Sunday, April 26, 2009


A year, a day, and an hour or two ago, my dermatologist called me back and told me, “You have melanoma.”

I couldn’t post yesterday, because I was at my graduating class retreat, offline. And I’m really all worded out, about the work and the witnessing I've been doing for a year. This is what I have.

Caravaggio. Photo from here.

I am struck by the physical, touchable, bodily, reality of the Resurrection. In all the ways that can be expressed. I’ve had to learn what my body, my God, and my community have taught me. And I am still learning.

My advisor was one of two faculty co-leaders of our retreat, with our Dean of Students. I’d asked her for time to connect yesterday. I didn’t even really know what I needed—I just knew that I would want to check in. So during free time, we found a quiet table.

The irony of this, is that I have laryngitis and a cough. I can croak, weakly and painfully. Can’t sing a note; nothing comes out. This almost never happens to me. And she’d also been my group leader, during singing and storytelling that morning. (I’d asked us all to stand up and sing the Troparion, trampling death.) So she opened our talk with a gentle observation about how my body is processing the anniversary.

I answered, “One of the first things I remember you asking is, ‘What is God doing with you?’ I had no way of knowing. Now I know, that what could have killed me, healed me.”

Which is absolutely true. We talked about transformation, from fragility to fearlessness. Street ministry, and how to continue doing that. (She said something that I don't want to forget, when I talked about having trouble translating the street to the church: "Maybe the street is the church.") Things connected, directly and less so: choices, courage, creativity, being a good steward of what God has given me (i.e., maintaining healthcare). She said I'd done more in a year, than a lot of people do in much more time.

“I knew that if I was open to this, I could learn from it. And I stuck to that choice.”

She said something about the way I make meaning. And how she’s been trying to communicate something along those lines to her students. They’re struggling with it. She said,

“If I could put you into words, that’s what I would say to them.”

That is exactly how I feel, about the resurrection that I know, and trust, and touch. The only way I can get there is story. I don’t hang out in my head anymore; interferon and exhaustion make that difficult. I process everything through my body and my heart. I speak more honestly than I ever could when I was well. I’ve come to love this deeper language. And right now, physically and metaphorically, I am a storyteller with laryngitis.

It is I. Touch me, and see.

I have no way to tell you, but to show you. This is where I have been. I grab my wrist: this is resurrection. I know it, because my body and soul have taught me. I believe it, because I get it. As well as a body can, which itself has never died.

Today, as we were all getting ready to leave, she almost off-handedly gave me a rock. California jade, from near where the Russian River meets the ocean. It fits easily, between my fingers and thumb. A touchstone.

I love this body wisdom.


it's margaret said...

In my flesh I shall see God....

welcome home.

Kirstin said...

Thank you.


Mimi said...

Indeed! Did I remember that it was the day before Pascha last year?

I am honored to know you.

Kirstin said...

Mimi, it actually would have been your Good Friday. Which says a whole awful lot.

Thanks for that perspective!