Yesterday, my blogging friend Elizabeth wrote a beautiful piece that inspired me very much. Elizabeth's blog, a moon, worn as if it had been a shell, is listed on my sidebar; I encourage you to visit her there. She's a Hopeful Parent, a wonderful writer, a humorous and honest woman.
Elizabeth and I have some interesting things in common. One of them is the fact that her daughter, Sophie is the EXACT same age as Katie - same birthday, same year. This gives me a special affection for her.
Recently, there was an exchange on Hopeful Parents, and Elizabeth's recent posting about it was luminously beautiful. In her post, she brought up L'Arche Communities, founded by Jean Vanier. One of their famous staff residents was Henri Nouwen, a gifted Catholic priest and writer. This brought up memories in me of first reading Nouwen's works, and learning of his move, from the heights of academia, to live in a community of mentally and physically disabled people. When I first read about it, I didn't understand the move. I think I understand it better, now.
Moving to a life of service from a life of worldly achievements and grandeur: whose message does that remind you of? It reminds me of Jesus, talking to the rich young man, telling him to sell his goods, give to the poor, and that in so doing, he would receive treasure in heaven.
The Hopeful Parents discussion apparently had to do with disagreement over the use of the word "broken," as well as the words "resignation" and "acceptance." I confess here that I didn't read the discussion; I do not feel called to enter into it, though Elizabeth's posting impelled me to reply to her.
Having shared the gift of the Eucharist, the word "broken" does not offend me at all.
"As they were eating, he took a loaf, and after the blessing, he broke it; then he gave it to the disciples, saying, 'Take and eat this, it means my body' (Matt. 26: 26). In other versions, Jesus said, "This is my body, which is given for you" (Luke 22).
Katie and David @ Katie's 11th Birthday dinner, March 2006, Il FornaioIn the world of childhood cancer, there is a great deal of brokenness to be faced and lived into. Brokenness is everywhere: broken bodies, broken health, broken lives, hopes and dreams, broken paradigms, broken childhood, broken families. Facing our brokenness seems to me to be part of facing our humanness. Broken things are not necessarily consigned to the trash; they can be useful and instructive.
We are all broken; it's a broken world. I am broken now, in ways I couldn't have imagined, before. It just IS. I don't know what to do about it; I certainly can't "fix" myself, anymore than I could cure cancer, or bring Katie back from the dead. I am simply trying to learn to live with it, with grace, with love. It's not "pretty" - not at all. But when we are aware of our brokenness, perhaps we can let in a bit of light, a bit of help, from beyond ourselves. Perhaps this is the point: humility, freedom, letting go.
All I know is that I learned more, and served more lovingly, in my utter helplessness in the face of Katie's cancer, than in all of my striving and reading and learning up to that point. None of my efforts made me into the person I wanted to be; only showing up in the moment, accompanying my family on our journey into hell, taught me this. And even that was not through any sufficiency of my own; it was precisely because I was not sufficient, not in control, out of answers and solutions, that I could listen and act freely and openly.
All of this makes me think again of the contemplative way of seeing, and being in the world. A recent posting from Richard Rohr:
"What does this moment, this naked now, have to teach me?
"Non-dual thinking is the most accurately descriptive term I can find for contemplation. Not necessarily inspiring, but accurate! It is a different mind, a different way of seeing and hearing which does not divide the field of the moment, but lets the whole moment, as it is, come toward you. It allows each moment to be an epiphany and its own kind of manifestation.
"What happens in contemplative prayer is, now and then, by the grace of God, your field of vision opens up and clears out...
"You don’t take control too quickly by explaining, fixing, controlling, categorizing, or needing to fully understand right now. Your mind is able to simply say, “It is what it is. Let this person or event come toward me and teach me what it needs to teach me, and give me what it needs to give me, and take from me what it needs to take from me.” - Adapted from Exploring the Naked Now webcast