Monday, December 19, 2011


Me in the Dining Room of my parents' house
This morning I woke up in my parents' house: the house I grew up in.  Being here with my parents has been an awesome, beautiful time, but I am sharply aware of being separated from Mario, who is with his brother, Anthony, in a hospice clinic in Tempe, Arizona.

I'm still feeling the slow jet-lag, occupied with nagging thoughts of Anthony and his pain... and emotionally antipating reuniting with Mario today at the Sacramento Airport. 

So, when I woke, I reached for my Bible, knowing I should.  I instantly corrected myself.  Why should I feel like I have to spend time with God?  In this case I gave myself a break, knowing my attitude may not match perfection in the heart, but God would meet me.  After all, back home Mario (preferring to study on the peaceful back porch) make concious decisions to spend time with me.  His perfunctory gestures are easy for me to accuse or to see through, but in his heartm these gestures are born out of a sincere desire to keep our relationship alive, so I accept them.  It is in times like these, that we often end up sharing our hearts, or laughing, or in other ways -- enjoying each other.  What had begun as duty has ended up in intimacy.  So are my quiet times with God. 

This morning, I read Isaiah 55, the mainstay of God's amazing promises and love to His people.  In it, the comfort of His love washed over me, and I relaxed into the knowledge that God has our whole lives in His plan, His hands.  In the familiar onion skin of my travel Bible's pages, I hear the voice of my Father, encouraging me, assuring me. 

After this, still being too early to stir in my parents' house, I returned to reading a short story I had begun the night before: Goose Pond by Thomas Williams.  It is about a 58 year-old man, Thomas Hurley,  who has just lost his wife to cancer and returns to his childhood home to "wander the woods", and to grieve her death.  In its deep corners, Goose Pond tells of a man's grief process, deep and full of regret, unable to help his dying wife in her pain, unable to stop the terrible destruction of cancer. 

The story gripped me from start to finish.

Because of Mario being back with Anthony, being able to see the destruction of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma on his body,  and being virtually unable to do anything, Goose Pond hit a deep part in my heart.  It also gave me empathy for men, their desire to be strong and to fix things, rather than to "be there" or to "share their feelings" or "get real" with the family who is doing the same near-by. 

In our conversations on the phone, Mario is riddled with pains of being unable to stop the destroying effects of mutant cells bent on destruction.  His prayers are fervent, and full of faith, and in the middle of a vigil of watching over his younger brother, who weighs about 110 pounds now.  His face and skin are unrecognizable to Mario, used to seeing his brother a like-image of himself: strong, baby-faced and wryly humorous.

As I listen from the living room where I spent my youth, Mario outlines a detail of horrific change and non-change.  The slow advance of the disease in its final stages have not altered Anthony's awareness of what's going on.  He is still inside Anthony, and recognizes Mario and all others, knows what is happening and sees the outcome of death as a possibility if God doesn't heal him in the final stages.  His time  with Mario has been a blessing of brotherly love that has gone for years unspoken between them. 

Mario says that leaving will be traumatic.  

I finally decided to get up and write all of this down, purging in a way that I know how.  I rose from the hide-a-bed, got on my mother's bath-robe and looked at myself in the mirror.  I smiled at my reflection. 

I actually look like my mom, greeting me as I wake up in the morning.