"This is the time/For you to deeply compute the impossibility/That there is anything/But Grace." -- Hafiz
On the first day of winter I wrote about waiting for test results to determine if my wife Kathleen's cancer had returned. Our great Christmas present was to hear the news that, while she has advancing arthritis and a degenerative disc in her back, her cancer seems to still be in remission. After we celebrated this wonderful news, I proceeded to be sick for the next ten days. Nothing major except for the type of cold and cough that makes it hard to climb out of bed and do anything but sleep. My apologies for not posting this good news sooner to let those who have been worried, wondering how our candle was burning.
The possibility of having a terminal diagnosis in one's life is one of the most profound and scariest teachers I have ever met. It is a teacher that we all will learn from at some time in our life. A teacher that we may try to run and hide from at times, especially when the lessons' subjects are people we love, including ourselves. I am always surprised how powerful death's lessons, real and feared, can be and how easy they are to forget...until they come around again.
Two lessons have stuck with me this time. Perhaps writing them down will help me remember them when death hides in a corner of my life and I forget how present it always is. The first lesson/reminder is how overwhelming it can feel to be loved. When we let people know what is happening in our lives, especially when our news is scary and involves pain and sorrow, they react as we react for them sending love and prayers and good wishes. Thanks to the modern communities of social media the love and care is greater than ever possible. Being on the receiving end of this energy is both nurturing and humbling. Kathleen and I felt this energy and love as we have before. It is profound and it makes a difference. We are deeply grateful for this love and at the same time I always feel blown away by its intensity. Who am I to deserve such attention and care?
Which leads me to lesson two. That there is, or could ever be, anything but grace. We have nothing to do with being given this great gift of life. We can be grateful for it, we can celebrate it, we can love it with all of our hearts and yet we know that we had nothing to do with it. In the last two weeks millions of people around the world waited for test results in hospital rooms and doctors' offices just like we did. They received just as much love, care and prayer as we did. But the results from those tests led to tears and sorrow instead of joy and dancing. Life, death, joy, sorrow...grace.
I keep the Sufi poet Hafiz's book, The Gift, on my desk/altar where I can frequently open it up and remember the joy, sorrow, love and grace that is life. He writes, "This is the time/For you to deeply compute the impossibility/That there is anything/But Grace. Now is the season to know/That everything you do/Is sacred." And so it is.