By Nancy Alexander
Growth spurts make us stronger. They make us better. At any age. However, this story is not about a childhood or adolescent growth spurt. This is an adult story. The challenges we face as we age can rock us to the core. How we respond is what matters. This is the kind of growth spurt I’m talking about.
“My growth spurt was in my 50’s and 60’s,” said Linda Sage Fenti. “I painfully came to realize that God is not Santa Claus. Being a ‘good person’ and having faith does not mean our journeys won’t get rocky. Sometimes our prayers don’t seem to get answered.”
Linda is referring to the illness and loss of her first husband to a rare Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that invaded his skin and eventually went to an internal organ. Life was good, until it wasn’t. “This wasn’t supposed to happen,” said Linda. Her husband passed away in 2003, after thirty-two years of marriage. They have a son who is now married with two young children.
A woman of faith, Linda began to question why this happened to her husband and to her. She was disillusioned. “I even threw my Bible into the trash one night,” Linda recalled. “I was angry.”
“My friends came immediately,” Linda added. After a long walk, she retrieved her Bible and searched for understanding and hope. Whether walking outside or working in the house, she literally looked for light. “That whole summer, I looked for lights and actually wrote a list of light sources: candles, stars, fireflies, the moon, streetlights. I listed what I saw or what came to mind. I spent the whole summer, a season, doing this. My search for hope led me to find light. In hindsight, I was looking for my Savior. God, in fact, provided the light.”
It was then she recalled a song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” By R. Rogers/O. Hammerstein II. It speaks of walking through the storm and what comes after the storm clouds have gone. “It had been one of my dad’s favorites,” she added.
Her husband’s treatments and hospital visits spanned more than ten years. Around 2000, Linda and her husband downsized and moved to Canandaigua, just a few years before her husband’s battle ended. Then, in the fall of 2003, Linda attended a Grief-share program shortly after his death. She was surrounded by faith-filled people both in her neighborhood, her church, and Community Bible Study. It was during these years that her faith grew exponentially.
Her challenges didn’t stop, however. Evidence of degenerative arthritis, sciatica, and then joint replacement surgeries followed. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and went through the recommended treatments. She is now cancer-free. Linda is a survivor and is one in every sense of the word. She once remarked, “God makes the best knees, but it’s a good thing doctors have replacements!” Laughter aside, Linda commits to exercising and moving every day because her mobility is very important to her.
“God guides us through the valleys and provides the peaks of joy too,” according to Linda. “He was there all the time. In the midst of the storm, it was hard to see His hand. Yet it is the struggles that allow us to grow.” Her lesson is that when in the valley, look up to God, and be useful and loving to others. She believes it’s applicable to anyone in any valley. “God led me through those trying days,” said Linda. “He heard my prayers and answered in ways I could not have imagined.”
“Canandaigua has been the perfect place,” said Linda. “The connections and friends I have made have enriched my life, especially spiritually. It was meant to be. This is God’s Chosen Spot for me.” [Canandaigua is the Iroquois word for “chosen spot.” This town is located in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. The area is blessed with beautiful scenery of water and hills.] Several years after her husband’s death, Linda began spending time with a friend who also lived in Canandaigua and had recently lost his wife after a long illness. Their friendship grew. They fell in love and are now married.
She continues to work hard on her physical and spiritual health. “I want to remain active. I want to be a fit wife,” Linda noted. Her husband is very active and so are her grandchildren. She is committed to her physical goals and exercises every day either in her home, walking outside or in water. Linda added, “Because of exercise and a healthy routine and God’s blessings, I’ve avoided a second surgery on my right knee this fall.”
“I am grateful for what I can do,” said Linda. “I want to stay out of a wheelchair. I want to be able to do what God has planned–to fulfill His purpose for me.”
As for her spiritual health, she continues to grow. “I’m a work in progress. I’m trying to trust God and worry less about circumstances. I know He hears our prayers and He keeps His promises.” She added, “Aging or ‘maturing’ helps us to recognize His presence and provisions and blessings–whether in the beauty of a lovely sunrise or a cardinal on a snowy branch or the joy of an unexpected call from a friend.”
“Faith is not about being ‘religious,’ or a list of do’s and don’ts,” said Linda. “It is a matter of the heart—loving God and others, and being grateful.”