Things fall apart
I thought I was cool about death until this just-past Sunday afternoon when it looked like I’d lost all the music stored on the computer. Long time friend David said it looked like I’d aged five years. Music, as it turns out, means a lot more to me than I’d previously realized, and if recorded music means this much, my mind raced… Regardless of how it happened or–since the future is still in the future, how it turns out–the realization that the music could not be found in either My Music or Windows Media Player and that there were almost five hundred new icons on my desktop that refused to be united into one file prayerfully named “Saved” initiated a rapid fire set of emotional changes that I became conscious of only several hours later. The initial shock of this it-seemed irreversible disaster instantly transmuted into pain, fear then sadness. Next soul self-preservation kicked in to hide the poor-me’s under an armor of anger. If that weren’t enough, Mr. O-So-Sensitive-And-Considerate Me then conned himself into believing he’d hid the anger behind quiet calm. The truth was revealed when, desperately wanting no more than to hug and be hugged by my loving wife, the anger arose to shove her away.
Sunday evening I hid out, reading Martha R. Jacobs’ so far wonderful book, A Clergy Guide to End-of-Life Issues and to fill out a Living Will and a Health Care Proxy as required by my Foundations of Chaplaincy program. (Did I mention I’m studying Foundations of Chaplaincy with the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care?) I did these with ease. Hiding out always works for me.
Things come together
Four days earlier Harvey, my buddy-of-the-month in the Foundations program, said praying is his exercise in true humility. Reality, for us who believe in Divinity and practice Zen, is God. Accepting reality–and, yes, the feelings that go along with it–then moving on is the healing and the goal. Reading A Clergy Guide I realized this. Don’t ask me how. I don’t know. I just know I did. The tightness in my chest and the nausea flipping around in my belly, my body’s reactions to the “music crisis,” and my emotional response to it–that tightness and that nausea both vanished! There I suddenly was, sitting on the far end of the couch feeling like I’d discovered for myself the truth of Saint Theresa’s pronouncement, “All the way to heaven is heaven.”
The connection in all this was this: reading Jacobs’ understanding of the woman who believed deeply that just touching Jesus’ garment would heal her, would make her whole. Jacobs underlines the woman’s role: she had to ask for help. She had to display faith for the healing to take place. My Mom loved to say that God helps those who help themselves. Whether I look to the Divine or to Energy or to my local clinic for help, I must first see the need for it. Then I must be open to the healing that is offered. I must see that gift as help whether or not it takes the form of what I’d wanted or expected.
As for me and, I suspect, all others, the help will always be there, and it will always be on me–us–to get past the shock, fear, anger and cover-up bullshit to recognize it. Sometimes we’ll succeed. Sometimes not. We are, after all, only human.
This is faith.