Like a continental divide, my life flowed between Before and After.
Before college, writing, marriage, babies, grandchildren. Before glasses. Before Young Life. Before Jim. Before was always framed by a potential happily-ever-after, even when threads of chaos, uncertainty, disappointment and worry fringed the borders of change.
When we’re talking about before and after metastatic breast cancer, the conversation changes tone.
Finding that hard speck in my breast that resulted in a mastectomy three years ago was traumatic and life-changing. Treatments provided a pervasive element of hope on the part of those aggressively treating me.
They thought they succeeded. I did, too. I honestly didn’t think about cancer, except for taking daily medication to thwart its return.
Now I’m receiving more treatments and completed palliative radiation.
It reduced tumors that caused a fracture, with the unspoken understanding that radiation isn’t likely to change the trajectory of the disease.
When I worked in long-term health care I heard nurses speak of residents with “mets to the bone” (or lungs or brain) — meaning cancer that originated in one part of the body migrated elsewhere. Those patients weren’t expected to live.
But there’s more to my story than survival rates. For one thing, I keep hearing hope-generating stories, like a phone call just now from a family friend whose husband lived 40 years longer than expected. How’s that for a biblical number!
The peace that’s mine may be why folks tell me I look good; peace that comes from God’s indwelling Spirit. No doubt if I lost my inner calm, I’d no longer receive those encouraging comments.
My peace comes from the sustaining friendship of the Trinity, from having a seat at the Divine table, not in the sweet by and by, but in the here and Now.
Peace also comes from knowing Now is the best part of my story.
Now is where I live, it’s my local address. Living Now is pivotal to the totality of my health. It’s why I spontaneously told my hubby the other day, “I love my life!”
At this moment I’m seated on our deck at a glass table with my laptop open, sheltered from steady rain splattering drops inches from my bare feet, resting on another padded chair. The heavy greenness of midsummer soaks deep into my inner being. Slipping out of chronological time, I find myself in a karios moment.
Karios is Greek for an appointed time that is in sync with God’s grace-filled purposes. St. Paul wrote, “... please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us … now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped.” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2 Message Bible)
Unlike linear order, karios moments are always in the Now.
As if on cue, thunder vibrates the air.
Air. Since learning about a tiny lesion on my right lung, I’m more conscious of breathing.
It’s why I went to Bethany Retreat Center, where presenter Anne Kertz Kernion said breathing is the primary activity connecting us physically to mindful inner peace. It has a rainbow of spiritual dimensions.
In. Out. Deceptively simple.
God’s breath, His Pneuma — His Spirit — fills my lungs, expanding my diaphragm and my destiny.
Thomas Merton wrote in “Thoughts on Solitude,” “Every moment of existence is a grace, every breath is a gift.” If I concentrate on what may come next or mull over past griefs, I miss the gift of this breath.
At my seventh birthday party, every little girl gave me bubble bath.
Ever since, the words “birthday gift” take me back to sitting on our green wool living room carpet, opening glass bottle after bottle of bath powder, all of which made me sneeze. Although I said thank you, I didn’t feel thankful on the inside! Now every breath is a gift, bringing fresh meaning to the word.
When I’m aware of this breath, of the life-giving energy in it, I’m experiencing Now.
I was already reading “Walden” when Anne mentioned Thoreau on our retreat — as if God was preparing me for new ways to view creation, myself, His goodness.
Thoreau said something I’m pondering: “Affecting the quality of the day is the highest of arts.”
Let that soak in, like rain. The earth doesn’t understand showers, yet accepts them without question.
When Jim’s hand brushes mine, it affects the quality of my day.
When I pluck fading zinnias so new buds will flourish, it affects the quality of earth.
When we’re awestruck by fireflies and distant galaxies, praises ripple throughout the universe and angels do high-fives in heavenly agreement.
When I live in the gift of Now, I’m saying Yes to God.
All will be well.