Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

I met a man in the street last week; a homeless veteran, HIV+ for 30 years. He was deciding whether to let the cancer he was just diagnosed with, take him.

He has healthcare benefits. Nothing else: the VA refuses to declare him disabled. That's why he sleeps outside.

I will always have housing, on a friend's floor if nothing else. If I let my healthcare lapse, I may not ever get it back. Cancer is a pre-existing condition, no matter that I beat it. Insurance companies can refuse me.

Cancer comes back. It may not, but it may. The questions are if, and when. I could be free and clear forever. I could have a recurrence in one year, or two, or fifteen. It could cost me nothing but money. It could kill me.

I told his story, and repeated mine, to a group of people I’m very close to. They couldn’t hear what the loss of access, and the threat of it, does to people’s souls. I named fear and anger; they ran away.

Could you not watch with me for one hour?

I look strong, and I am. I have had to be. This body carries everything that the last year has given me. I've gotten used to doing things, that I'd never thought I'd have to.

I know you can’t fix this—but please, please don’t leave me alone. I can’t leave him. I am not separate from him. You are not separate from me. I could be you. Before last April, I was you.

You walked with me through cancer; walk with me, into power. When I was well, and younger in so many ways, someone else’s anger would have scared the shit out of me. Now I get it: Don’t change the subject. Sit. Here.

Let this cup pass from me.

I am not willing to be a sacrifice. I am not, you. I am, yours—but let my suffering be redemptive. Let me learn to communicate from the street to the classroom, to the church. Let me tell this story, in a way that they can hear.

Flaming torches in the garden. Military doctors, insurance executives with swords raised. Shouts, rough hands grabbing.

They came for the man I met. I know they are coming for me. And if me, they can reach anyone.

Please, please understand me. Don’t turn away, back to your comfortable life. My hands are as dirty as yours. The worst thing we can do, is to wash them.

That hammer thuds through the ages. Crucifixion is not merely history. Are you on the timbers yourself? Are you forging the nails? Weeping with Mary? Or are you bearing witness: writing, educating, shouting? Are you working on just social policy, including healthcare access for all people?

Where? I need ideas. Sending a MoveOn petition is not enough.

The system is too big for any one of us to dismantle. But we’re the only ones who can.

My God, my God, for what have you called me?

I told his story again to a friend. She understood. She knew she couldn’t fix it; she sat with me, and felt what I was feeling. Her presence soothed my rage. She shared my grief, and gave me hope.

The women come, to wash the body. Where can it be found?


Louise said...

Kirsten, your writing today touched me. I too am afraid of my healthcare and my (maybe ill) health. Divorce unemployment and so many other things get muddled into who will be covered and who will not, who will live and who will die. Thanks.


Joan Calvin said...

I have reached the point where I am close enough to 65 and medicare that even if I lose my job, I will still have my health coverage. I think about the five months between seminary and my first call when all I had was gap coverage and thank God that I didn't have cancer then. I weep with all those I read about and know who can't get treatment or can't get the treatment they need.

I seem to be clear now, but like you, I never can be sure it won't return. I am one of the lucky few.

it's margaret said...

when Moses came down from the mountain top he was too radiant to look at, so he covered his head with a towel.... or he had horns, depends upon how you want to translate it....

Barbi Click said...

Kirsten, when I first began this journey, one of the struggles I had was the giving up of my job which held within its sticky arms my health care insurance. I have been without healthcare insurance since 2002. As a result, I have changed much of my life. In some ways, I take fewer chances. Yet in many more, I take larger ones.
Last Sunday afternoon, a group of Episcopalians from the Diocese of Missouri stood on the steps of the old St. Louis Courthouse to rally the Mo Senate to not make the same mistake as had the house -- they decided that the way to cut expenses was to make massive cuts to healthcare for the young, the elders and the disabled. That speaks nasty words as to their own humanity and morals.
I have watched you over this past few months and have prayed for you, felt your grief (to the best I could) and rejoiced in your victories, small or otherwise. I will continue to stand on the courthouse steps (literally and figuratively) and fight this battle of greed vs need. We are a sick and profit seeking nation and that is wrong.
My life has changed in many ways. I pray to God that it continues to do so. I am not liberal...I am radical. We must make radical changes...that is, if we want to live into the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The body is in you and in me. We are the women. We are the body. We are the health and wealth waiting to be.
Keep on telling the truth, speaking up in the face of power. So will I.
Blessings to you on this Joyful Eve that awaits us.