Life has been, as I have said before, the best of times and the worst of times recently. Trauma and drama seem to have played a major part in trying to suck the life out of me. They have wrestled me to the ground, pinned me down, and surprisingly, I have risen again and again, refusing to give in to the downward spiral. That does not mean events have not taken their toll on me. They have and I need to give those ordeals their due diligence but that is it–no more and no less. I instead choose to honour my faith, integrate hope, and believe in goodness.
Even Jesus had to deal with the slings and arrows of his day as clearly illustrated in today’s Gospel from Matthew 22 where the Pharisees are still playing games with him. Jesus fully aware of their malice calls them on it. He chooses not to join the inevitable spin of the merry-go-round. Sometimes though, the forces at work for the rest of us, do not make it so easy to stay off the playground.
Today I was pondering how this whole cancer adventure began as urgent and upheaval. My files were marked with big red letters. I breezed through tests that typically required months of waiting. I saw half a dozen specialists. I was told that I might not survive at any point of the treatment. I am grateful and always have been for the expedition of my case. Only today, when I was looking back over trauma and drama issues did I back up far enough to include this in the resilience and recovery process. I need healing from all the anxiety that began even then.
More recently, I have to look at what happened even with my father’s death. I have incredible anger at the health care system who failed him–the overworked doctors who wanted to send him home without figuring out what had happened. The cold, defensive attitude that the one physician maintained while treating my dad. The lack of communication between staff and family was in itself traumatizing. This is not to say that Dad did not have some excellent care at times but I certainly could see that even the staff was experiencing feelings of helplessness. I watched my father for 24 long minutes as the team tried to stop a tonic-clonic seizure. By minute 18, tears were streaming down my face. Days later, before I made the decision to go on my vacation, I saw the light leave him and I knew that he would not survive. I did not know how long he would linger but I knew that he had decided that staying here on earth was no longer an option. Our eyes met at that moment and I wondered if he knew that I knew.
Death and illness has the potential to break families apart. Sometimes they heal; oftentimes the relationships are much different. At this point in my life, I have tried to do what I can to fix the speed of the merry-go-round and as much as possible to stay off of it. Dad was in many ways the rock that would not have let certain spin tactics whirl out of control. Without him, the power imbalance has caused some challenges. I guess the reality of dying is that I do not need to claim a new role nor do I even want one. My desire is to keep living and acting with as much integrity as possible. As Jesus says in the Gospel: Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. I want to draw these distinctions in the coming months.
Of the traumas that have occurred over the summer are a series of death, not just that of my father. Oftentimes, people will say to someone who is dying that they could get hit by a bus first. This is hardly helpful and I am among those who do not appreciate my situation being minimized. However, I must admit that a number of people have died unexpectedly over these last few months which does emphasize the fact that we should all be living fully and not wasting a moment of this precious gift of life we are given. This is at the root of why I keep rising, despite being knocked down.
At a recent family wedding, a tragedy was averted. The day had gone remarkably well–the sun had even peeked out during the outdoor ceremony to smile down on the festivities. Later while on the dance floor with my cousins, we could see a situation transpiring at one of the tables that seemed odd. One of the young men in the bridal party ended up almost dying–well, technically, he did not have a heartbeat and was not breathing. CPR was administered and a pulse was found. I have not been updated completely about the situation but a report showed that he had a death-inducing blood alcohol level of .45. I have thought of him often since that day, wondering if he knows exactly how fortunate he was that someone could save him so quickly and curious if anything might change in his life. As I stood there watching the scene unfold a few feet away, all I could think of was a dear friend, widowed two months before when her husband also passed away at a wedding of a heart attack. In the blinking of an eye, her childhood sweetheart was gone. Two very different endings make me wonder if the survivor will take away a valuable life lesson.
Trauma and drama require much peace and grace. I am often amazed at how much resilience I am given. The support network I have is huge and strong. Not everyone is as blessed in this regard and I do not ever want to take for granted that I am a bit of an anomaly. Some days I wonder why I do not lay in bed for days in a fetal position, covers over my head, blocking out the light of day. I realize that deep within me I hear the Eternal music that allows me to get up and dance in the kitchen in the morning, despite everything that has happened and will happen. If I am to give to God that which belongs to God, then I must start with my very self and all that entails.
Are there traumas in your life that linger and still cause you to be unfree?
What lessons in life have taught you about resilience?
God of All of Our Lives, you embrace our pain and our joy. You ask us to give to you what is yours. The reality is that it is all yours. I relinquish it to your care and mercy, knowing that you will always make the most loving decision, whether I understand it or like it. You have the complete vision. May I trust that. Amen.