Today, for many Christians, begins the Triduum, the holiest period of the Christian year. Awful night last night — anxiety dreams about my sister and her cancer. Images of me walking on broken glass with bare feet, trying to get back home to Louisiana, but lost. I was in the ruins of an inner-city black Pentecostal church, wandering around as the faithful were gathering to pray and sing, despite their poverty and desperation. I stopped to speak to a large black woman, and told her, “I can’t sing at all, and I can’t pray like you pray.” She just laughed sweetly at me — not making fun of me, but feeling sorry for me.
Then I was on a sort of open bus, barrelling through the darkness in a cold rain, taking me back home to St. Francisville. The bus stopped and left me out in the middle of nowhere. Somehow I made it home, and saw my sister curled up in an easy chair, sleeping, looking like she always did.
I woke up with an anxious “there’s been movement in the Force” feeling. I don’t know if this is an expression of my inner turmoil over Ruthie, and my deep concern for her, and frustration at feeling powerless to help her, or if there is a premonition here (I’ve had those kinds of dreams before). Whatever it is, it’s bad, and I don’t want to be at church this holiest weekend of the year. I want to take my prayer rope and go off into the woods somewhere by myself. Is that bad? I heard the other day from a friend who’s struggling with her little boy’s chronic illness, and she told me, “I know the right answers, but I’m still mad.” Meaning that she has the theologically correct arguments in her head, but that does nothing to settle her soul and to strengthen her heart.
This morning I phoned my folks on the drive in, to see if everything was okay with Ruthie. Nothing has changed, which is to say, things are as bad as ever, though Ruthie’s spirit, incredibly, never falters. All of us who love Ruthie feel so trapped by this, as if our backs were against the wall, and there’s no escape. Nothing to do but to endure, and hope and pray for the best. Still, it’s the powerlessness to help, or to take on some of her suffering through this chemotherapy, that is so agonizing for us bystanders. I feel as if I should be wanting to run to the church, but I find I really want to go into a cave. Meh.
“Stagger onward rejoicing.” Must remember to do that. I keep thinking that when Easter arrives, Ruthie will be well again, and we can all say, “Well, that was hard, but what a great learning experience! OK everybody, as you were.” But that’s not how it’s going to be, and I find the anticipatory joy of Easter utterly alien to me these days. Maybe I think too much.