I belong to a women’s writing group. We meet Fridays for two hours and take turns giving prompts. The only instructions are to write as fast as you can without editing and stop when the timer goes off.
The prompt this time had to do with dreams of traveling after the COVID pandemic. I started out: “I dream of traveling, though it still seems so far away. I dream of good health and an end to this pandemic. And then stark reality interrupts my dreams.”
What was this? Why couldn’t I continue the dream of going back to Ireland or exploring the Canadian Rockies? Two phone calls, that’s what did it. One came that very morning, and the other happened a few weeks ago. “I need to tell you I was diagnosed with cancer.” Two male friends reported what had shattered their plans and threatened their very existence.
I was shocked and shaken. One is in his late sixties, the other in his seventies. Both are great lovers of travel with their partners. Plans had been put on hold, and now this bombshell. I could only weakly tell each of them, “I am very sorry.”
Why do things like this happen? That is a question without an answer. The better question is, what am I going to learn from this? And what are they going to learn? Both are going for aggressive treatment, one for a stage four cancer and the other for a rare form that does not respond to chemotherapy or radiation. They are each looking for the best options, the best physicians, and the best odds of survival.
There is one lesson – the will to live. And another – a positive attitude of survival and more life to come. These are valuable mindsets that can contribute to successful treatment. Each friend tells me that he will beat this, and I am grateful. I take their lessons as my own. I will be positive in my conversations with them and my conversations with God.
And what is mine to learn? Sometimes my job as a chaplain shows up in my private life. It is my “job” to stay strong for them and for myself. I can cry in private and pray for strength and health. I can call and check in regularly, not to give advice but rather to listen and support. I will pray, meditate, affirm, and be there for them. That is mine to do.
So dreams of travel are put on hold, replaced by prayers and affirmations that they both may survive and thrive. I want them to have wonderful vacations of their own.