it's strange when the world keeps turning.
strange how your whole being can be frozen in shock but the heart beats still and the swirl around it continues. still. you thought that the entire ocean paused its ceaseless tumult for a moment, but it turns out you were just in the eye of the storm.
we left the little room. we walked down the hall. i made a few calls, canceled all our upcoming plans. if we were saddled with grief, we were riding our faith. we were praying that desperate appeal of the faithful fearful: "please God, Your will be done. just not yet."
the eye. the storm. we left the hospital. i knew we needed to call in our allies. our living community of faith, as well as those on the other side. our beloved family still with us and those who have passed. grandmothers and grandfathers. and fathers. my dad died recently - the saturday morning before thanksgiving. my mourning of him is in no way complete, but here and now i needed to accept he was on the other side so i could enlist his help there -- he was a car dealer and an expert negotiator and a trickster and a good man.
but how? how would i connect with him? well, the hospital charges about one billion dollars per hour to park in their lot and that's an opportunity to invoke william bolger if there ever was one. because in addition to everything else i just mentioned, the man was an inveterate cheapskate.
i pulled up and handed my little ticket to the booth so they could figure out how much of my money i'd get to keep...
"here you go."
<he clicks on his little register machine>
"hey, is there any discount if you just got diagnosed with lung cancer?"
<awkward pause as he tries to figure out if i'm just joking or if i'm joking-for-real. he half-smiles.>
"sir, if you can please just take $5 out of your wallet for yourself, i'm going to need the rest."
as we drove away, i could feel my dad with us. and i asked him to see what he could do.
in the outer world, two people had walked (slowly so slowly) down the hospital halls, across the gray of the parking lot, clinging to each other. in my inner world, two parts of me were running (quickly so quickly) in opposite directions.
one direction: loss. we're lost. you're about to lose the love of your life and the mother of your child and you need to figure out Everything. right now. how will you get out of bed the next day? will this heaviness drag your heart right out of your chest? who's gonna raise this baby? you'll have to be strong, for the kid's sake...but what does that even mean?
different direction: the fight. the desperate hope. maybe she doesn't really have to die. maybe she won't go so soon. first of all, when doctors are 99.9% certain, that still leaves a margin of .1%. it's not significant statistically, but on a planet of 6 billion people i only need it to happen once. so there was a hope there. tiny, but something. "we don't know anything til the biopsy comes back."
more importantly, all we knew is that the CAT scan showed tumors. okay, fine. and we also know that people beat cancer every day. okay, good. and that we're people. okay. great.
so this is what i knew:
a. there are some tumors in rebecca's body
b. cancer can be beat
c. we will beat this
and this was all happening very very quickly. and the two impulses were like mighty waves when they crash on the shorebreak, when the sea swells ferocious and the thunderclap of wave on rock sends the remainder of a broken pulse back out to open ocean to meet the next incoming mighty swell and they collide into a mighty roar. like a line of geysers spouting. so! much! energy! in! my! head!
and i was calling people to alert them, and i was telling them we were gonna beat this and i was telling them how much i'd miss rebecca and how the veil of pain when i thought about it was so dense that i could not even picture my life without her. sobbing through gritted teeth sometimes and it hurt to inhale and it hurt to exhale.
"please God, not yet."
and our prayer at that time was for the best thing to happen. Your will be done. maybe it's rebecca's time, maybe it's mine, the future is unwritten, tomorrow isn't promised to anyone.
"...but not yet, please."
but i wasn't going to drop to my knees and ask "why me?" it's like talking chess strategy to a mountain. it's like blaming tea leaves for a lost job, or thanking jesus for winning a football game, or crediting divine providence for a successful land grab. it's nonsense. i know that. i know it's not the Creator who placed the cancer in her body. i know that monsanto and dow and all the refineries and the everythingindustrial and our convenient power line wifi lifestyles don't come for free. i know we're all on the chopping block. all canaries in the corporate coal mine, subjects of corporate bottom lines.
and i know that the end of the tale, for all of us, is perfect unity with the One. and so the Great Comfort is there, is always there. we are called back to harmony with our Creator. what a finish line! that's beautiful! but the temporary comfort isn't there. the manifest-sunshine-in-your-life drill is confined to the self-empowerment section of the bookstore. it's dead on the shelf. who am i to shun pain? push away uncertainty?
but as jesus said in gethsemene (i'm paraphrasing here): "seriously. if there's any way around this, i'm into it..."
and so, in my core in those hours afterwards, in the day or so afterwards, when i was pulling over on the highway to sob, when i was wailing to my friends through my tiny cell phone, when i was holding rebecca while she had her turn...i was praying for a healing but praying more than that to be an instrument of Your will. Your will be done, not mine. may this healing come if it is Your will.
...and it's really hard to put that "if" in there when it's someone you love on the line. but it felt important. when i said i knew we'd beat this, i said it without qualification because...well, because i've been wrong before. it doesn't impugn the Creator if it doesn't happen.
Your will be done.
we slept horribly that night. of course. we tossed and we turned. and we talked. took turns telling each other that no matter what happened, we'd choose it all again. i knew that even if these 10 years end in a catastrophic health crisis, walking this path with rebecca was a choice i'd never ever regret.
i mean, aren't 10 years with the love of your life better than none? isn't one day worth it, in the end?
the next day, saturday, was a blur. phone calls with stilted rhythms. the salutation, quickly moving into "how are you doing?" and then they hear the news and then it's silence or gasping.
"is there anything i can do?"
the next morning is sunday. i hadn't been to church in maybe 8 years, outside of the times my mom dragged me there (or the one time my dad did). but that morning i tell rebecca that i think we're going to church. she just says "where?"
down the block from the place we're staying is st. columba's, a black gospel-oriented high-spirited catholic affair. it's slightly different from where we normally come from culturally, so out of respect, we get there only sorta late.
the first reading is from job. to me, that book is a perfect perspective on suffering in this world. job loses (almost) everything, and his "friends" come around and tell him that clearly God has abandoned him, and so he should renounce God. and job resists. but job eventually snaps, and finally begs God to show him why it all happened...
"Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. God said: Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.
"Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the children of God shouted for joy?" - Job 38:1-7
we suffer because we suffer. there's no Divine hand in it, there's only a Divine release at the end of it. and that's why it's all okay.
and yet sometimes the Creator offers a mercy of healing, a miracle, something that has the fingerprints of the Holy on it, that makes it a little bit easier to have faith in the unknown unknowable. the gospel reading that day was about a woman who'd been hemorrhaging for years and years, and who healed herself by touching the hem of jesus' cloak as he walked by her.
following that was a sermon by a visiting priest from chicago (i wish i knew his name) who preached jesus-as-healer for an hour and people were shouting and crying and spirit was moving in the place and it was alive and lively and moving hearts and feet and lungs and it didn't matter who you were or what you believed it was clear that the Presence of the Divine was aswirl and activated. hands up to the sky and tears of joy and tears of sorrow and screams of Amen and we were swaddled in the gift of the Spirit and we were held and we were rejoicing and we were finally able to feel all the pain and uncertainty here in this place of sanctuary. here in this place of prayer and surrender to the Creator we could be safe and we could ease into our pain. we could lean on these people of God. we could be who we were. we could fall apart.
and in this place, rebecca called out to jesus. she said, "jesus, i know you can heal me. will you?"
and in this place, rebecca heard "yes." three times.
her mantra became:
jesus loves me
i love jesus
jesus can heal me
jesus said he will
and that's why we simply pray for her tumors to be cleared. that's why we don't have to say "if it is Your will" at the end of it. because we've been told, because we know this healing has been Willed. this healing has been promised to us by a fella that doesn't let his people down. this miracle is coming from a being that knows a thing or two about miracles.
this promise of healing is a deep gift, a gift we can never repay or deserve. we can only give thanks.
rebecca that day asked the question: "what is our medicine?"
what she heard back: "our medicine is faith."
that's why we started emailing people and activating prayer networks before we looked up super foods or turkey tail mushrooms or water filters. that's why the most important plant we're working with is this collective mustard seed of faith. that's why it's so important to have you on this journey with us.
thank you for being on this journey with us.
may rebecca's lungs and the rest of her body be clear of tumors
may her vision be restored perfectly
we offer gratitude for the continuing health of baby solas