Beliefnet
Rod Dreher

How do you know you’re at a hospital in south Louisiana? At the coffee shop, during Carnival season they sell king cake by the slice. I got a kick out of that today, and was pleased and comforted to see so many people walking around this Ash Wednesday with a smudge on their foreheads.
No news today re: my sister’s condition. More testing. Tomorrow we’ll know something firm. Thank you all so much for your kind wishes left in the combox thread, and sent to me privately. They mean so much. I especially love how churches all over the country are praying for Ruthie by name. The show of support is overwhelming to my family, and we can’t find the words to express thanks.
UPDATE: Food for thought from the poet Scott Cairns’ new book on pain and suffering:

Faced with personal affliction, immediate pain — the prospect of cancer, or heart disease, or the heartrending loss of someone we love — most of us respond wisely, with something like a chastened, sober, more circumspect life. I remember the words
of a wise monk I happened to meet very briefly on Mount Athos near the end of his life; he was fully aware that he was dying of cancer, and had once comforted his (and my) beloved friend Stelios by saying to him that “paradise is filled with men and women whose cancer saved their lives.”
This is quite a radical perspective, no?
Shocking as his words may sound to us nowadays, I am inclined to think that the Athonite father had an uncommonly keen sense of certain facts that most of us dimly apprehend. While we may be tempted to respond to such final pains with bitterness,
disappointment, and resentment, I’ve personally known dozens who have seized this opportunity to become the men and women that they had, in their deepest hearts, long desired to be. It was as if their imminent deaths freed them from petty, distracted lives, and freed them into greater, genuine living — however briefly.

Cairns then quotes from a poem Raymond Carver wrote not long before he died of cancer in 1988. It’s called “Gravy,’ and it follows the jump:


No other word will do. For that’s what it was.Gravy.

Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving, and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure Gravy. And don’t forget it.”

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