Fear and hope, despair and wonder meditate side-by-side in my mind. I don’t know what to do with all of these feelings. And so, I come again to the page, this confessional, this banner in the sky.
After learning my younger brother is sick, I think about canceling a long-scheduled gathering of our Episcopal parish supper club. The last thing I want is a house full of cheerful people gathered around the piano singing Christmas carols. But Buck and I don’t cancel the supper. Instead, we clean house and make dinner.
Twelve guests arrive at 6 p.m. Sunday evening. The invitees include the regular group, plus our rector and his wife, along with another favorite couple.
These fellow travelers bring chocolates, music, wine, and stout, generous hearts that have gloried and suffered in this stunning adventure called life. They infuse me with renewed strength for the journey and mysteriously knock flat the spiritual cynicism that has recently become the amniotic fluid in which I float through life.
Two good friends, Patsy and Tom, bring us a music CD of the Choral Society of Pensacola performing Johannes Brahms’ German Requiem. Its power shakes me, blasts me apart, and puts me back together again. The music presses on my bruised places. Only later do I realize it is a poultice.
The Baritone soloist sings. . .
“Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.
Behold, thou hast made my days as an hand breadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee.
Surely every man walks in a vain show: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heaps up riches, and knows not who shall gather them.
And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee.
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God and there shall no torment touch them.”
I suck air sharply through my teeth, over chapped lips. My burning eyes are on fire. And yet, I feel joy. Strange. And for a moment, anyway, I feel part of something vast.
My brother is 55. His doctors believe he has bladder cancer. He will get the full pathology report, with staging and recommended treatment regimen on December 16. His young son, a second year college student majoring in History and Russian, is a gifted guitarist.
I talked with my brother this morning. This time of waiting is hard for him; for all of us. He is taking medication to control pain. But as he told me about the moral support of friends and family, their calls and cards, and conversations, it became clear that he feels more connected and loved right now than he has in many years. And that is something. It is not everything. But it is something.
We all held hands in a circle Sunday night while our Rector, Neal Goldsborough, offered a blessing before dinner. I looked at all those dear faces and wanted to drop to my knees and wash their feet.
Ivy played, while Betty, Patsy, Bob, Buck, Adele and others sang. We all hugged goodbye at the door. They thanked us for a lovely evening. In my heart, I continue to thank them for a loving evening. Seems to me they were a dozen-strong strike force of angels on a mission.