Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gift, grace, and transformation

I'm just back from three days at the Ranch. They’d asked me if I could work this week, because they were hosting a women’s choir that sings for people as they’re dying. I’ve worked with this group twice before, and I know them. They’ve always seemed to like me. The last time I’d seen them, was spring break ‘08. Just before I was diagnosed. A year, a month, and a lifetime ago.

“How are you?”

“Oh. Wow. Well. I was diagnosed with cancer, and I’ll finish chemotherapy in two months.”

They got it. Every one of them. They understood transition. Sacred journey is where they live.

I went to a not-quite workshop, Thursday morning. I ended up being the only participant. The presenter was a uterine cancer survivor, and singer from Oakland. She’s on disability, and knows quite a bit about that system. Since it was just the two of us, we got to have a real conversation.

She asked me to tell her my story, and I did—all of it, the way I wanted to. We talked about valuing strength from our communities, and having had enough of sympathy. She taught me a song, and when I told her about my Easter, asked me to teach her the Troparion. (She's Jewish.) So I sang it for her:

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down Death by death,
And on those in the tombs bestowing life,
Bestowing life!

We talked about trampling death. She got that—and stomped along with me.

I told her that I’m not afraid of sickness. Not afraid of dying. Not afraid of God. Not afraid of me. But I am afraid of going through it again, without healthcare.

She told me that she wanted to give me a gift. She took both my hands, looked me in the eyes, and told me that I would always have healthcare. I asked her how she knew. She said something to the effect that I was loved, and I would have what I needed.

I asked, “Can I ask you another question?”

“Yes, you may.”

“I meet people on the street whose access is much more tenuous than mine. God loves them as much as me.”

“Yes, of course.”

Here, I was going to ask the usual: Where is God for them? But I know that there is no answer that would ever satisfy me.

I stopped. Some wisdom from God knows where, made me change the question. I heard myself say, “What can I give them?”

She asked me, "What is the opposite of fear?"


"There you go. That is your gift to them. Take your faith, and your courage, and give them what you have. If you are confident that you will have what you need, you can give to them, from your strength."

That is grace.

I took a whole lot of slow walks, on the trails up there, and worked out my sermon for tomorrow. I’m preaching Thomas, on the street for the first time. I absolutely know that I can do it. And I only could, because of what I’ve been through. My body and my God have taught me what it means, to live a resurrected life.

Alleluia. Christ is Risen!

It’s not just a story, anymore.


Mimi said...

Indeed He is Risen

it's margaret said...

He is risen indeed!