Saturday, July 13, 2013

the hardships of red-haired mystics

You have helped me learn to see,
That love is strong when I am weak,
The beautiful humility, 
Of being willing to receive.
--Danielle Rose, "Not a Burden"

Girish* said: I wake up everyday and say, 'Why, God? Let me go.'
Girish can barely sit up, and as I crouch next to him, the twenty-something-ish-invincible-picture-of-health, do I have the audacity or stupidity to say that if I was in his shoes, I would say anything different?
My prayer would be the prayer of Girish.
I can't take away the pain, nor can I step inside his shoes, as he begged, and experience someone feeding me potato curry and rice. But one day I may be older, and unable to walk, and possibly hooked to a catheter. 
I don't know what it would take for me to want to be alive then, in the midst of dull, perpetual days of pain.
But I do know that I would want someone to know my story.
And so I stepped inside Girish's shoes, and told him what I think I maybe would have wanted to hear. 
How could I know what I will want to hear forty years from now, as I, too, sit by my bedside and wait for someone to feed me, or adjust my pillow to slightly ease the awful gnawing of pain.
I don't know if words can heal, but sometimes they can be little Band-Aids to cover the open wounds of pain.
So, finally not lost for words, I looked Girish straight in the eyes, and said: Girish, your soul is full of stories. 
Your soul is full of stories.
And he nodded, and his eyes brightened.

Sometimes all you can do is offer someone a Band-Aid, as pathetic an offering as that may be.
Because it is not my love that has saved the world.

As any psalmist can tell you, the mystery of pain has an unspeakable answer that lies in the silent heart of God alone.
There are no words for it.
But as humans, we have been laid with the Sisyphean burden of attempting to make meaning of our lives.  Faced with a riddle, we find that to turn and to ignore the challenge is not an option.
So, the psalmist leads by example, and cries out day and night to the plaintive strumming of a lyre.
He never stops--he sings when his heart breaks, he sings when his heart leaps,
and somewhere in the midst of his singing, he has sung his way into an answer of sorts.
At least for the moment.
For as human beings, we march like the little tribe of ants marching on the wall by my bed from moment-to-moment. We hold each moment with us, while letting it go, consecrating it as a precious gem of memory; but casting it back into the sea, returning it to eternity, its origin and source.
And the psalmist, like a green olive tree, flourishes in his song.
And as he writes his story, he learns, even as he writes, the story of Love entering his life and molding something beautiful from it.
What are we without our stories?
Sister Nirmala looked at each one of us, and said: Everyone has a story of God's love in their lives--you, and you, and you, and you...

How on earth can we find it in our broken hearts to believe we are loved when we live each day like Girish in perpetually gnawing pain?
I looked into Lilly's endless dark eyes, and wondered what her story was, and how I would ever learn it.
Her rare smile opened up like her namesake flower, and there was palpable sunlight sparkling in her eyes.
Her beautiful curls had been cut off the other day, and with her closely shaven head, she looked like a little lamb.
I helped her try to hold the toy in her hand, repeatedly opening and closing, practicing how to make a fist with fingers that never fully bent.
In that moment I knew how alike Lilly and I were. 
Our stories may be very different on the outside, but on the inside, I realized, they are much the same.

Maybe the story of love that reside in our souls, or in the souls of our neighbors can be simple little lights for us when all other lights are dark.

Mary sat before the feet of the Lord, the only utterance possible-- a belch.
Mary stood on the shores of the sea, and wept with the bitterest Joy, because the salt air tasted vaguely like home and also something akin to eternity.
Mary stood with her sister Martha and no one saw Martha, because she was busy with many things.
Martha talked more than she listened, while Mary glowed with the quiet radiance of silence.
Condolences to all Marthas with ginger tresses;
they will never see you run out to greet your Lord.

*Ed. Note: I originally misspelled Girish's name [which is somewhat fitting, since I always mispronounced it]

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