“Are you Jewish?”

these flowers have nothing to do with this post, just thought it needed a little color, and since Crysthemums are a favorite of mine, and the flower for my November birthday

these flowers have nothing to do with this post, just thought it needed a little color. Chrysanthemums are a favorite of mine, and the flower for November birthdays, so they seemed appropriate. Check out last year’s “In Defense of November And Sweet Potato Soup.”

My husband Mike, the propane mr-fix-it guy, goes into people’s homes to fix appliances. Over the years he has grown fond of many customers he sees regularly, not only for fix-its, but for the annual maintenance service Sunshine Propane offers its customers. He has seen customers go through the usual life changing events we all experience – illnesses, travels, deaths of spouses and partners, retirements, job changes, kids growing up, grandkids being born. So it was not unusual when at the home of a couple in the midst of a crisis, a distressed wife began telling  him of her husband being taken to the hospital in an ambulance the night before for an apparent heart attack.  Mike listened sympathetically, then said, “I will pray for him.” She responded, “are you Jewish?”, to which Mike answered, “I’m Hindu” (not sure why he gave that answer, except our particular spiritual path draws from the teachings of the Christian Bible and the Hindu Bhagavad Gita).  She said, “Well, I guess that’s good too. We have Catholics, Presbyterians, and Methodists praying but no Jewish people.”

This story has been a sweet favorite of ours since it happened, several years ago.  In her despair, she wanted to make sure all bases were covered, (no doubt not thinking of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and the multitude of other religions and spiritual traditions she may not have been familiar with.) It was ok with her if her husband received Hindu prayers! Of course one’s particular church, religion, or spiritual beliefs are not what’s important, what is important is the positive focus, with intention, asking for healing and the best outcome for the one being prayed for.

Recently I wrote in an email to friends, many of whom are not ‘religious’ but want to offer support, “some of you don’t ‘pray’ per se……for those of us who have a relationship with God, Great Spirit, Divine Mother….praying ‘to’ whatever divine manifestation we attune with connects us to a greater power. But positive affirmations tossed to the wind, the sun, the ocean, a tree, a totem animal…..wherever you feel a connection, is fabulous! Works for me!”.  

As I count down the days until I have a mastectomy, I, like the woman in the story, want to cover all the bases! Tonight, while talking about support from others, Mike, who is feeling the spousal worry and concern of his customer, said “but is there anyone Jewish praying for you?”.  We both laughed. A lighter moment shared. During my ‘good moments’ I feel, and greatly appreciate, the blessings and love that come from various people and places as I face this life changing surgery and the unknown that lays beyond it.  During my ‘bad moments’, I feel scared, alone, and experience the stages of grief one goes through when losing part of their body and facing a potentially life ending challenge. IMG_0305 A myriad of doctor appointments, tests, biopsies, etc. have pulled me out of my “home” environment and into the city, clinics, and hospitals. When home I’ve been too tired, achy and ill to do much except pick away at the paper work and tasks involved in wrapping up my mother’s life (an interesting expression, but that’s for another post!).

Yesterday, we took a deliciously long walk along the Dosewallips River in a gray drizzle, watching the rushing water as it lapped along the river banks, inches from flood stage.  I felt “at home” for the first time in weeks, maybe months.  In a large puddle I noticed a reflection of curved light and looking up saw a faint, but distinctive rainbow. A moment later our heads turned from the fading rainbow as the screech of an eagle flying over caught our attention. Walking to a stream next to the river, we unintentionally disturbed a Great Blue Heron hunting in the rushes.  In the dim light of a late November day, skies gray with cloud cover, the only colors muted tones of dull winter greens and shades of brown, we stood a long time as the drizzle became a light rain and watched American Dippers splash and bop in the cold water. It was such a comfort. I slept better last night than I had in weeks. Thank you Mother Nature for your prayer. And thank you readers, friends, for any prayers you feel inclined to offer on my behalf….of any faith, to any Divine Being…..or to the wind and the rushing river.

This is the same spot in the river I sat and wrote about the "Girl In The Purple Swimsuit", in fact where I sat is well underwater!"

This is the same spot in the river I sat and wrote the “Girl In The Turquoise Swimsuit“, in fact where I sat is well underwater!”

Divine Mother Is Everywhere

I’ve had several essay ideas floating around my head lately, but the turn of events in my life has left me, at least tonight, with the desire, or need, to share a deeper part of myself. Warning: this is of a religious nature.

When we arrived in Seattle on this clear skied, below freezing day, I’d come to terms with the small lesion found in my breast, for which I was to get a biopsy. Due to ferry times, we arrived early with time to walk Abby.  While walking, we “stumbled” upon the back of a HUGE church in the midst of blocks of medical buildings. It was St James Cathedral.

I’d already decided on a lumpectomy and radiation, spoke yesterday with the same radiation doctor who 20 months ago, after a lumpectomy, told me he did not think I was a good candidate for radiation for other health reasons. I told him how for something so small I was willing to try it in lieu of a mastectomy. He assured me if there were clean margins on this lumpectomy he could keep the dose low. I felt I had a plan.

I’m sure I’ve seen St James from the front, years ago. I certainly have heard of it. But slipping in through the small nondescript side door, we were not prepared for the cavernous grandeur inside. With Abby tucked under my arm, we stood in awe in the warm, dimly lit serenity, such a contrast to the cold wind and bright sun outside. Even greater contrast to the scattered anxiety of my mind.

photos of St James from the internet

photos of St James from the internet. It was much darker when we were there today

After my morning appointment, imaging showed indicators of more cancer in my breast.  Now two biopsies were to take place today (one two weeks ago showed cancer in the sentinel lymph node). I asked for a break to gather my thoughts and emotions and talk with Mike. I had less than 45 minutes. I realized, confirmed by the doctor, the lumpectomy option was not likely to be an option.

After sitting in the cold parking garage, crying, hugging Abby, and eating the carrot soup we brought, we took a walk, the cold wind penetrating the layers of clothes we wore. Drawn back to the peacefulness of the cathedral, we again slipped in the side door. We only had a few minutes, but again, a wave of calm washed over us.

I am deeply spiritual, and my relationship with God is an important part of my life, but I was not raised Catholic. However, I’ve always loved the huge cathedrals, often built by the Catholic church, as well as smaller, humbler, churches. They contain a holy tranquility. A trip to Germany 28 years ago to visit my friend Shiva, a yoga instructor who has lived in Nuremberg all her life, included a pilgrimage to some of the most beautiful churches of Bavaria. Shiva knew them all, their architectural style, history, etc.  We saw beautiful small churches and grand cathedrals, most built thousands of years ago.

photo of Neresheim Abbey, one of the greatest baroque churches of Europe. internet.

photo of Neresheim Abbey, one of the greatest baroque churches of Europe, and my favorite on our church pilgimage . (internet photo).

What drew me in the most at St James was not the huge nave, but the small alcove next to the door we entered. It had a lovely statue of Mary. To me, Mary, and the women saints of all religions, is a human manifestation and reminder of the love and compassion of Divine Mother. Happening upon this little alcove in this huge cathedral, on this challenging, emotional, mind numbing day, reminded me the Divine (or whatever is your preferential name for Spirit) is everywhere, in everything, in every event. photo Self consciously, I lit a candle, for myself. And cried.

I don’t know my future, the decisions I’ll need to make, the treatments I’ll go through. Like anyone facing cancer, I have fears, I’ve had too many friends die of cancer to not consider that possibility. I’m concerned about Mike.

The unexpected turn of events in my life, after years of caring for my mom as she declined, has left me numb, angry, scared.  But the peaceful calm I felt walking through that side door gave me a small glimmer, and a rather grand reminder, there can be unexpected peace even in the eye of the storm.

(For readers who knew my mom, and did not know she passed, there is a memorial page for her here: Ruth Hubbard)