Threshold of Revelations: Job's Lament
After watching the movie, it was time to go up to bed. This was something that annoyed me. Asshat couldn't make it up stairs without help so my mother would have to help her boyfriend up, not one, but two flights of stairs all the while also lugging his air tanks all because he refused to have things set up in the bedroom. Why? Because he things to be the way they were. He still didn't accept that things were never, ever going to be the way they were again. He was trying to cling to his life as a healthy person, and while he was still alive, his life as a healthy person was already over.
I went up ahead of them to have a little bit of a snack before bed. While I was in the kitchen I head the two of them talking. I had thought they had gone up, but no. Asshat was sitting in a rocking chair by stairs (placed there by my mother for this reason), he was struggling to breathe and saying to my mother "Why is God doing this to me? Why is God doing this to me?" My mother was bent over him trying to soothe him.
Like Job, he isn't asking for his suffering to end, just for a reason. The universal question, "Why me?" Of course the answer is "It is not your place to question or understand. It is your place to accept." On some level, it's a practical answer. God isn't going to open the clouds a la Monty Python and Holy Grail and say "Well, here's the reason." So just accepting what is happening seems like the best advice. And could there even be a reason good enough?
I've struggled with the why question myself. The type of cancer I had was idiopathic* up until a few years ago. Then, thanks to the human genome project, the cause was discovered-a random malformation of a single gene. Pure chance, bad fucking luck, that was it. Now I had the answer. Did I feel anymore satisfied?
Absolutely not. So while I understand the cautionary tale of Job, I also know the advice offered is absolutely impossible to take.
I felt almost assaulted by the intimacy between them. My mother had soothed me in rocking chairs as a child. She had rocked with me as I wailed from ear infections and strep throat until I calmed down. Now she was doing it again with her boyfriend. They didn't even notice me standing there before I ran back into the kitchen to pour myself a large glass of ultra calming vodka.
My initial reaction was pure rage. I sat in the kitchen, seething. I wanted to be God's proxy and say, "Listen you chucklehead, this has nothing to do with me.
YOU CHOSE TO SMOKE LIKE A CHIMNEY FOR 40 YEARS AND YOU'RE SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER so sorry your spin on the roulette wheel didn't at all work out. But it's not like divine providence forced you to smoke. This is the result of your own deliberate decisions. Not to mention, you've had a fantastic life for the last 60 years. Do you know how many people (including the 30 year old in the next room) would GLADLY suffer from lung cancer if they could only have half the life you have had? More than that tiny brain of yours could probably handle. So do me a favor. Accept your own culpability. Appreciate what you have while you still fucking have it. Now, if you don't mind you self centered prick, I now have to go listen to the prayers of some parents with infants in NICU."
Now I know this reads like David Mamet rewriting the Bible.
Part of my rage came from the fact that I got six months of health. Six months. Not sixty years. Not even one year. And my cancer wasn't brought on by my own acts. I was filled with a lot of righteous "HOW DARE HE?!"
But underneath that rage was the horror of watching my mother witness this. That she went through this every night, and she would continue to go through it until the end. The tremendous strength of her to do this, uncomplaining, unflinching.
Part of the reason it takes me so long to write these entries is I end up sobbing every time I write about this. I didn't cry when my father died. Not one tear. Not even at the funeral listening to my mother cry behind me. Where did that girl go? What is it about this?
How many times did my mother soothe me in a rocking chair while I wondered why God, who I believed in at that point, had done this to me? How many times did I think an answer to that question would be better than a cure? How many times do I hate myself for struggling up a flight of stairs? Every time. Every step. Feeling absolutely helpless-a victim of my own body. My body-the enemy. That antagonist that had to be fought and who retaliated with pain. And now I was reliving it by watching someone else go through it.
In the end, I stayed in the kitchen until the rage subsided. Afterwards I walked out the front door. It was a beautiful night outside. It was cool and clear. So many stars that it was shocking. I forgot what the night looks like in the country. The frogs, toads, crickets, grasshoppers, and other assorted critters were making a near deafening racket. I sat outside and felt sad that instead of enjoying the simple pleasure of the night, we stayed inside and watched a movie. Out here simple mindless life is going on-stars sparkling, crickets chirping-without any awareness of what was happening in the house, without any concern. The crickets and the stars had no answer except to keep going until you can no longer. Keep going.
* idiopathic means there is no known cause for the disorder
Labels: cancer, death, dying, god, lung cancer
Bad Bunni posted at 8/01/2010 11:55:00 PM