Archive for the 'Grace' Category



27
Apr
10

graciousness in the subdivision

This afternoon I received a very gracious apology letter from my neighbors, so I went over to meet them. They explained that they did not know the sound penetrated beyond their home, apologized profusely and invited us to let them know whenever we find the music or merry-making too loud. I, in turn explained how the deep base without any lyrics or melody devastates one’s nervous system, creating huge amounts of adrenalin. The pretty young woman understood and offered additional apologies, while her cats peered curiously at me from behind the stair railing.

Referring to a sentence in last night’s blog, which she found offensive, she asked  that I not make assumptions about their values and character without knowing them. This is a perfectly reasonable request, one that resonated immediately in my peace and justice brain. I am in the wrong and apologize publicly. My reference to their drug of choice and case of beer was inappropriate and unkind. As it turns out they are lovely young kids trying to start a life together. We are just a thousand generations apart. We agreed we would work together and parted in grace. One truly cannot judge a book by its cover, or even by its title sometimes.

So, to you my good neighbors, I apologize and welcome you to the neighborhood.

They have cats. We have cats. Already we have something in common.

05
Apr
10

from dark to light

Continued from Lessons in Grieving, April 1.

The next day gradually took on a better hue except for the visit I had to make to my oncologist the following day. I was not looking forward to any part of it and anxiety was floating overhead. I’d never had to go alone before and the prospect was unpleasant at best. It would mean a trip via expressway and toll road into the city—finding my way to the parking lot, then across the sky bridge to the Lurie Cancer Center on the 21st floor and finally just being in that graceless environment again. Five weeks of care-giving and five weeks of grieving didn’t set a positive stage for this return engagement, but  I knew I had to do this (learn to take myself so the Big Dawg wouldn’t have to use vacation days). I just wished I didn’t have to go alone. I couldn’t think of anyone to ask, so I didn’t. Then, as a gift from heaven, a friend offered to come along. This was amazing because I knew the medical environment was not her cup of tea, so I breathed a prayer of thanksgiving and promptly took her up on the offer as she is a veteran highway traveler and would be helpful, along with my newly acquired GPS, which I’d not yet used.

The next day was warm and sunny (unusual for March 31). We set out promptly in the afternoon and found to our surprise that traffic was unusually light, which put us in the parking garage about forty-five minutes early for an appointment that traditionally is never on time. Elevators are not her thing, but twenty-one flights preempted her inclination to take the stairs. The elevator door opened in less than a minute and there we were. We walked in, presented the parking ticket for validation, and were told that the lab was running on time, and I would probably be called soon. Soon? That would mean early because we were early! This was shockingly unbelievable.

Not only were my labs done early, but pleasantly as well—the technician even seeing to it that I would see the doctor directly. (That would be a first.) My friend and I no sooner sat down in the huge waiting room again, than the beeper went off, a door opened and my name was called. This was looking like the eighth wonder of the world. Early. Everyone was early, relaxed and pleasant. Yes, the eighth wonder to be sure. Once we got into the exam room, the ninth wonder was about to unfold.

They had had several cancellations that day, so for the first time in the four years that I’ve been an oncology patient, the medical people had time, not only to talk to me but to listen as well…listen with heart, not just mind. I was able to tell the doctor about my experience as a care-giver, which I think was heard well and profitably. (Thank you God.) When I said, “I don’t know how you all manage to work in oncology,” I heard something I’d never heard before.

The doctor said, “Oh, but we have success stories.” I had to question that, as I’d come to dread cancer in all its thieving forms. “Yes, she said, ‘You are one of our success stories.” Imagine my surprise, since it had taken me nearly three years to recover from it all.

“Success,” I queried?

She went on to explain that I am in full remission, and although my follicular lymphoma will probably recur (five years or more), it will not again transform aggressively and will be quite treatable. Then she told us that lymphoma—a cancer of the lymphatic system—is more treatable than solid tumor cancers, and that treatments for lymphoma are developing more rapidly and more successfully than treatments for solid cancers.

This was news—big news to me. For four years I had expected to have to go through the dreaded R-CHOP again and probably end up dying within eight to ten years as my sister had done, because each recurrence and treatment weakens the body. I felt like I’d been given my life back…that I could once again entertain the idea of  making art into the sunset. I had three lovely upbeat days with wings outstretched and then returned to earth. It had been a good flight…grace poured out like a river.

Life goes on. Unless I am hit by a bus, I will probably still be here when some of you younger folk start looking older. And when you do, remember, I was there first and told you all about it 🙂

(This is a newspaper photo I had for a few years prior to my cancer diagnosis. This 92-year-old lady was my hero. I’d planned to be just like her…making art into the sunset. After cancer I’d taken the picture down and filed it away. Now it’s back, more as a reminder than a goal. Who knows the mind of God. Not I. And that’s a fact!)

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03
Apr
10

lessons in grieving

Today marks one week post Bettina’s memorial service, and five weeks since her death. I should have written about the memorial service last week but couldn’t. It really was beautiful, just as I’d imagined in my March 22nd posting, 2 weeks later. In fact, much more beautiful than I’d expected, but just as heart-wrenching. My dear old friend (DOF) flew in from New Mexico to dance to, Who has Known (the mind of God…), and that was sheer blessing. From now on I will no longer refer to her as dear old friend, even though she is my oldest  and closest friend. She is a dancer inside and out even though her best dancing days are behind her. I will now call this person the Dancing Queen in this blog: DQ. (Do not confuse with Dairy Queen, please.)

The memorial was truly worshipful and I know Adopted Daughter, Bettina was there enjoying every minute. The next day was Passion Sunday and our church did a deeply  moving version of the Stations of the Cross. It was so deeply moving that I became just as deeply depressed. Up until then I was busy with so many things to do, then suddenly it was all over. DQ went on to visit daughters and grandchildren. The house resoundingly empty…silent…like it had been the minute the oxygen machine was turned off.

My heart cried out: “Where did everybody go?” I knew I could phone one or two friends, but also knew everyone was tired and busy getting on with their lives. It had been a very intense weekend. Big Dawg and I were unable to address each other’s needs. She went out feeling confused and helpless. My chief fear—abandonment—had been touched. I was alone with emotions too deep for words…too painful for comforting. I sank to the floor with emotion only anger can express. I was uncontrollably angry about many things. I yelled everything I had at God until there was nothing left to feel. Then I stopped yelling and stopped crying and waited. I felt remorse. BD and I would get through this. We would turn the page, start a new chapter. I just didn’t know when or how. Bedtime came soon and I prayed for help toward a better day.

The next day was dark and dreary. I was very depressed. Empress Bird called to check on me and we talked for a long time. Poor Empress. I did put her through some arduous paces. The day was craggy and disjointed. Nothing made much sense to me. My dear friend, Deeply Thinking, was coming that evening to help me start a new project—one that Bettina had supported wholeheartedly. The meatloaf I’d prepared that morning for our evening’s supper never made it into the refrigerator. When I saw it sitting there on the counter at 4:00, I panicked and the depression-fueled feelings of failure took over. What to do? Cancel? Couldn’t do that because I knew I’d feel worse. Tearfully, I took something out of the freezer, all the while wondering, who am I…who am I turning into? The doorbell rang. DT stood outside the door smiling. I said I was in a terrible mood…very unpleasant…not a nice person, etc., come at your own risk. He came in, took his shoes off and prepared to meet the monster I felt I’d become.

While we were all in the kitchen, I managed to burn my hand on the oven rack and proceeded to have yet another melt-down. DT is very cool. Whatever phases him does not manifest quickly. BD suggested we to go down to the studio and get started while she put dinner together. We did, and sat down in front of the computer. I proceeded to deliver an intense monologue about what a really nasty person I was and all of the unpleasant, unloving things I felt. Again, DT listened with barely a muscle moving on his face…no judgment issuing forth, no advice-giving and no insights. I appreciated that began the slow rise to the surface. I love this DT and I know it is returned: Grace.

Dinner went well and we got a good start on the project. Grace flowed. I had a few hours of light gray to off-white and then it was time for bed and another prayer for help, this time intercessory prayer as well.

To be continued.

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22
Mar
10

2 weeks later

It is not getting easier. Grieving is hard work. It is vulnerability. It is wearing one’s skeleton on the outside. It is stretching so thin that God light can get through—in and out, back and forth. It is like my ancestors making phyllo dough, the talented women rolling it thin enough to look like paper. It is hills and valleys, plains and mountains, oceans and deserts. And mostly it just is….

I begin the last week of preparations for my adopted daughter, Bettina’s memorial, on legs both sturdy and shaky. I am ready and not at all ready. I hear the opening song…Listen, God is Calling…and imagine carrying in her ashes…walking up to the altar and placing them there, just so. Then I sit down with the remainder of my family. There will be beautiful, wondrous music, dancing, poetry, scripture…and there will be the remembrance I’ve written. I will read this as a lullaby inviting all to listen: This is who she was to me. I will do this wholly and partly awake and asleep, for the pain of it is unbearable even as I think about it.

God will grant me grace. God’s Jesus Spirit will cover us all and she will be hovering, just like she promised. It will be wonderful and terrible all at the same time. I will be closer to my sister now than ever before, because now I have lost a daughter just as she did fifteen years before. Now we have so much more in common than cancer and mother/sister relationship. I am unable to catch the words as they tumble through my solar plexus.

Just a word to all who want to connect with me…who want to see that I’m okay or not okay, or whatever: Please don’t ask me how I am. Please don’t say, “How are you?” I cannot answer that question. There is no proper bottom from which I can reply. Just tell me that you are glad to see me, or that you love me or pray for me, or whatever is true for you. All I want is to know that there are people out there who see me and care.

24
Feb
10

forgiveness = grace

This afternoon, Graceful Spirit, the young pastor of our church came to visit adopted daughter. It was a total delight to spend this time together…a blessing. Once again I see God’s answer to my prayers coming not as I expect but creatively and constructively…all in a pattern for growth and nourishment.

I learned something that I didn’t know when I wrote my last posting, Forgiveness 70 x 7. In talking with Graceful Spirit, AD explained the reason for the visit she had made on Sunday to our former church…the visit I said I did not fully understand. I still don’t understand the personal underpinnings, but I now understand that AD’s purpose was to show the congregation, in a simple act of confession, that forgiveness was the doorway to freedom. She wanted folks to see that being sorry for hurting others was not so hard to do. She was modeling it, living it.  Seen in this light, she was God’s voice…a vessel of love: Grace

24
Feb
10

forgiveness 70 x 7

Last Sunday, we all went back to our former church to support adopted daughter in her desire to address the congregation on the importance of maintaining loving relationships above disagreement. We brought her in a wheel chair with portable oxygen and still the effort was physically considerable for her. I don’t completely  know where this desire has its genesis in her own 48 years. I don’t completely know because AD is a very private person. She does not talk extensively about her feelings in connection with her life growing up in an extended family of wealthy immigrants. I have heard stories, and I know the recent past, but there is not a lot of connection along the emotional road from there to here. And curiously enough…I am a confidante.

So I don’t know all that went in to this effort to speak to the congregation and I don’t understand her request for forgiveness, but it seemed to resonate with some of the people there. The pastor responded by asking forgiveness in behalf of the congregation. I have no way of knowing how the congregation felt about that, but it was an important step for the pastor to take. It was a very dramatic and meaningful time. Ad is now quite exhausted by the effort and I am wandering along the path, not quite with it and not quite without. While 99% were glad to see and receive AD, not everyone was glad to see Big Dawg and me—probably most, but certainly not everyone.

We knew that would be the case going in, and were especially aware when sitting directly across from us was person X,  whose dark and grim demeanor was much the same as it had been a year ago, on Pentecost Sunday, 2009. That was the day the congregation exploded, giving us a clear and painful message that we were not to be included into membership. Not only was X’s demeanor the same, but  X was sitting in just about the same proximity to us as last year! It was eerie and unsettling, but we persevered. Just before AD was wheeled up to the front of the church to speak, person X got up and left the sanctuary. I found this action abruptly rude, careless, egoistic at best and a slap in the face of the Body of Christ at worst.

I did not think about this incident until late in the day when I could put aside my public persona and be at home. The incident began to haunt me as memories of the past year flooded my heart and mind, giving free rise to my autonomic nervous system’s response to remembered pain and agony. We had become scapegoats at that church for nine months. Although I’d come closer to God through that suffering, it was at times extremely painful, bringing up childhood experiences of rejection as well as a string of adult experiences. The forgiveness I’d come to in the past several months was being tested and I was teetering on the brink of despair and self-loathing for about  36 hours—teetering and nearly falling from acceptance of God’s love. I could only breathe YHWH and let the Spirit intercede (Romans 8). By Tuesday, I was climbing back up the ladder and leaving goats behind. Today I find this passage in Richard Rohr’s meditation  (February 24) and it helps me put persons like X, as well as goats, in perspective:

We have always needed to find a way to deal with human anxiety and evil by some means—and it was invariably some practice other than forgiveness or healing. We usually dealt with human anxiety and evil by sacrificial systems of some sort, and that has largely continued to this day. (Exclusion, torture, war, segregation, class division, prejudice, and racism would be its common forms.)

Historically, we moved from human sacrifice, to animal sacrifice, to various modes of seeming self-sacrifice. But even in self-sacrifice, it was not usually the ego self that we sacrificed, but most often the material self as its vicarious substitute. The physical body became our usual scapegoat instead of the real problem which was the ego—a rather clever game of smoke and mirrors. Meanwhile the ego has remained “scot free” and off the hook for most of Christian history, even at the highest levels of church.

Whether you agree with Rohr’s analysis wholly, in part, or not at all is not my concern. What is important to me today is that …the rivers did not overwhelm me and I was not burned.

23
Jan
10

life goes on

I had a few rough days and nights as my last post reveals. By Thursday I was nearly undone from sleeplessness and despair. A phone call to my fine feathered friend, whom I shall call the Empress Bird (EB), and another to her dear partner, Queen Bee (QB) brought enormous relief. In the evening Big Dawg and I spent a couple of hours with EB, a person much like me, and through sharing back and forth, all my feelings that had no place to go were witnessed and released. One more time, the waters were not permitted to overcome me. Empress Bird spoke many life changing things to me and I heard them somewhere inside of my own silver lining.

When we left, I had two recordings in my hands that Queen Bee made for us—one for Adopted Daughter and her pain, and one for me and my sleeplessness . My recording was 100% helpful. I slept like a baby. Got rid of some nasty fears through dreams, and am now convinced that whenever I hear the sound of QB’s voice I may just become dumb-struck! AD used hers last night and says it helped her so much. We are grateful receivers of God’s gifts…the miraculous and the useful…we are open mouths for all that God sends any which way it comes.

Tomorrow BD and I will become members of our Little Church That Could in the city and AD will rejoice. Many of our friends from here and there, across the years and recent, will be there. Songs of our hearts will be sung and we will share with everyone what it means to us to have come this long, long way. We will rejoice  as endings fold themselves into new beginnings. Our good friend will come and sing Here by the Water for us…a song about the rough stones we are…stones only God can smooth, only God can make holy. That is our story, BD’s and mine…rough stones in the river of life.

Called by name….you are mine.

Cairn was built by Todd Friesen with love

Composite was made by Naomi with love..




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