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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Ps 61:2

The chilly fall breezes were just beginning to blow through Minot, North Dakota when I was diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma...

Cancer.

The trees still had most of their leaves at that point, which was unusual for that time of year.
There was one tree in particular, that I could see from the place where I lay in my bed, recovering from the ravaging Chemo sickness that had been with me for more than a week. I lay there in exhaustion and delirium, listening to the voices of my sweet children playing
downstairs, and watching the very top of the tree swaying in the winter wind, its leaves disappearing a few at a time.

I felt a strange kinship with this tree. As the weeks passed, the wind blew the remaining leaves from the tree, leaving the bare bones of its branches to weather the whirling winds unprotected. Though I was inside in my warm bed, I felt the storm of cancer raging around me...leaving me as naked and exposed as the tree outside my window. I reminded myself that the tree was only sleeping; the winter cold, bitter as it was in this northern climate, would not kill it. Cancer would not kill me either. I rested in this thought, allowing it to wrap itself around me as insulation from the cancer storm, and drifted deep within myself to sleep.

I had to wake occasionally, but it was like a dream, and in my dream I saw a ghost of myself when I looked in the mirror. She was gaunt, just skin and bones. She had no hair...not even eyebrows, almost as if even her face was being erased, but in her eyes there was life still. A fierce determination flickered like a light deep within them...she was not afraid. In this confidence, sleep would claim me again.

Even as I slept I could still feel the external trappings of myself blowing away in the storm, and I had to go ever deeper within myself for protection. I searched within myself for a place that was safe & solid, a place that would not give way to the storm. I had strange and vivid dreams in this dark place. In one of them I could feel myself turning into a bird, wings growing from my shoulders. I felt the effort it took to pull myself away from the ground as I began to
fly, wings pushing & beating at the air...and then I was soaring through the sky. I traveled in this way for awhile, seeing life from a different perspective; I was part of it, but somehow separate too. Then I felt the pull of the ground beneath me and began to fly straight down towards it. My heart raced as the ground rose to meet me, and then, at the last moment a dark opening appeared and I was swallowed into its depths. Down, down I went, not flying now, but falling. The light from above had vanished and the darkness was impenetrable...still I fell. I thought for a moment that maybe I was dead, or dying.

Then the darkness exploded into a million little lights, and I was no longer falling. I realized that the lights were stars. I had left the world behind me, and before me was the whole of the universe, and underneath my feet was a rock. I had found solid ground.

The dream dissipated into a fog, and then the storm was raging around me again, but deep within my inner being I still held this feeling of strength and security. The winds blew, but I could not feel their bite; the waves crashed, but they could not take me under.

I was safe.

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