feeling sinister

Don’t know why, but I’m about to get all deep and philosophical with you all. I think it was spurred a bit by Mark Mossa’s pointing me in the direction of two great reflections by Penni of Martha, Martha fame and Kalanna at Mere Catholics about being angry with God, others, yourself, etc… Which got me thinking back to that time when I was SOOOOOO angry at the big guy. Sometimes it seemed like it would be easier if there was no God, because then I wouldn’t be looking for explanations, and so in the end it was as if I was even madder at God just because God existed!

Confused??? Well, life is confusing. The other reason I’m on this philosophical bent this evening I think is because I have a number of friends with loved ones who are very sick with cancer. And that of course makes me think of mom.

WHICH caused me to go hunting for some reflections I wrote back in the days before the blog. They’re from the period just after I emerged into the light from a long dark trip in the tunnel of grief and despair and much anger. And for some reason this Tuesday evening I feel inclined to share them with you, fair readers. To be honest I always return to this time of my life during Lent. To understand light in the darkness, you have to be in darkness. And so I give a you a glimpse of what that was like for me….

In the Spring of 2003 my mom was on the apparent rebound from a bout with cancer followed by a severe diabetic infection that almost killed her and resulted in a leg amputation. The pictures of her at this time are powerful and yet heartbreaking. In her tired face you see all she has been through in the previous year. In her body language and set jaw you see her determination to overcome the odds and live a normal life again. Yet in her eyes you see some sadness and a hint that the ordeal is no where near over for this amazing woman.

That summer we learned that her cancer was back. Mom had been in the third stage of cancer when diagnosed, and we knew that the surgery, chemo and radiation might not be enough to stop the cancer. To a certain extent, I think we let that experience fool us into thinking that unpleasant as it undoubtedly would be, after the summer and fall of her treatments and the winter ordeal with the amputation, we as a family would help her see her through it to the end where she could presumably get back to her life as wife, mother, grandmother and friend.

I wish I could say that I believed in this dream with my family, if in fact they believed it in their heart of hearts. Instead, as my mom broke the news and told me she had chosen the route of radical surgery, I knew she would not recover. And she did not, although this is by no means a time when I am glad to say I told you so. I hoped against hope, prayed and prayed that Mom would get better. Over the summer months, my prayers changed from hope that mom would get better to hope that she wouldn’t suffer too much. As her suffering continued, worsened and intensified to inconceivable levels, I prayed that her suffering would end soon. And then I simply stopped praying. I stopped hoping. I just stopped.

There’s a line in a song by the Scottish pop group Belle & Sebastian that sums up the summer of my discontent in 2003. It’s the soundtrack that plays in my head when I think of this time and it goes like this ….

If you’re feeling sinister
Go off and see a minister
He’ll try in vain to take away the pain
Of being a hopeless unbeliever.

I was definitely feeling sinister. Irrational as I knew it to be, I felt guilty when I stopped praying for Mom to get better. It was almost as if I had the power through positive thinking to cure her and was letting her down from a distance of 3,000 miles. I don’t remember when I stopped hoping she’d get better, but I still feel the chasm inside left by that loss of hope. And while I was feeling sinister, I did not go off to see the minister. Not only did I stop praying, I stopped going to church.

Active as I was in my parish, this was hard to do without being noticed. I went through the motions, attending the occasional meeting and teaching the occasional Sunday School class. But even when I was there I wasn’t really there. I thought I just needed some space to work things out.

That space turned into the coldest period of my life. I shut friends out. I shut family out. I shut God out. I did more than turn from God. I cursed God. I questioned God. I doubted God existed, except I was so mad at God it was obvious there was one. I closed my heart to God and to others which left me all alone and feeling decidedly sinister.

But even though I didn’t go off to see the minister, I was lucky that he sought me out. My pastor called me up one day to say he’d been looking for me after mass for a few weeks to ask me some question or other. Whatever the bogus purported motive, his call was the invitation I needed. That simple call brought me back to the land of the believer.

While I was no closer to understanding suffering in general and certainly no closer to accepting the particulars of why my mom had to suffer so, I was able to open the door a crack again for the light of God’s peace to begin to defrost my cold heart.

Had that not happened, I don’t know what I would have done a few months later when Mom died. Someday if I’m feeling the urge to inflict my deep philosophical thoughts on you again, I might continue this story which feeds right into my vocation story. Suffice it to say, were it not for this experience, I don’t think I’d be on this path at this point in my life. But that’s a story for another day.

In the meantime, please join me in praying for my friends, their loved ones and all those suffering from/caring for those with cancer and as they walk that long dark path.

1 comment:

HeyJules said...

Susan, that was really touching. Thank you so much for sharing that with us all.

Seems the blogosphere is full of pain and suffering right now - but I'd be happy to add your friends to my list of those needing comfort and support.

And I look forward to one day hearing the rest of this story...