Wisdom Companion #12 – Random thoughts at the one-year mark

Hello everyone, this is the latest news and wisdom from Sr Rita, who is on a journey with cancer. You will find the eleven previous “Wisdom Companion” pieces from Sr. Rita by searching this site.

From Sr. Rita:

One year ago, today my liver lit up the MRI, confirming the presence of cancer. I left that same day for a wondrous trip to Newfoundland while chiding God, saying I did not intend for this “bucket list” trip to be literal!

Where am I today? I find this poem by Emily Dickinson traces the initial coming to terms with this jarring reality better than any of the suggested clinical categories.

After great pain, a formal feeling comes

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

 The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone – 

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

There is no more careening through life. Rather, I take a measured step, one foot in front of the other, doing the next right thing after the next right thing as revealed by life and grace. I realize I cannot live in regret, the incomplete past with its “if onlys.” I can entrust all that to a merciful God and to generous human hearts who don’t dwell on my imperfections and failures. I cannot live in a non-existent future. I am tethered to the present moment and laugh at the great spiritual gift of no longer being able to ignore or rush past the God of now.

Reflecting on life in the light of death’s candle.

There is a long-standing, revered spiritual practice of reflecting on one’s choices in the light of the death candle. More simply put, “How will I feel about this in the long run?” Is this congruent with the true deep self and authentic desires that live below the crashing and mercurial waves of conventional wisdom, beyond the morass of others’ expectations, beyond my clamoring ego and its panicked fears about safety and security, esteem and affection, power, and control; beyond in the still small place whose silence is the trustworthy tuning fork?

I do not find answers there or a consoling presence. I notice in myself what is called, in the work of Christian mysticism The Cloud of Unknowing, “a naked intent toward God,” akin to what T.S. Eliot says in East Coker:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

I find the advice of the Cloud’s anonymous author consoling (despite its off-putting and limiting male language).

“Take God at face value, as God [sic he] is. Accept his good graciousness, as you would accept a plain, simple, soft compress when sick. Take hold of him and press him against your unhealthy self, just as you are, and try to let your desire touch the kind and generous God, just as he is, because those who touch him know good health that never ends.”

I am in the place where good health never ends, asked only to extend to God the same unconditional, positive regard and respect I have received, and tried to offer others: to let God be the God God is.

I dwell in profound gratitude for you, and for all that has been part of the journey thus far. I find myself humming the 60’s refrain from The Song of Thanksgiving by the Daemeans:

“Love that’s freely given wants to freely be received
All the love you’ve poured on us
Can hardly be believed.
And all that we can offer you is Thanks.”


  1. Leo woehlcke on July 20, 2023 at 10:09 am

    Love you Rita….Lauren…thanks for being a part of this.

    • Lauren on July 20, 2023 at 11:04 am

      It’s my honor, Leo.

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