Spring 2006 SLAM! - Congrats to the winners - see you all next time!
With a violent shrug of my shoulders, I dismissed God
or fate or genetics or whatever causes cancer.
There's unfair and then there's Dad telling me that the time
for doing artwork had passed. Chemo made his fingers
too numb to hold a pen long before he was imprisoned in bed.
“But don't worry,” he said, “The art will have a longer life.”
I was a forced eye-witness to the tortuous drain of Dad's life.
The enemy made him so deliriously weak that he talked to God
and recognized me only as a fiery, teeth-gritting angel at the side of his bed.
I was raging raw and a bit confused about why cancer
sometimes wins the battle. I held his hands gently but with fingers
filled with fury, ready to rip the disease away from him for the last time.
After the third diagnosis we knew it was only a matter of time.
It seemed that he had already been given five extra years of life,
when twice before he slapped back Death's greedy fingers.
He had become a grateful person. He was humble before God
in a way I couldn't understand. For him the cancer
brought an eerie peace, while I lay awake fuming over it in bed.
I wondered what it would be like if it was me on my death bed
with my husband emptying a colostomy bag time after time,
brushing my teeth, holding my wedding ring, as the same cancer
ripped through me. They say these things are hereditary. They say life
is fragile. They say “death and taxes.” They say I shouldn't blame God.
But who else is there? My mind taut, I worried knots in my fingers.
I was not at the hospice when Dad died. I arrived after his fingers
had gone cold, although he had not been moved from his bed.
I was only a couple hours late. The stillness, the serenity suggested that God
had been to his room. This was his work, and for the first time
I didn't feel He was in collusion with the enemy. Dad had a life,
a happy one, and nothing could erase that truth, not even cancer.
By the funeral I no longer felt the heavy tumor of anger, my cancer
of choice. Incinerated into ash, I buried it with Dad. Fingers
running through the loose dirt, I could practically feel new life
pulsing, the Earth churning out disease, turning remains into a bed
of perfectly healthy flowers. I found peace during that hard time.
I found an acceptance of mortality. I found awe in a new face, God.
I hope that if and when cancer forces me into a bed
I will remember to clench my fingers in faith, not defiance; cherish the time
I have left; and put the rest of my life in the hands of God.
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