J Walking

J Walking

Living Bare

Over the past few years, as I’ve lived with the brain tumor in my head, I’ve come across two fellow travelers – people who know, uniquely, the experience of living a life where your brain has already been picked.
One woman, Alicia Sky Kunerth, as diagnosed with the worst of all possible brain tumors in 2002. The other gentleman was diagnosed with a less aggressive tumor in 2004. The latter man, David Welch, started a website called dedicated to spreading information and news about his own journey and about brain tumors in general.
This week each of them received news. One that they are tumor-free and the other that they are dying and nothing more can be done for them.
Sky is tumor-free. David is dying.
My mind doesn’t know how to assimilate this news. I am SO happy for Sky. SO happy. She has lived her life so fully these years since diagnosis. Frankly, I want to be more like her – and not just in the medical sense.
But I am also so sad about David. Just so very, very sad.
Logically, of course, I understand. In understand the differences between us are just as distinct as the differences between everyone reading this and the child who died just now of malnutrition or starvation or preventable disease. I understand the difference between lives spared and lives lost. My mind gets that.
I suppose it is my heart… my soul… that doesn’t get it.
Recently I was told a story about Steven Curtis Chapman, the Christian musician who lost his young daughter in an accident. A friend who went to the viewing at the funeral home brought his teenage daughter. When Steven saw her he bent down and looked into her eyes and said, “God is not surprised by this. God is not surprised.” My friend’s daughter crumpled in his arms, a bawling girl in a grieving father’s arms.
I think, however, Steven has it right. God is not surprised. God grieves. God mourns. God shares our grief. But but he is not surprised. And he has been here before… it was God, after all, who grieved over losing his own Son… and he knew the end of the story.
This is what faith is ultimately about… not always understanding, but always believing that there is the One who does understand.
So I sit typing on my keyboard with a snoring Newfie sprawled out next to me, five-and-a-half-years after being diagnosed feeling a bit blue but generally quite fine – I ran for the first time in ages yesterday… and made a coffee cake too… the former made me feel like I could indulge in the latter… never knew how easy it was to make that crumbly part on top… potentially a bad thing to discover… rejoicing in the God who is greater than this universe no matter what the news might be, laid bare by the certainty of his love.

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posted November 10, 2008 at 11:15 am

That’s putting your troubled brain to good purpose. By which I mostly mean the crumbly stuff on the coffee cake, but the thought and poetry too.

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posted November 10, 2008 at 5:17 pm

Nice to have you back. Sorry about the blues. Coffee Cake is a nice thing to make when you are feeling down.
I am relieved the election is over. The second I voted I felt relieved, released to live with the outcome no matter what.
I was in Rockefeller Plaza on election night. It was a fantastic experience to be in the middle of a history making event. The energy was unbelievable.
As with everything there is work ahead of us. How do we pull the country back together? Can I reconcile with the woman who called me evil and said I didn’t know Jesue bec. of my vote? I don’t know. I’ll get back to you on that one.

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Larry Parker

posted November 10, 2008 at 5:37 pm

A G-d who is never surprised by tragedy strikes me as a G-d who doesn’t console, but Himself may be inconsolable; who is not joyous, but ineffably possesses a profound sadness.
If G-d is the Alpha and the Omega, this may all make sense in some cosmic level; and G-d may contain all of these contradictions at once. But it’s hardly comforting to we humble humans.
My prayers for David Welch.

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posted November 10, 2008 at 5:52 pm

I just read the latest post (by his brother) on David W.’s Web site. And I immediately prayed for him. I’m hopeful that his steroid treatments will deliver a window of improvement to him and his family.
I can understand David K.’s blues.
I heard an amazing homily on the radio a couple of Sunday’s ago. The topic was All Soul’s Day. It’s a Catholic homily, and the topic of Purgatory comes up; but you certainly don’t need to embrace Purgatory to be comforted by the broader message concerning the afterlife — and the connection we retain to those we temporarily say goodbye to. I’ve just posted this homily on my Web site, and I invite everyone to take a listen:
The homily was delivered by Monsignor Don Fischer of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Richardson, Tx.

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posted November 11, 2008 at 11:43 am

Acedia – old word – not depression exactly, not sloth, not laziness – just an inability to go forward – energy is low. Kathleen Norris – the great spiritual writer – just finished a second work about acedia. I must read it.

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posted November 11, 2008 at 8:47 pm

We live on borrowed time, borrowed body, borrowed relationship..
When we are borned, time continues to fade away, as we get older and hopefully wiser.
Every minute past is every minute lost, and every minute alive is every minute extra.
Strong attachment to transcient things will only create more suffering. Whether we are attached to our body, our health, our friends, our family, our money, our careers, all will be gone on our final day. But not being attached does not mean giving up. Every thing has its purpose, its way of life, and its objectives to fullfill.
So what’s yours? How does one lead a meaningful life? Are we wasting our life away all the time?
I guess the best approach is to do our best in whatever karma brings us.

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Albert the Abstainer

posted November 12, 2008 at 6:06 am

It is of course not possible to adequately answer the crying of the heart for an answer. That heart must grieve and become naked, taken to the desert where after a time of pouring out all of itself the intimacy of silence becomes a presence. Then, the answer that is not an answer but is pure intimate presence is.
In one way shape or form we learn how to die to become empty. As a rich man pushes through the eye of a needle, everything falls away until there is nothing but the dross on one side, and nakedness on the other. Death is the eye of the needle.

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posted November 17, 2008 at 12:03 pm

God grieves. God weeps. God feels pain.
As a pastor, one of the things I cringe at, particularly when discussing death, are those well meaning souls who will tell us about “God’s will.”
It was not and is not God’s will that we die. That was never part of the plan. It is a regrettable consequence of The Fall. But when Adam and Eve were created “in God’s image”, I believe that part of the image they received from God was immortality.
So when anyone dies, I think it breaks God’s heart. I think his reaction must be something along the lines of, “It was never supposed to be this way…”

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