Many of you, friends and readers, have heard me talk about Sr. Rita, who has been my aman-cara, my heart friend for these many years, and who is the inspiration for the character of Sr. Eileen in my latest novel, EVEN SO.
Sr. Rita had breast cancer some years ago and we have now learned it has metastasized and will be with her for life, as her ‘wisdom companion,’ the one who will eventually take her home.
As a writer she does what all writers do– she turns to the page to share this journey with us. She has given me permission to post her writings here, as she lives fully in this experience. I am deeply grateful for her grace in letting us receive her wisdom, inspiration, and example. So here is the first installment. More — many, many more — will follow:
August 31, 2022 next steps and some thoughts on the journey
That for which there is no cure . . . . I met with the oncologist yesterday who confirmed the diagnosis, metastatic breast cancer that presented itself in the liver. Rather than use the words “terminal illness,” he spoke of “a condition you will live with the rest of your life.”
It is now 3 am a familiar time when God seems best able to get my attention. Writing has long been my natural prayer form, so everything is falling into place. Some things are clear. I am invited to welcome cancer as the wisdom companion who will accompany me for the rest of my days and eventually bring me home.
Those of you who share my faith tradition, believe with me the ritual words of the funeral Mass . .. “Life is changed, not ended.” Those of you who embrace the mysteries of science understand that matter is neither created nor destroyed, only transformed. Those of you attentive to nature recognize the law of dissipating structures, the marvelous economy that allows the death of one organism to support the life of another. The unfolding story of the universe, and the history of our planet’s witness to the miracle of life emerging from what for all intents and purposes is the end of an age.
For me, these are not pious notions or intellectual havens from reality. They are reality, the mystery I am living. As I processed my grief at the loss of loved ones, I became acutely aware that living and dying are one reality. When it feels good, I call it living. When it feels bad, I call it dying.
So for now, I begin the halting dance with my new live-in companion, and medication to slow the pace. I prefer dancing, surrender, and silence to fighting. I prefer sitting with and listening to ancient wisdom. I prefer the companionship of Jesus who lived and died trusting Love. I prefer living fully each moment, loving those “who are mine in this world.” ( John) I find profound meaning and energy in my SSJ life and faith tradition.