My aunt is an artist and she has cancer. It’s a rare and aggressive kind. I know neither the specific details of her treatment nor what will happen. But it’s cancer. And cancer is always scary. I was thinking about something that I didn’t want to do this week, something that I was dreading, and then I thought that it’s nothing, nothing compared to what my aunt is going through. Everything else seems easy from the standpoint of cancer.
What is it like when you have cancer? Does your whole world go flat? What happens when you lose that “it could be worse” perspective that used to bring life into relief? Does everything in your life seem like it’s not where it’s supposed to be — what is distant is too immediately close, while what is truly near to you seems too far away?
I learned about the cancer straight from my aunt when I saw her on Christmas Day. I didn’t know what to say. She seemed her usual personable self, even though she had only just found out. Later, she began talking about a book that she had read, called Being Mortal, and about how we are so afraid of dying that we do the whole thing wrong. And I was impressed that she could talk about such serious things calmly and deeply while facing, perhaps, her own impending death. I saw the truth in her eyes as she said to me that she believed that God was giving her grace and that she was at peace.
So many questions have I…would I be so peaceful if I had cancer? Although I am curious about what it’s like to have cancer, this is one subject about which I never want to satisfy my curiosity. But…will I be so peaceful when my end nears from whatever cause? We all will die, of course, some time, of some thing, some how. Is anyone ever really ready to accept death — or even worse, I think, sometimes…to face the process of dying?
Like most of my father’s family, my aunt is Christian, but not Catholic. A couple of days before Christmas, she had asked my father on the telephone why I call myself a Catholic Writer and not a Christian Writer. If she had asked me, I would’ve said that Christian and Catholic are the same, but that, because I understand the importance of words, I did debate between the two in how best to describe myself. I might have told her that the main reason I chose “Catholic Writer” was in order to give a heads up to those Christians who don’t like Catholicism, so that they would know to expect writings about the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Assumption of Mary, the Eucharist, the Catechism, and so on in my work. When I saw her at Christmas, however, my aunt didn’t ask me that question. What she did say to me was that she has been reading my blog and that she believes in the same things that I have written about. I wasn’t surprised, although my guess is that she didn’t get to the part about the Assumption of Mary…but maybe she did. We are all Christian, after all, believing in the Mystery and power of God — believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and striving to live our lives in imitation of Him.
I know that it is with a Christian perspective that my aunt will face her cancer, whatever may come. When she suffers, I pray that she stands at the foot of the Cross and sees the proximity of her suffering and Christ’s. And when she fears, I pray that she sees and feels the infinite nearness of God’s love, trusting the whole layout of His plan. With this Christian perspective, she will not become deflated or flattened, she will not lose herself out of proportion. The light of Christ is what brings her life into high relief, making all of her days and nights round and full, giving clear relationship to everything around her, based on who she is.
Many of my favorite pieces in this blog are the ones that I write about being human, about our true identities as human beings. We are made for the divine. We are not made merely for the fulfillment of our own self-centered and finite desires. We are not made for comfort or convenience. We are made for love, true love, the fullness of love — and the fullness of true love is the receiving and giving of God’s love. We are not alone, we are never alone, for God loves us into being, intimately and infinitely, and gives us the ability to love in return. Forever. It is this relationship that puts everything else into the right place. And nothing can cause us to become unloved — nothing. And nothing can force us to become unloving, to lose ourselves, to lose our reason for being, to lose our joy — nothing. Not even cancer.
And if you are reading this, my dear artistic aunt, my prayer to God is that He will set you in the right place and help you to never lose divine perspective.
This is also my prayer for all of you, dear readers, for this new year, 2015!
© 2015 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.