Dave Brisbin 10.11.20
A conversation with a friend who was just diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer rivets me. From stomach pain to hearing a doctor say that the metastasis was so extensive that she had maybe two weeks or two months with chemo, all in the space of one Covid-empty emergency room visit… Her twin sister flies in and takes her home cross-country to Pennsylvania where family surrounds. Best place she could be, but she tells me of the anger and depression. Wants to know what she did to deserve to die so young? She fears death and wants at least to make it through the holidays and see her nephew’s baby. She’s angry with God. Feels abandoned, and no amount of prayer brings a sense of his presence. I just listen, asking questions here and there, but mostly waiting for any cue or clue as to how I could possibly help besides just being on the other end of the line. Then she begins talking about her family—her sister and her sister’s children, how much she loves them and they her. Her nephew who is expecting a first child in two months, an aunt who is like her mother and how they spend every moment they can with her. Then she tells me that her sister wants to sleep with her in bed every night so she won’t miss a moment, not even the moment of her death. And that image of her sister’s love is a turning point in our conversation.

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I ask what she is expecting God’s love to feel like, and she doesn’t know. I gently suggest she’s already swimming in God’s love but she hasn’t seen it because she’s been looking up instead of across at her sister and her family. It seemed to register with her, and I thought I heard her relax a bit even over the phone. Teresa of Avila said that we are God’s hands and feet in this world, that he has no body here but ours. God’s love is shown through each of us or it isn’t shown at all, and any prayer for connection with God is answered the moment we become present enough to see God in each other. We can’t ask any more than this of God or of life. There isn’t any more to ask.

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