Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Loss and gain

Last night a group of clergywomen and a couple of ringers shaved what remained of my hair. It was really thin. I can't believe how much hair can fall out of a head and still have hair up there. I was tired of getting hair in my food, all over my clothes, in my face, everywhere. Besides, my hair had gotten so thin that all I could do was slick it back. And so, I have stubble (more than I imagined could possibly remain) on my head. I am startled when I look in a mirror. (I have slathered sunscreen over my head.)

On the way home, a friend said her daughter had asked her and her father whether they would rather have Alzheimer's or cancer. For me, that was an easy answer. Cancer. With Alzheimer's you lose yourself. And so my friend asked, don't you lose yourself with cancer? I said that so far the only think I've lost and then I thought about how I wanted to say it. I said that what I had gained was a real sense of my finitude. The real sense that I am human and not immortal. My therapist a long time ago had breast cancer. She was a few years younger than I. When she started seeing folks again, I asked her how she was and she said that the cancer was a gift. Each day is a gift. And it is. Each day is a gift. The leaves are greener, the birds chirpier, the squirrels are cuter.

I have begun sitting on my patio. Last year, I had a small decorative pool put in. The birds and squirrels love it. The birds hop around the edge, finally sitting on the edge and sipping water. Then they find a place to jump in and begin to bathe. The squirrels when they had gorged themselves on whatever they are finding in the garden and when they have finished chasing each other will stop for a sip of water. I journal there, but find that most of the time I watch the animals, the sun reflecting off the pool and then on the the limbs of the crepe myrtle.

This is the week I feel good in the chemo cycle. The conventional wisdom is that you finally feel good and then it is time for another treatment. My second is Friday. My sister is driving here from NC with a car full of treats for me. Since I can't eat cheese or spinach after the chemo for three days, I am thinking of going to the Mexican restaurant for lunch for a spinach quesadilla today.

At some point, I have to write my sermon. Though Matthew's text lends itself to my experience, I think I will probably be focusing on striving for God's realm and use Sara Miles' Take this Bread to talk about what God's realm looks like: everyone, everyone, not just the deserving have bread. (I like her wanting the food pantry to be open to everyone with no IDs, no residence requirements and so forth. Everyone deserves to have food. When I worked for Habitat and folks would talk about ungrateful Habitat homeowners, I would explain that we believe that everyone, everyone deserves a simple, decent place to live. If one is getting simply what one is entitled to, what one deserves, why should that person be grateful? And besides, homeowners work on their houses. We are simply helping them get what they already deserve.)