Monday, June 15, 2009

The news that kicked us in the stomach

We learned on Thursday that my mother has bile duct cancer. I sat in the doctor's office, listening to clinical information about all the options and how most of them don't apply for a woman of eighty-two who has heart and lung conditions. I watched the expressionless face of the doctor, feeling gratitude for his thoroughness, annoyance at his "Stepford Doctor" affect, and pity for his role as the bearer of bad news. I listened as my mother said those over-scripted words, "How long do I have?", and as the doctor answered in equally predictable fashion, "I don't know, but I would make sure your affairs are in order."

This is a surreal time. There are still dishes to do and errands to run, and then moments when time stops and eternity sets down on us for awhile. It is the best of times and the worst of times; it is a raw and buffeting season on our little hill. To know is a gift. It gives us the fullness of the time left for us, rather than sneaking in and snatching it away. We can talk, we can laugh, we can cry, we can prepare. I am deeply grateful for the truth.

Now our job is to savor life, grabbing it and holding it, all the while being ready to loose our grip and surrender when the end comes. Christ Have Mercy is the prayer of my heart.

As I was trying to put words to the fuzz in my mind today, I wandered over to friend Ann's respite in the blogosphere . She is writing today of visiting Notre Dame Cathedral, of there being a spot that is "point zero" in France:

Somewhere on this cobbled stone square before the cathedral, under this milieu of colors swirling and languages murmuring, somewhere over time crumbled, a plaque marks Paris’ center, kilometer zero of French national highways. The center of Paris, the traditional center of the country of France, lies within line of sight of the Dame’s perched gargoyles.

Inside, amidst the towering columns and melodic liturgy and sparkling stained glass, she sees a woman quietly nursing her child. And when she leaves the interior of the cathedral she makes the link, the lifeline of truth that I so needed today:

I step out into a summer day’s blinding glare and a world spinning with fear, dizzy with change.

But there’s a ground zero. A changeless center. There’s a place, a Person, in the shifting, uncertain sands, offering nourishment, offering to feed and comfort us in eternal arms.

I could not help thinking she'd posted that just for me. With her kind permission I copy those words, I print out the picture of "point zero" in France. As life erodes, trembles, and crumbles, there is a constant, there is solid ground underneath our feet. We are standing on Point Zero and we shall not be shaken.

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:38-39

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