Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, that artificial commercial day with inflated prices and hopeful expectations. Now that it is over, I thought I might talk about a different kind of love as I deliver some distressing and challenging news in light of today’s readings. Today’s first reading is from Leviticus 13 and the Lord is talking to Moses and Aaron about leprosy. I always think of Che Guevara in the Motor Cycle Diaries when I think about leprosy. He braved to break with convention and reached out to the lepers in a very powerful scene in the movie. In Mark’s Gospel, the man with leprosy begs Jesus on his knees for healing: “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Compassionately Jesus reaches out and touches him, responding, “I do choose.” As is often the case with Mark’s writing the word immediately appears–the man is at once healed. In reality, we are sometimes not instantly healed of what ails us.
I have not been well since last fall. I returned from Europe and within a couple of weeks found I was tiring easily. I went to see my new family doctor and she sent me for blood work and told me to keep coming back if I was not soon better. I did return and after a few visits she sent me for an ultrasound of my liver because my liver enzymes counts were high. The ultrasound revealed a large benign mass on the liver. After the ultrasound my doctor did a complete physical rather than wait for my annual examination. She sent me then for a CT scan and finally for an MRI. After the MRI results came in, I met with a surgeon who suggested that the two or three large masses may or may not be cancerous but either way they must be removed. A number of scans and exploratory tests must be done to ensure that I am cancer-free elsewhere as the liver is not a usual primary cancer spot.
In the next couple of weeks I will continue with these tests. To stand in the unknown can be scary but as I explained it to a remarkable young friend of mine who climbs mountains I prefer to not be in that fear. I instead aim for that moment of standing on the summit, looking out at the beauty all around–essentially of finding God right there in the Now–and breathing. At that precise moment there is no past and no future. You do not remember the struggle to reach that spot and you are not contemplating on how you are going to descend. You just feel alive in that moment and that is all that is necessary. That is how I want to do this journey.
I am finding that my go-to place has not been to fall on my knees and beg Jesus to heal me. I have set in motion the prayers of those who love me and asked them to storm heaven for me. The hardest part about this is knowing anxiety rises in those around me. I oddly see it as a win-win situation for me at the moment–I beat this (whatever this is) and continue on with my amazing life or I do not and I go Home. Both seem like two goods to me. Telling family and friends though is distressing for me. I do not want to hurt or worry them. I could have kept it quiet but that did not feel honest or fair to them or me. Once I told my parents I felt a huge burden lift.
For me, I have decided to trust and to stay positive. I do not officially have a diagnosis yet. I have some large tumors that need to be removed. I have rallied my prayer people around me. I have sat quietly with Jesus in contemplation asking some hard questions such as “Why not me?” and “How should I pray?” Mostly, I just close my eyes and lean my head on his shoulder, his arm around me. My family and friends have sent words of Love beyond my imagining. I weep reading them sometimes, feeling somewhat unworthy of the sentiments but ever grateful that my life has touched people in these ways.
In a book by John Maxwell that my aunt gave me today’s meditation had this line: Only people who can see the invisible can do the impossible. I am not looking at this situation with human eyes right now. I am looking for the Invisible. I see the Love that surrounds me. I feel the prayers that envelope me. I know at the core of my being that I am in good hands because I am in God’s hands.
The Spiritual Exercises teach us that illness or health and long life or short are to be held with open hands. I will have the opportunity to pray this in a way I have never had to over the coming months. In a conversation I had last night with someone, he looked into my eyes and said, “You are not afraid to die.” Even though it was an observation and not a question, I concurred. He nodded back, “I see that.” That is my reality at the moment. I may not be heading Home for many years yet but that realization is a gift.
I have received two beautiful prayer shawls that I wrap around myself for comfort and in gratitude. I sit here wrapped in one now, feeling the many hands of Love on my shoulder. Whatever this journey brings, I do not walk it alone. Jesus chooses to walk it with me, as do many of you reading this. People from around the world are praying with me or sending me positive energy. Light is pouring into this body of mine, filling me with great peace and holy hope. I am grateful for so much. I know that I am loved. All this is a very good place to begin this experience. I pray the same for those who accompany me. God is with us.