Sabbatical Blog

...chronicling some of my projects and learnings during this time apart from parish ministry

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

LiveStrong Day

Lizard Eater writes in her blog that today is LiveStrong Day, a day for those living with Cancer to celebrate their strength. Lizard Eater, whose year old daughter was diagnosed with kidney cancer and has been blogging about her journey with her daughter, suggests that we all blog about our cancer story today.

I don't remember quite when it occurred to me that I wasn't "living with cancer" any more. It was probably about three years out, since I had a kind of cancer that, if it was going to come back would evidence itself within two years. So once the two years was over, I was able to relax. (It took a year or so to practice "relaxing.") And by that time, I had gotten on with new adventures in my life, some difficult, some wonderful, and there seemed to be only a few "cancer knots" left to untie. I remember lamenting that that great gift of survivors, of valuing every day and every relationship had faded and I was "back to normal," which is to say, back to taking it all for granted. I was distressed about that until I decided that the gifts of life-threatening episodes are bound to fade, that one can't ask for the gifts of death until one is actually, really facing it.

With that said, I also have to say that my journey with Cancer, mild as it was in the realm of possible journeys with cancer, changed me in such profound ways that I really have no idea who I would be now if I had not had that trial and all that came with it. It was, in the end, one of those terrible learning experiences which we can try to make the most of, and if we do, they will soften into blessings.

That's how it seems now. But I note that the sermon I wrote on my first Sunday back after my second surgery, that I once had much deeper feelings. In honor of the day, here's the ending of that sermon.

There’s a popular saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” That’s good advice for picnics but too simple by half for real life. It doesn’t often happen that life gives you sour stuff and you are able to make a treat out of it. There’s not enough sugar in Jamaica to make a treat out of war, surgery, rape, the death of a beloved parent or the shooting of children. So forget making lemonade out of life’s lemons. Sometimes you can do that but mostly when you get lemons you just get lemons and so you experience "sour".

"Sour", is, after all a part of all that is our life. Life is not of a perpetual picnic but a perpetual opportunity to make the best of what we're given, lemons and oranges and pomegranates and strawberries together; the good and the bad. It’s a matter of finding grace and growing a soul in the midst of it all, of finding, even within adversity, a way to do something meaningful for oneself and something helpful to others; in short, of learning, waiting, and returning to work on what remains.

--The maker moves
in the unmade, stirring the water until
it clouds, dark beneath the surface,
stirring and darkening the soul until pain
perceives new possibility. There is nothing
to do but learn and wait, return to work
on what remains. Seeds will sprout in the scar.
Though death is in the healing, it will heal. -Wendell Berry

The creative force that we all believe is within us--in our hearts and in our minds, and I believe is without as well, the creative force some think of as God, or goddess, or Spirit or maker, stirs in unmade things, in crisis times, in darkness, in moments of death and rebirth and long healings and grave possibility. The stirring of this force is what brings the new into our lives, and it is not without pain. The difficult, terrible, things that eventually happen to all of us are not put there to make us change, but if we can learn from them or find new possibility in them, the seeds will sprout in our scars, and even the small and large deaths in our lives will be healing.

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