I see my mother’s bathing suit in the drawer of the old antique desk she has given me prior to her death – which has not yet occurred. Cancer makes people want to get things in order. Her sexy bathing suit and aqua blue poolside wrap remind me of her vibrancy – in stark contrast to the woman sitting in the chair in front of me. There is an almost blank childlike bewilderment in her eyes as the cancer in her body stands still while the chemo ravages her with supposedly justifiable sickness.
The doctors are standing all around us. he is tall with perfect skin. I wonder is he gets facials. And they are young and eager and dumb as shit. All left brain, staring blankly waiting to be told what to think. I feel like jumping up and telling them to stop talking to her like she is some random old person. Didn’t they know she stood up to 6 armed African guards when I accidentally almost got us arrested in Africa! And she was the one who told that weird Moroccan guy that wanted to buy me for a wife to go fuck himself – I might add while we were in the middle of the desert where he had a significant advantage. She was a force of nature. Who did they think they were talking to!?
But they continued…
“Did you eat your breakfast?”, Some young 22-year-old resident asks her as though she is some moronic child who has an issue in comprehension.
I regain enough presence of mind prior to saying anything I’d have to apologize for later; I see that I am feeling angry without cause. It’s part of the grieving process, they say. Everyone is just doing their best. My brain kicks in and my emotions crawl back into their corners like cockroaches from the light.
I start to wonder about human suffering and the way we all deal with our personal variety of it. We all know for sure that each life is full of it – and yet we treat each other as though your suffering could not possibly be as pungent as mine. As powerful – as bad. Who said suffering is bad? Isn’t suffering the place we all do our learning from?
But I doubt this, as I look around me in the ward where they have my mother, and see an old man sitting by the window, bent at his chair, staring blankly out past his little box of Boost perched precariously under his chin. Boost – meant to keep him alive through an infusion of tasteless protein.
Maybe he doesn’t want to stay alive I think to myself.
A picture of a young man, alive and vibrant, flashes in my mind. maybe he was in the war and was handsome in his uniform? Maybe he was a farmer and rode a tractor? maybe he had a wife and kids and dogs and stuff.
We are all so delusional that we will have a different outcome in our lives, but really what are the alternatives.
Everyone experiences suffering. The difference is in how we see what the suffering is for. My mother has taught me that.
Maybe suffering increases as we age and death is like a “final exam” – to see how far we can let go.
I really see my mother, behind her eyes, past the fear and bewilderment – waiting lovingly, patiently and without fear. I kiss her goodbye and leave my mind frazzled by all I have seen and felt.
I get lost – three times. My usually reliable GPS tossing me around in circles, in a maelstrom of orange cones and construction chaos. Finally, I land at the base of the world’s largest shrine to St. Joseph. It takes me a while once I have decided to give up and go in to realize that St. Joseph was the Virgin Mary’s husband. I know so little about this stuff. I would be considered a fallen catholic in oh so many ways! I am compelled by this place because of all of the people who go with their intention of healing or peace. The energy is very strong.
I am led into the shrine of Brother Andre – a now sainted monk who was said to have the ability to heal the sick and make cripples walk. I am surrounded by walls and layers and hundreds of crutches and canes of the miraculously healed and left behind. On the opposite wall, long rows of candles and prayers votive candle areas, with prayers to Saint Joseph. I am awed by the artwork and statues depicting the prayers. The dancing lights of the candles seem to make the faces and the stories on the walls come alive.
I look down at the placard in front of me and read “St-Joseph – Patron Saint of the Dying”. There are few candles burning. I see St Joseph is the patron saint of a few things including Virgins and families. The Virgin’s one stumps me for a second until I realize what kind of man it would have taken to preserve the honor of a woman who claimed to be pregnant and a virgin – how many men would put up with that? The amount of Trust and faith that would have been required to not disbelieve her would not be possible without an act of God. I light candle candles at these stations and say prayer sin my own way. I don’t remember the meaningless wrote prayers from my three weeks at the convent in my younger years. They didn’t exactly stick.
It feels good to be able to pray and be quiet with myself in a place with God so openly. The world outside seems starkly controversial. But this is a place for pilgrims of all backgrounds, and I feel welcome.
I say a last prayer for my mother holding my hands on the casket of the Sainted healer. I dip my Tibetan Ayurvedic Oil pendant in the holy water, mixing the oil and water together.
I feel like it’s time to go home now, and I try to let go.