Holding & Healing
Reposted from April 2021 in honor & memory of my dear friend, Kim who passed away in May 2021.
On Monday morning, the day after Easter, I woke to find a text message from my friend Kim: “Are you awake?” I answered, “I am now. I’ve been thinking about you. Are you okay?” The reply came quickly, “No…call.” My heart began to beat faster as I placed the call. On the other end was her tender, teary voice. “I just want to go back to the days we could have coffee together…..back when things were simple. I just want to sit across the kitchen table from you, drink coffee and talk…” My eyes filled with tears. “Me, too.” Kim’s battle with metastatic cancer has been going on for almost two years, and it has been an uphill climb over rocky terrain. “Are you at home now?” She answered, “No. I’m in the hospital,” and told me how she had ended up there on Easter morning. Her cancer has grown, causing a critical blockage, and the solutions are limited. She is worn and weary on every level.
As we talked, I had the feeling that conversation was one I would hold and remember forever. I wished I could hold her, but the hospital COVID restrictions prevented even her vaccinated husband from being at her side. So I told her I could stay here on the other end of the phone as long as she wanted; and as soon as I could see her, I would drive down to Houston. She called me back that evening, having spent the day meditating, listening to soothing music, and visiting with the hospital chaplain. She delivered the final verdict: the doctors are unable to do anything more for her; she will be going home on hospice. And yet, she said, “I am at peace. I feel strong.” She is ready to surrender. The spirit within her is rising up, holding and carrying her through this passage. This, I realized, is her healing.
Since then, I’ve had a heightened awareness of the world around me, the sun on my face, wind in my hair, the coming of spring…..and wonder what it would be like to say goodbye to it all. Tears come and go as my grief rises up in the midst of peace and acceptance. It is all woven together, and I can hold it in my heart. I can hold her there, too, with all of the sweet and funny memories of our 25-year friendship. I've been moving slowly through the day, taking time to sit and listen to music, and feeling the Arms of Love enfold me. The sense of holding and being held is a great comfort right now. Perhaps it is a paradox that we can hold on and let go at the same time. When we hold that which holds us – Love, Peace, and Joy - we find the courage to surrender, and healing happens.
This morning I read, “We have to live in surrender. It is not a one-time deal. Over many years of practice we deepen our understanding, willingness, and experience of surrender….. As you surrender to that small, still voice….. you shall see that love has no conditions. You shall see that joy has no bounds. You shall see peace that is beyond understanding. You shall see….the kingdom of heaven. This is the will of God” (excerpted from The Seven Living Words, by Rev. Mark Anthony Lord).
The beginning of this cancer journey was clouded by a sense of dread and agony. The road ahead looked dark and scary. Now we are at the end of that road, having walked through the darkness step by shaky step, one day at a time. Light and Healing are now before her. But it’s a hard pill to swallow; we’re not ready. We knew this day would come, but NOT YET! It hurts too much. I’m trying to live a minute at a time. I’m finding that I can hold my grief and pain, even in the awareness of Love and Peace. In fact, because of that awareness, I know we are held and supported. “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the Everlasting Arms” (Deut. 33:27). That Love never leaves us and never lets us go.
Although I tremble at the thought of saying “goodbye,” I know that our spirits will continue to touch each other in mysterious ways. When I drink my morning coffee from the mug she gave me, I will smile and give thanks for the warmth and wonder of our forever friendship. Her light, laughter, and love will remain as an ongoing gift to us all, as well as the courage and grace with which she faced and fought this disease. Perhaps as we hold and live these gifts, we will find healing. As my gift to you, I share a YouTube video which is a beautiful work of art and music. It has given me great comfort over the years, particularly when my mother went into hospice. The musician is Kirtana; the artist is my friend Katherine Doerge. I share these with her permission.
Grace & Peace, ej Elisa J. Juarez
If you have a copy of my book, Soul Salsa: Learning to Savor Every Season, you will find more of Kim's story in the Summer chapter on page 194, "Keep on Singing." I am happy to say that we were able to drive down and visit Kim and family this past weekend, and we did more laughing than crying. We did get to hold each other and have a cup of coffee together on the porch. It was precious.