Friday, December 23, 2016

Letters to Lucy, 2: Their struggle, our sacrament

Dear Lucy,

You must not waste your suffering. Ava Bright entered into hospice care today. And we must not squander her struggle, either. Those whose dying shows us how to live, whose fighting teaches us how to fight. If I could speak right now to Mama Shiou, Christine, Audrey, Ava Bright, each in their different stations so truly alive, I would say:

Your cancer was my cure.
Your near-death experience was my near-life experience.
You fought so bravely, to crawl back to the land of the living. 
Thank you. Thank you, so, much. 

Stay alive, Lu. When your muscle memory assaults you and makes you feel falsehoods, know that He speaks not only to our hearts and minds but also somatically, to our broken bodies. He donned one himself. You are feeling and flirting with the edges of terminal illness, yes. Yes, all you must do is heal.

We give cancer patients the space and time to attend to that intensive care, to wage their whole selves in warfare against death. We try to relieve them of their other tasks and concerns so that they can just go through the carnage of chemo and unafflicted by other concerns. They are "just" to heal, to try to live one more day. We provide their families with meals and childcare and carpools. They take indefinite medical leaves of absence.

her father carries her when she cannot take one step more.
Ava Bright

When people do not see our invisible terminal illnesses, they may not intuitively give the space and grace that they would give to one who is outwardly, visibly wasting away. We also struggle to give ourselves fully to both the healing and the incapacity. But God sees! Lucy, He sees the ravaging infection more than we even do. He knows how hurt and dying we are. He is carving out that space and time for us. He is our chemo ward(robe). He knew I was dead when I felt and looked rather alive and fine.

Do not fight to justify to yourself that you need space and time to heal. Ask the Spirit to convince your heart. Try not to exhaust your limited mental energy attempting to figure out and explain why you are so hurt and dead. Does any cancer patient know precisely how (or more ludicrously, why) they got cancer? Does it matter? How it imperceptibly snowballed into a deadly crisis. Maybe they were chain smokers who brought it upon themselves. Maybe they were born into toxic environments and nuclear dumps. Maybe they ate too many GMO foods. What matters? No matter what you chose before to bring you to now, cancer is so unambiguous in what you must choose next. Simply:

Are you ready to resign to death?
Or will you fight for more life?
Do you want to be healed?

I hate cancer. But for these friends' visible and invisible wars, I give thanks. I give thanks for their whole life-and-limb struggle, agony, to GET WELL, a sign for us. Life shone so brightly through their battered body walls. Remember their cancer. Remember them wasting away at 90, 80, 70lbs. Remember the childrens' resilience and bright hope in searing pain. Count their falling hairs, bottle their tears, remember their fatigue and weary regret in the fight for life. See how they made an offering of their pain, brought a sacrifice of praise.

And we are promised this: no matter how hard you fight, you may not, will not, become wholly whole, wholly holy until at last you pass through death's door? But is the fight worthy? Would you crawl bloody and naked and emaciated out of the abyss, through the wilderness, back to the land of the living?

And would you be consoled that these infinite distances, trespasses, took Emmanuel only three days? He is with you. You will never cover all that distance in all your life and all your losses and all your love. But He has already gone there and come back for you, and will again come back for you, again and again and again resurrect you, forever and ever and ever.

Keep going, dear love, and help me in this.

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