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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Marrow in the Bones*

by Shawn Tucker (bio)

I spent the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school picking pineapple in Hawaii. I had been living in Virginia and it sounded like a great adventure. My uncle had picked pineapples years before, and when I applied I hoped that being an Eagle Scout would increase the odds that I would be accepted to the program. Um, well, it turned out to not be that sort of program. The majority of my fine, young colleagues seemed to have been sent to Hawaii as some sort of work equivalent of the Scared Straight program.

Toward the end of my stay in Hawaii I got news that a very close friend back home had contracted cancer. That friend, Greg, was in Virginia at the time working to get money together for his mission. He had just spent his first two semesters at BYU. Naturally the shock of such terrible news was almost overwhelming. Not being able to get additional news immediately, I found a quiet place to pray. As I prayed I experienced a tremendous feeling of comfort and love, and those emotions reassured me that God knew me, loved me, and would take care of Greg and me.

I returned home to find Greg holding up okay. Still, over the next nine months, Greg was in and out of the hospital, received countless priesthood blessings, lost his hair, bought a hat, made some new friends, seemed to lose some friends, put in a new car stereo, got sicker, left a powerful video-taped testimony, and finally succumbed to the cancer. Even writing this now causes those feelings of loss to swell again and the tears to well up. And that was in 1986.

Greg died from bone cancer. If there is a cancer sign-up sheet going around and you just cannot pass it down the row like you do the missionary meal or splits calendar, I suggest you not sign up for bone cancer. Go with another cancer, like toenail or ear hair cancer. I'm no cancerologist, as you can tell by my use/invention of the word "cancerologist," but bone cancer is nasty. And here is what I know about bone cancer: it seems to start or end or have a lot to do with the marrow. Greg, my friend, my friend who was very obedient and kind and generous with everyone, was killed by a sickness in the marrow of his bones.

Greg's bone cancer gives me pause when I read the blessings listed in the Word of Wisdom. These and other promises about how God extends blessings to the marrow of one's bones always make me tear up. But I am grateful for those tears. Greg's death was painful and the way he died was painfully ironic, but that feeling of comfort and love that had initially reassured me comes to me again when I hear those promises and think of Greg.

God did not keep the promise of healthy marrow as I may have anticipated. To this day I put a little star, an asterisk like in the title of this post, next to that phrase in my mind when I hear someone say it or when I say it. That star reminds me that God will do what He will do, and that He will bless His children as He sees fit.

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