"For me a brain tumor and its treatments are not a pause in the adventure of life, but instead a part of the adventure of life." Mary has survived big hair, a brain tumor, coming out, distressed bowel syndrome, hallucinations, radiation, and a car wreck. Here Mary takes us from public transportation horrors to the joys of sharing life with you. Though you probably won't want to have a brain tumor; you will wish that you could see the world through Mary's eyes. Sister Jen
Happy Birthday, Sister Jen!
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Last night, Ann and I watched
early, disturbing results from the national elections, and then we took a break
to have dinner. It was clear that it would be a long night. Before we ate, we
held hands and said our nightly blessing: “Dear God, Remind me that all of life
is grace. Let me respond in gratitude.”
Usually, this prayer takes me
to my heart’s home, the place where I remember all that is lovely in the world.
Last night, however, I remembered this prayer after my first brain tumor
diagnosis: the thought that “all of life is grace” felt like an admonition to
one who is doubting, and—now as then—a knot formed in my throat.
After dinner, we returned to
the television. Results continued to worsen. I could hardly stand it, so Ann
agreed to watch an episode of the show “Friday Night Lights” with me. Things
weren’t going well for Coach Taylor and his players, either. We returned to the
As the election results
rolled slowly in, I couldn’t just sit and watch like my partner Ann. As we
watched together, we sat close and held hands, but when I couldn’t stand it
anymore, I had to get up, go away from the television, and seek words of
The first time, I went to
Facebook, and alternated responding to friends’ posts with a sad face and an
angry face. The second time, I went to my friend Becky and her pastor’s
“completely unorthodox devotional guide,” What’s
a Nice God Like You Doing in a Place Like This? Becky wrote the first
devotional about spotting God during a dermatological exam. Her gentle and
amusing details, like the doctor examining her fingers in the same way her son
Ben did when he was young and bored at church, gave me respite. We went to bed
with the likely scenario that Trump would be our next president and woke up to
This morning, after an awful
election season and last night’s stunning results, I am still seeking solace.
As I woke, I was thinking of two poems: one, Pablo Neruda’s “Keeping Quiet”;
the second, Yeats’s “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.”Perhaps they’ll give you
Neruda’s poem I always read
on September 11 in memory of that awful day in 2001 when planes flew into New
York’s twin towers. The call to stillness reminds me of all the pain in a world
that is too active and in its activity, too destructive. It calls me back to
being and breathing. I don’t think it’s in the public domain yet, so I’ll just
provide a bit and you’ll have to find the rest by yourself
now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
. . .
were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
. . .
I’ll count up to twelve,
you keep quiet and I will go.
The second poem, Yeats’s “The
Lake Isle of Innisfree” my elders and I read together in our poetry club
yesterday. Elders commented on the longing in this poem, the seeking for a home
that resonates with the deep heart’s core.
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
I hope to feel at home again
in my country, and I wonder if Trump won because too many people were not
feeling at home in their country. How will this become home for us all when it
seems to me right now that for some being at home means making sure that others
aren’t there—or at least aren’t visible in all their humanity? I’m guessing I
will be reading a lot of poetry over the next four years.