Saturday, June 21, 2008

June 20, 2008 - At the General Assembly

I’m in California, attending the Presby- terian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly in San Jose, and staying with my brother Dave at his loft apartment near Berkeley.

The General Assembly is a great place for reunions with friends from around the church. In the exhibit area, I encounter Barb, a friend of ours from the days when I served as assistant dean and director of admissions at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Iowa. I hadn’t seen nor talked to Barb for four years – since the last General Assembly I attended, actually.

Barb hasn’t heard of my cancer history, so I fill her in. She updates me on a health crisis she faced, as well – about the same time as I was undergoing chemo, it turns out. In her case, it was a kidney infection that turned into a blood infection that nearly killed her. It was touch and go for a while.

Barb is a spiritual director, and interested in healing ministries. She’s a leader in the Order of St. Luke, an ecumenical community of Christians who practice healing prayer. She tells me in some detail how, as she was lying in a hospital bed, drifting in and out of consciousness, she had a vision of descending into a sort of dark cavern, that she was sure would lead to her death. Then, she felt the power of countless prayers of believers who were praying for her. Those prayers were like strong arms grabbing hold of her and pulling her back up into the light.

She wasn’t afraid to die. She felt oddly indifferent to that possibility. I tell her I had something of the same feeling around the time of my initial diagnosis, when the thought hit me that my life could be significantly shorter. I felt sadness over experiences I would have missed, but as for death itself, “It is what it is, and if that’s what it is, so be it,” I tell her.

Barb acknowledges she felt much the same.

Barb was in her late 70s at the time she was going through this. I was 49. Yet, I don’t think age has a whole lot to do with it. Our experiences were similar.

We look at one another, slowly nodding our heads. We’ve been to the same far country, and the journey has changed us, in ways we’re still coming to understand.

And some think the General Assembly is only about ecclesiastical politics...

3 comments:

Susan Carrier said...

There's nothing better than meeting up with someone who understands.

Carlos ("Carl") said...

Yeah, sometimes I think we oughta have a secret Cancerworld handshake or something.

Mp3 said...

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