Archive for March, 2018

Lent: Holy

amywink March 28th, 2018

In the spring of 2016, Stacey ended treatments for her cancer. After a very difficult and almost deadly drug trial failed to affect her cancer, she had tried another as a last attempt to affect the growing tumors but the consequences were unacceptable and that treatment too had little affect. We both knew, and we talked extensively about her right to choose, accepting what it meant and knowing how little time we likely had left, and we laughed as much as we could together. I found a card to send her that extolled the virtues of friendship and how friends were there to help each other in times of crisis as long as each friend had a crisis at a different time! Since my mother’s death and her cancer spreading had both occurred that spring, I added a note “I think we’re screwed” and we laughed when she received it.

We were so screwed.

We laughed a surprising amount that spring because that seemed to be the only thing left to do as we faced what was coming and something in the joyful connection we made together each time we laughed helped us cope. I threatened her “just don’t die on my birthday” and she said she’d do her best. But the weekend after my birthday, she had what we called a spell, and entered the residential hospice after becoming unresponsive.

Everyone waited.

And she came back to us.

We both knew our time was very short. I suspected the cancer had reached her brain. We had been relieved in December before she entered the drug trial when the scans had showed no cancer in her brain but it was now May, 6 months later. We did not talk of this but I think we both knew what it might mean. She probably didn’t want to tell me.

She determined to finish the afghan she had started for my mother and I still wanted, and she was so relieved to be able to work on it as she recovered in hospice. I joked with her “just don’t leave it where I can tell you wrote “arrrgghhhh” on the cave wall.” And she laughed, and retold the story to everyone.

She returned to emailing and was so grateful to be able to write, to return to our “thinking together in writing” which sustained us during the 20 years of our friendship and sustained both of us in the last months of her life. When she couldn’t write, we texted. It was hard for her to talk on the phone so we kept the conversation going and we said everything that was important to say, everything that was important to understand about our friendship and what we meant to each other, everything we had learned from each other. The end was coming so what would be the point of not saying those things? What would be the point in not telling someone how very important she is? We said all the things. I determined I would always say all the things because what is the point of not saying what people mean, what beautiful gifts we are?

I called that time our Indian Summer and we savored every email conversation, every laugh, every dark moment we made light with laughter, every dark moment when all we could do was be with each other in that darkness. She hated that we all suffered with her illness. I reminded her that she couldn’t make us miss her less no matter how tidy she tried to make the ending. We argued about heaven (our first real religious argument) but agreed she’d be disappointed if it looked the same as what she already knew. While she talked of what she had done, I argued we were saved by grace.

Every conversation was holy.

She finished the afghan and she was so proud. She’d tried a new design, learned to sew the border on. She wanted to show it around before she sent it and I agreed she should. I was leaving to get my new puppy, James, over the July 4th weekend so we didn’t want it to be left outside while I was away. She shipped it to arrive once I was home.

The afghan was lovely, blues and cream, and I pulled it from the box so happy to have received this gift of her, made by her hands. It was so beautiful.

And I saw the mistakes.

It wasn’t an “arggghhh” on the cave wall exactly, but with those mistakes, I knew. She’d never have allowed mistakes in her work, written or otherwise, the uneven border, the missing stitches. Her OCD would not have allowed it. I knew the cancer was in her brain. I knew.

And later that week, she knew. She’d decided to try one last thing and made an appointment at Cancer Centers of America. Her husband told me how hard it was to get there but they’d made it. But her scans showed cancer in her brain. A lot of cancer. There was nothing to be done. She decided what to do and I agreed with her.

It was our last conversation.

I sent photos to her through her husband and listened for him.

She did not die on my birthday, but instead on my parents’ anniversary– which I do not think she knew. I was not alone because Kristi was visiting, which Stacey had known and perhaps she decided to go when I was not alone. I think she left things as tidy as she could, with as few loose ends as she wanted, but like I told her that would make precious little difference in our grief. When her husband called, we could not speak and we still can’t speak but we can write and we do. Our grief has brought us close, as it has brought me close to her other best friend.

But it is not tidy. We are bound together roughly, unevenly, with stitches missing and holes where they shouldn’t be.

But we are bound together and it is Holy.

Lent: March

amywink March 24th, 2018

I will be marching today. Some people will watch from their homes and think “those people should go home” and determine what kind of person I am from their own opinion of people who protest something they do not want understand. Some people will watch and think “that’s not enough” and determine what kind of person I am from their contempt of those who only seem to protest in public. Some people will watch and think “look at the white people only protesting because some white kids got shot” and divide all of us into even tinier pieces. Some people will watch and think “oh sure, show up now” and condemn what they think has been lack of perfect action without knowing what I do daily or have done for the majority of my life.

But for those who know me, and I have friends who have voiced all manner of these things, I hope they will instead begin to think “I know her” and ask “why is she marching?” I hope they will ask themselves “what is the thing I know to be true about this friend of mine?” as I have asked myself very many times while watching tempers rise in polarizing arguments that only fortify division. I hope everyone can think of at least one true thing about me to hold up against the false witnesses that seek only to divide us all in this march toward building our more perfect union.

Should anyone have trouble with my protest, or this protest, I ask that you ask yourself of me.

Do I want my friend to carry a gun?

Do I want my friend to figure out how to block the door of her classroom?

Do I want my friend to have to kill someone?

Do I want my friend to staunch the blood from some student’s body?

Do I want my friend to lose her life shielding someone from a gunman?

Do I want my friend to spend any of her time in fear for her life?

Do I want my friend to stop teaching?

Do I want my friend to harden her heart?

And only then decide whether nothing can be done.

Lent: Follow Me

amywink March 22nd, 2018

How Greek we are in
our thinking, as if we are
simply pieces moved
and thus absolved of doing
what might be changed
through our own choosing.

When will we understand
that within our hearts
we must know to move
ourselves to better action
and in ourselves decide
the way we know to go?

Lent: Prayer for Recognition

amywink March 20th, 2018

We are being bombed
in Austin, slowly,
randomly,
but we are still
being bombed
and in our fear
divided.

But in the moment
I look so carefully
through my door
before stepping out
to leave I become
anyone stepping out
into the likely danger of
a familiar world.

I may have only little fear of this attack becoming worse.
I may have faith that this violence will be resolved.
I may think this death unlikely to arrive on my doorstep.

And yet as I step, I understand
this reckoning and ask,

What about those of us stepping out
who know it will be worse?

What about those of us who
think we are alone in this assault?

What about those of us
who learned no matter
how good the life
we try to lead,
that random death
by bombs or guns,
will very likely happen
on our doorstep,
or on our walk
to school,
or at our park,
or church,
or anywhere we try
to live our good
and quiet lives?

May I understand
the isolating difference
that blinds us to
ourselves in suffering.

May my little fear grow
instead to grace for those
in every kind of trouble.

May this grace
be my change,
my reach
for those of us
we have so easily
left to danger
by our casual
yet calculated
indifference.

Lent: Tender

amywink March 20th, 2018

This long-recurring wound
between our hope and fear
we have only barely
worked to heal,
this tender scar now
freshly torn again
by shadows that prefer
a more familiar pain.

As if some darkness cannot
suffer our ragged, tender edges
growing softly together new
and seeks instead
to keep us hardening
our divided heart
so we may never heal
the truth of our fondled
yet forgotten injury.

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