Friday, March 7, 2008

Life's Journey

Henry rested well last night and is still asleep this morning. It's left me with a preponderance of time to think. It's the quiet and lonely times that leave me with wandering thoughts. It makes me think they're always there, but just require solitude to emerge...

Cancer sucks. It robs you of your expectations for life. It cheats children of a carefree childhood. It does not quietly assume your life, but sideswipes it suddenly and abruptly. An unexpected result, however, is that some of those cherished expectations were actually doing some cheating too, binding our daily actions to a possible future, of which there was no guarantee. These expectations had been driving our daily behavior to a destination so quickly that we could not look out the window to see the beautiful scenery passing by.

Since Henry's diagnosis, we've been forced to take back roads instead of the highway and to drive well below the speed limit. We've had to jettison the cargo of our expectations that previously felt so necessary. Our map blew out the window miles ago and we're navigating by feel based only on our moment-by-moment experiences. We're more apt to stop and take in the vistas at the side of the road and while there are bumps, to be certain, they are now serving primarily as a means to appreciate the smooth roads when we encounter them.

Henry's tolerance of his Cancer is teaching me to live with appreciation, compassion, grace and awareness. Life has it's share of pain for each of us. Each person's idea of distress is only relative to his own experience. We cannot experience the heights of another's joy or appreciate one another's suffering without some reference to it. These experiences cultivate empathy and compassion.

By recognizing our journey for what it is, our Life, we recognize that clearing the road of our expectations and allowing it to unfold is the only Way. Before Cancer we had our eyes squarely on the road ahead of us. We didn't even realize we each carry with us an extra passenger, reminding us that this journey must end. We must pause to pay heed, even be grateful for this reminder instead of ignoring it or attempting to avoid it. In so doing, this extra passenger has instead become our guide. It is only by learning to look Death in the eye, that we can see and understand Life more clearly for what it is. While we thought the important work was to get to a destination, it was actually in learning to loosen our grip on our expectations, enjoy Life's Journey and live today. The important work is actually learning to die.

And I said, "Please"
Don't talk about the end
Don't talk about how every living thing goes away

She said, "Friend,
All along-
Thought I was learning how to take
How to bend not how to break
How to laugh not how to cry
But really
I've been learning how to die
I've been learning how to die"

-Learning How to Die, John Foreman

I happened upon this when writing this post. I found it insightful.
Learning to Die - essay by Bro. David Steindl-Rast O.S.B.


Granya said...


drivebymedia said...

i saw that you linked to my post... Henry will be in my prayers each time I see a referral from your blog

Femail doc said...

Wow, indeed. You all could've certainly lived without this, but you are listening to the experience and living more richly with it. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.