Reviewed by Lucy Hines
“Though nothing truly prepares you to say goodbye to your spouse, I thought back upon an experience that I could see in hindsight was meant to prepare me for this difficult goodbye. It was around the time when Angela and I were engaged…I remember waking up one morning and thinking about Angela, about our love, our dreams for our life together. It was at first an overwhelming feeling of love. Then in an instant, I recall having this realization that she was not mine forever, that one day she would leave or I would leave, and one of us would be left behind. I recall very clearly feeling a sinking in my gut for several days. It was almost grief. Little did I know that I would actually experience letting Angela go so soon.”- Chris Faddis, It Is Well: Life in the Storm, p. 143
Letting go of anything can be very difficult, but letting go of one’s spouse–the one closest to us–can be the most difficult. In having walked this path in my own life, I know the trials and also the glories that await us when we do give this great gift back to God. In the end, all of us will be called to let go of our spouse and ultimately our own lives. Chris Faddis’ memoir of his wife Angela’s cancer diagnosis and death at age 32, It Is Well: Life in the Storm, recounts how joy can be found in the midst of suffering and how death is not the end. Life on this earth and our ultimate death are but a prelude; they are the opening score (Introduction, p. XVIII).
In It Is Well, God invites all of those who were a part of Angela Faddis’ life, and now those of us reading about her, to have a front row seat to what love truly requires: sacrifice. As her husband Chris walks us through the very difficult and straining challenge of Angela’s diagnosis and then passing from this world to the next, he exemplifies the genuine beauty of the sacrifices of marriage lived out. I know that what he has written and what he has lived out is not easy, but it is grace-filled and can be very beautiful in the eyes of the Lord.
Angela and Chris met and gradually began to date. Their courtship brought on a strengthening in friendship as they went on hikes, cooked together, read together and came to know one another more intimately. Not unlike many couples, they had to work to love and trust in the midst of doubt, fear, and past hurts, and to entrust God with their relationship. They were engaged on the Feast of St. Therese, October 1st, and were married nine months later. Chris humbly says, “Our marriage wasn’t perfect,” which is what allowed God to be invited in and work miracles. Through much work and surrender, they learned to trust one another with their “ugly sides” and the plan that God placed before them.
Angela’s journey in life was marked with suffering as she battled anxiety and depression. She constantly turned to God and His Divine Mercy to sustain her through these times, especially when she didn’t feel like praying or was most in despair. Her trust in God was marked with thoughts like “I can’t feel God’s love. What I feel is hate and sadness, but I know He loves me and I trust He loves me even if I don’t feel it.” Both Chris and Angela desired to join as partners on this road of trust. This road would soon put their trust to the test.
On Easter Sunday of 2011 Angela was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. Angela’s first response was, “Jesus still rose, so we will trust.” What a beautiful witness to hope and trust in the Lord and His promises. Rather than turning in on themselves, this diagnosis enabled them to be more fully drawn out of themselves and focus on God. They were strengthened with heroic grace which enabled them to say, “it is well” even in the midst of the storm.
Chris speaks of Angela’s mustard seed of faith that she put to use as they endured harsh side effects of treatment, surgery options being no longer possibilities, and discouraging news. They both reached a point where they realized that they had no other option except to trust God. Living in despair was not an option. The reality of the journey to heaven became much clearer:
“[Our journey] is not about a great job, perfect house, success, the perfect spouse, the romance, the family, the perfect number of children, the lavish vacations, or the nest egg we build to live off of. Our journey in life, all of it–the good, the bad, the extreme high points of joy and bliss, along with the downright awful pain and difficulty of loss or failure–all of it is ordered to get us to heaven. Those things and expectations…can certainly be a part of our life, and properly ordered, those desires can be our path to heaven. However, when not properly ordered, when those things become our measure of happiness, when they become our safety, or our stronghold, they become a hindrance and obstacle on our journey to heaven” (p. 92).
The book of Isaiah reminds us, “For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (Isaiah 25:4). Truly, a shelter was provided to Chris and Angela during this trying time. So many people stood in the gaps to help their children and minister to the whole family physically as well as spiritually through prayer. The Body of Christ came together when all other certainties of their life seemed to be breaking apart.
As Angela’s health continued to decline, Chris relates the heroic way that she suffered, the light of faith that she offered so generously to those around her and how she ministered to many people who had come to minister to her. He vividly brings to light the emotions that he and his children experienced, allowing us to also walk this path with them. For when we are able to experience true suffering, we are then all the more able to experience pure joy.
As the end (or rather the beginning) neared, Angela began to feel that she was not ready for heaven, not holy enough. This section of the book is something that all of us probably ponder at some point in our lives: “Am I ready?” Chris offers a great gift as he gives glimpses into the hope and struggle of Angela at this point in her life. Their marriage is ever strengthened as Chris affirms her and walks with her to the very end. At one point she whispered, “I always knew you would cherish me to the end” (p. 140).
All married couples can be moved by the sacrificial love displayed and lived out in the lives of the Faddises. It Is Well challenges and strengthens married couples to face reality with a heart open to our Lord. It penetrates hard issues of health, trust and self-giving and allows us the opportunity to ponder them in our own lives. Chris Faddis does a great job of getting to the heart of what is truly important in life and encouraging each of us to above all seek first the kingdom. He motivates the reader to take a closer look at questions like: Do we allow God to take control? Do we really trust that God has our well-being in mind? As you read this book, you feel as though you are having a heart-to-heart talk with Chris over a cup of coffee and he is reliving his and Angela’s journey. He is so excited to share and this truly comes through in the familial style in which it is written. It Is Well urges us to step outside of ourselves and into the arms of God. Faddis gives us a glimpse at the masterpiece that the Lord will paint if we will embrace both the gift and the task of marriage.
See also: “Till Death Do Us Part,” an excerpt from It Is Well
Order copies of It Is Well at http://itiswellbook.com/.
About the reviewer: Lucy Hines was widowed at the age of 27. Her husband, Matt, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer three weeks before their wedding day and he was given six months to live. Four and a half years and three boys later, Matt passed away and began his eternal life in heaven. His life was marked with great trust in the Lord and perseverance with joy. At the time of his death, the boys were 3 years old, 1 year old, and 10 days old. Lucy continues to be a witness to the abundance of grace and provisions that the Lord blessed her and her family with throughout this journey. Though the path was not one of ease, it was one of grace. In God’s profuse mercy and generosity, He has blessed her again by inviting her into the Sacrament of Marriage to a wonderful man named Randy with whom they now have a fourth child, a little girl. Lucy resides in Houston, Texas where she daily strives to give thanks for God’s constant presence and to find rest in being His beloved daughter for whom He provides ALL things.