I followed a Minneapolis Transit Bus to work today. On the back of it was a widely smiling woman. She had that look born of well-tending and well-loved and the ad had this to tell me and the city. The woman in the picture wanted us to know about”her” cancer, and her fine doctor and fine health care system and she was happy it seemed to speak of all three with words of possession akin to those used when introducing others to the complex thing that is our being.
But oh, it made for a catch in my heart. This radiant sales smile in the same frame as the word “cancer”.
This is so because I have a dear friend who is riddled with same. A more courageous heart in the fight for justice and meaning in life could not be found. And he is battling the faceless divide that is cancer. And I am furious and heartbroken and left with the awareness of my own mortality.
Some day that woman on the bus could be me. It is my friend. It is the too many of this world.
When is it this “too much” with which we live in our culture, this terror of abundance run amok in our cells; when will our penchant for more and bigger and better be named as the deadly that it is? When will we learn to claim things worthy of being plastered on the back of buses, things like “my rest, my serenity, my peace, my temple-of-the-Holy body”?
We will claim these things. And through the march that is cancer into the lives and flesh of our beloveds, we will give thanks for places of healing and holding and we will know that even now we can lay claim to that which is truly “ours”: The right now. The smell of peonies and the sweet of the rain and the blessing of hearts that hold us when we hurt and the power of shared prayer showered over our beloveds as they work with their God-given bodies for healing.
I don’t begrudge the woman her smiles. I begrudge the claiming and owning of a thing like cancer.