This morning Sabine woke up with tears in her eyes.
Of course I was immediately worried as we are deep into our second round of chemotherapy and I get a little excited when she seems troubled or hurt. "Are you okay?" I asked. She said she was.
Then she went on to explain to me about what she was feeling during the night and what had brought her to tears. She said it was the situation she experiences sometimes when people look at her and she see sadness and sympathy in their eyes. And this makes her sad.
But it's not that she feels sad for herself, but for those who are feeling sad for her. She thinks that if people feel sad it should be for themselves and not for her. What cancer has given her is a "razor's edge awareness" with regards to the importance of life and relationships.
In short, this has led to her heightened sense of spiritual awareness and given her this kind of deep perception and empathy.
She wants others to be able to feel the awareness she now has of life's preciousness. She senses that those who are sad for her don't really "get it!" And if they did really get it, they would place more importance on TODAY, this moment, and less on the trivial pursuits which engage most of us.
I know this may sound like a "cancer is a blessing" lecture, but it isn't intended to be so. The fact is that there still is a tremendous amount of fear and sadness regarding the future of our life together -- but if we let the fear and sadness become the center of our life, that, too, will be a distraction from the great spiritual truths we both are being shown; that will become our own "trivial pursuit."
We also talked about some reading I have been doing concerning the Buddhist practice of Tonglen; which is, as I understand it, a breathing/meditative practice in which a person breathes in the despair, pain, even disease of others, and breathes out that person's healing as a gift. I can also see Tonglen as a form of guided imagery a good part of the Judeo-Christian theology of the "suffering servant" in Isaiah as well as Jesus' sacrifice on the cross to save the world.
I remarked to her the I sensed she was doing this, taking on the pain of others in this deep feeling of compassion.
Now this all may sound a little heavy and it's difficult to explain (perhaps I should write a poem?), but the journey that is presented to us we know is a journey that simply will not end with death. So, we find ourselves in Holy Week, experiencing the deep intimacy of our relationship (a "last" supper?), the shadow of the Good Friday cross, and our own promised Easter resurrection.
In a strange way, life has become more vibrant and luminous -- it has become even better than it was. And it was pretty good to start with!
Our friend from Portage, John Wroten, spend over six months in a coma in which he had a significant spiritual experience and he become, literally, a new man. Last week, John shared with us his "six-word life story" which says it all:
Felt God's touch, life changed forever.