In doing my nightly devotional, I came across a sentence I am adapting a bit that brought me much joy: The fact that I am with you always makes every moment of your life meaningful. It does not matter if we are newly born, newly dying or somewhere in the middle. St. Ignatius says that we should not desire a long nor a short life but that we should choose only that for what we have been created. In doing so, we are free. Jesus is with us. That was his promise. We belong to him and our lives matter, however long they are.
Some days I feel a little like a failure when I think about the warrior mentality many take towards battling cancer. Some people think I have not fought hard enough though they do not know the details of my choices. I have not put my body through extreme punishment to win the race of being in the NED (no evidence of disease) club. The truth of the matter is I was probably only NED for a couple of months post-surgery. I agreed to do a round of chemo for six months. I went in cancer-free and came out with cancer that had metastasized. A cruel joke some would say. I decided to give my body a break and once somewhat recovered went off to Europe. I told my oncologist that if a trial drug ever came up, I would take it because it might help others survive this rare cancer. One has never appeared.
My idea of fighting cancer as my family, friends and faithful readers know has been to live fully with joy and hope. I have created memories with loved ones so that once I am gone they can cherish those moments. I have done what I loved. I have continued to serve in my parish and beyond its walls. I have written this blog with an emphasis on living while I am dying, extending hope to dear hearts and strangers alike. I have not given in to despair for long, despite managing all the twists and turns of this wild adventure. Life around me does not stop because I am dying. I still must cope with the death of friends and family members. A recent three-week hospital stay was primarily for other causes. Disappointments arise. Life is what it is–meaningful and engaging.
Every single moment of my life has meaning. Lately, people have been reaching out, telling me how courageous and inspirational I am. This process of living while I am dying is exhausting at this point so I miss the landmarks around me until I get an email or have a conversation with someone who points them out. Even my physiotherapist is a conduit for God whether she believes or not. She is with me, affirming, literally, my every step as my broken ankle continues to heal.
Jesus sometimes looks differently than we imagined. Take a tender moment with my palliative care nurse as an example. She looked at my foot early in the process of healing and offered to put cream on it. I had done so about an hour before but I agreed that the skin was horribly scaly still. She knelt down in front of me and gently slathered on the lotion. Something in me broke a little as I watched her. Her compassion was moving. She looked up into my eyes just as they teared up. I was not really sure why I was crying until recently. I had been in prayer and the image came up again of her kneeling before me, except this time her face changed and it was my Beloved washing my feet. He looked up at me too, just as I began to cry. Go and do what I have done, I heard him say. Jesus is with me always, until the end of time, and I must keep watch for the disguises.
Even as my energy fades, I am still asked to make my life meaningful and to die well. My task is to make my life meaningful and to show an alternative way to battle cancer. I do not see myself as losing this battle but as gaining Life. I am not fully certain what that means or how to do that. I have no road map. I have only Jesus as my model and he is with me to help me maneuver the Mystery.
What does it mean to know every moment of your life is meaningful?
Has a moment in prayer ever changed your outlook on life?
Beloved, you caress our brokenness and carry us through the ups and downs of life. You make each moment meaningful because you are with us. You guide us lovingly along the way, showing up in disguises, catching us unaware. I am with you. Keep me faithful to my path. Amen.