousand children and adults worldwide. On September 3, 2007, Kristina died at age 36, the average life expectancy of CF patients.)

A man got up, got the kids ready, and headed to church. Another day of juggling things with his wife in the hospital, getting ready for the coming week with a new school year about to begin. After church he headed to the hospital for the afternoon, which extended into the night. During the night things went sideways, and forty-two hours later he went home to bed as a single parent and widower, wondering at what had just happened.

I had dealt with other people in similar situations, but this was different. On the way home from the hospital I prayed for the right words to share with our two children. For the first time in many years I didn’t know what to say or what to do. Through those early days there was only one set of footprints in the sand: God was carrying me and our children through. But at the end of the day and the end of the road, we Christians have hope and joy in being reunited.

Many had prayed and believed healing would come, but God had other plans—“the big picture.” His plans included many small mercies that I have seen only in hindsight. At Kristina’s memorial service, her nurses commented they had never seen anyone with end-stage lung failure pass away in such peace. The most amazing thing I ever heard came from a non-Christian officer who attended the service and observed, “It was more like a celebration or a party, not a funeral. How do you go on with all that has happened?”

One day as I questioned things, I found this Scripture passage Kristina had written on the kitchen bulletin board some time before her death: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:10, 11).

Dedicated to Kristina: daughter, sister, wife, mother, and best friend (1971–2007).

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