I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Anne Buck's reflection on "In Between Light and Dark."
It was the middle of the night and I was asleep. But maybe, just possibly I was awake. Maybe it was the pain medication or the muscle relaxant. It could have been exhaustion or chemotherapy or my imagination. In the fuzzy dark, I heard a trapped and caught animal, screeching for life and I could not open my eyes, I couldn't move, even though I felt the life draining out of my bones with every scream.
I have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. One day I was fine, the next day I was planning my funeral. As the New Year began, my doctor checked out an ongoing ache in my back. Following a Sunday afternoon MRI, back surgery was scheduled for early March followed by rounds of chemotherapy. A mass was found in my spine on my low back and the medical team was hopeful that chemotherapy and radiation would address it. Surgery, placement of a port, PET scans, MRIs, days of chemotherapy, nights buried under covers, and no one ever used the word cancer. Only my own mind reeled with the possibility.
Lent was unsettling and intense as I considered death and loss in a new way. Darkness has been a constant container. Fistfulls of hair began to fall out and I lost it all on Easter Sunday. This season has been a deeply solitary time. I haven't wanted to interact much. I'm tired of telling people I'm tired and something is wonky with my brain and I know it just isn't easy for others to sit with a sick person. I am not used to being "weak" and/or unable to function.
This is not something I ever imagined going through and sometimes struggle with feeling hopeless.
So, in the hopelessness and darkness, in the moments of sickness and aching, I have to ask myself the questions that bring meaning. “What is it like to be in the dark?” “Can hopelessness be part of the journey?” “Is it possible to rest without struggle in the darkness, trusting that all will be well?”
Over the last months I am learning to welcome the hopelessness and darkness. I welcome myself. I am leaning to offer myself gentleness in a new way. It is in this place that I am beginning to understand what healing means. My story is in the now. Not how I was before my illness and not looking forward to a year from now when this is over. Now is the time to be present. Now is the struggle. And yet, now is the time to rest. The time to be still and breathe, the time to allow my body to follow what is next.
I am not sad or depressed yet there are times I cry without ceasing. In the midst, I take comfort from so many around me that write and pray and connect. A friend made a meal train for us – I couldn't imagine anyone would sign up. Yet, this is how people show their care. Friends from high school, from work, from The Dougy Center, from a previous church, from people I don't know, from the Abbey of the Arts though a woman I connected with in one of the very first online classes, Monk in the World, Melinda, who lives in England and has a friend in Portland. She signed up for a meal and cared for me. How wide the net of love and care spreads!
I am releasing and carrying.
Healing and dying.
Awake and asleep.
Settled and anxious.
Surrounded and isolated.
Resting and waiting.
Light and Dark.
And in the midst, all is well.
Anne intuitively uses her compassion and creativity to midwife people through life experiences and transitions. As a chaplain, a massage therapist, a certified labyrinth facilitator and a spiritual director, she is able to be with others as they deal with end of life decisions, relationships and the meaning of faith through body awareness, walking journeys and creative expression.