Endearment and Cancer

I captured a very endearing moment between two cancer patients at mass this morning. Her name is Carmi. She is Mom’s friend from church. Mom asked her how her chemotherapy was because she heard that she was able to go to mass right the next day. Perhaps in her quiet anxiety, Mom wanted to know if she would be able to kneel before her Lord and feel His embrace.

Carmi’s reply was straightforward and gentle “Oh I had to make myself strong. It still weakens you. But you, you have to be strong. I take soya every morning for protein.” Mom looked at me and said, “She has breast cancer.” I smiled and nodded unable to say anything. Carmi continued, “I think I have all kinds of cancer already. They still found 2 nodules in my lungs. So I live by the day.” She says this very carefully. Meaningfully. Enunciating every word as if to make sure that we heard it come from her heart. I live by the day. You can’t any more raw than that. Her eyes had a shine to them that spoke of peace and serenity and I said to myself, “This woman has won so many battles that the scars in her life has turned to stars that light her up beautifully.”

“I live by the day all because of Him.” She turns her head and nods towards the altar. The air became silent afterwards and she went back to her praying while my Mom went back to hers. They were both leafing through prayer books and prayer cards.

At that point I thought, how beautiful my Mom’s community is. It felt so natural for these church goers to just go to her and talk to her about her condition right when the celebration of the Eucharist ended. Mom never had a penchant to belong in social groups or organizations. She participated in parish activities quite actively. She went to Opus Dei retreats. At one time she attended the Legion of Mary and became a catechist. But she was never one you’d associate to an organization. She was never one who would refer to an organization’s name as an association to herself. She was never one who would say, “I’m from ABC Community.” She’s one who would say, “I’m Catholic.” Enough said.

This circumstance has allowed me to open my eyes even more and see the miracle that God is doing in our lives. For many years my relationship with Mom has been strained but I can say that slowly God is indeed healing us from the inside out.

I still snap and succumb to impatience. Last night I had a great battle with it. Waking up this morning all I could say was, “I don’t know what to pray for anymore. I’ve said it all. But I’ll go to church today and wait for You to make things new again.”

This morning didn’t “feel” so different from yesterday. But perhaps there is something that slowed down the pace of my busy and anxious heart. Calming down my nerves and clearing up my thoughts to be able to capture words this moment and tell of this memory that sat quite cozily in my heart today.


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