Sunday, November 4, 2012
For All the Saints
Today we celebrated “All Saints Day,” at church, a ritual where congregants make an memorial altar of folks they’ve loved who have passed and we recite the names of those who are no longer in our everyday lives.
I didn’t rise to light a candle as others did because, with my disabilities, I was afraid that I might knock over the tea candles and start a fire, sending more saints to heaven.
I did, however, say a prayer of thanks for the many saints of my life, and today I thought especially about Margarita, a woman in my ependymoma online support group who passed this summer.
In our online support group, when someone told an amusing or appreciative story, Margarita often commented, “Blessed be.” I think about that phrase when I think about her now. I think about the way that she noticed blessings in our lives and was a blessing for me.
Last fall, I told my support group about a book of interviews with people with life-changing conditions that I’m writing and asked if anyone were interested in being interviewed. Margarita was, so she and I talked on the phone and exchanged several emails.
I’ve never understood it when the younger generation thinks of people they’ve never met in person, only on social media, as a friend. Now I do. Margarita was kind and funny, and I felt so lucky to get to know her.
During the interview, she talked (as so many do) about the positive impact that having a brain tumor had on her life: “I’ve always said that I was not that good a person before the tumor. Now I’m a better person. I am a more grateful, more empathetic person,” she said.
She also shared an amusing post-surgery anecdote: “A funny event happened after surgery. In May, I had surgery, and at a Christmas party, a woman commented on my haircut. I was almost bald with a comb-over and another tuft of hair, and she said that I had such a progressive haircut. [My husband] Jeff and I just roared.”
Nine months after our interview, Margarita was diagnosed with a different cancer, and the cancer quickly took her life. Her husband graciously emailed the group, telling us about her passing and her final words to him: “Ta-ta, my love. I’ll see you on Rainbow Bridge.”
Though I don’t know exactly what that means, I do understand the sentiment, and in it I hear her love and optimism and faith.
After her passing, our support group leader, Bruce, wrote that she had often advised him on difficult interactions in the group. “Our group,” he wrote, “has lost its mother.”
I think of Margarita and the family she loved so much this All Saints Day. I’ll bet her family misses her. I’ll bet our ependymoma support misses her. I miss her, too.
I think of all my saints. Some were church-goers and some were not. Whether or not they went to church, and whether or not they proclaimed a particular God, they lived the commandments that Jesus said were most important: “Love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart and soul; and love thy neighbor as thyself.”
So Granddaddy Edwards, Ms. Schuler, Granddaddy Matthews, Uncle Tommy, Rick, Grandmom Matthews, Grandmother Edwards, Horte Joyce, Margarita, and all the unnamed saints, I sang for you today:
For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who to the world their steadfast love confessed,
Your name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.