I’ve been on the dark side of the moon – figuratively speaking. Although the wi-fi was plentiful at St. Ben’s, I didn’t have the same luck at St. John’s. I’ve just boarded the second plane of the day. This one is direct to Dulles from Minneapolis/St. Paul.With two hours of “air time”, a blog is inevitable (and certainly long-overdue.) The liturgy meeting was wonderful, as was seeing folks from my past. (I moved to MN ten years ago to do graduate work and remained until 2002.) There are some people who just embody St. John’s. Catching up with these good people is always a joy. One encounter, though, was not as joyful. I met a woman who I had known just casually ten years ago. She’s living with a stage 4 cancer. I’d know her beautiful face anywhere in spite of her baldness. She’s going without scarf or wig which provides an instant reality check for those who see her. I did what people do. “How are you doing?” She responded, “One day at a time.” I felt my question wholly inadequate, almost intrusive, though that would never be my intent. I will pray for her, without fail. Yet, I feel as if even that lacks something.
I guess we can never know what another person is experiencing - even if it’s someone we love fiercely. Illness can be a hermitage – a lonely place where only GOD can touch the pain – help us navigate this new place of unknowing. When those we love enter this hermitage, all we can do is stand by the door and wait patiently. We can go no farther until we are invited. But once that door is opened from the inside, we can be with them. It won’t mean understanding the spiritual work that is in progress, or taking away the physical burdens that constrain a life that longs to be lived to the full. But we can visit them in the hermitage – listen with the ear of the heart, wipe away the tears or just cry with them, affirm the life force that fuels both the suffering body and the searching soul, and assure them of love which is their present share in the life that never ends. We can do all this and we must. For we who are healthy are blessed by those for whom each breath is gift. We who are healthy forget all too easily how very precious and precarious life is in the body. I hope when it’s my turn to enter the hermitage of illness, someone will love me enough to wait patiently at the door.
Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki