Being in the presence of grief and fear

Two of my close friends are having cancer experiences. My friend J. is having a recurrence of her lymphoma. She had her first experience 11 years ago and has had a reasonably good remission, although her health has not been strong since then. Over the last few months, she has had all kinds of symptoms that she know recognizes. The good news is that it is a variation of the same kind, not a more deadly kind, and she has confidence in chemo and care for herself.

My friend S. is experiencing cancer with her husband, who has learned he has stage 3 esophageal cancer. Five years ago he had a second heart attack and a stroke and has some brain injury and physical disability. She is sitting with the unfairness of more suffering for him. They have made a decision not to treat this for it would gain him only a little more time and undoubtedly much increased misery.

Yesterday at Writing Friday, Carole wrote a lovely piece about her feelings about J. and the impotence of friendship and the power of love in the face of such difficulty and holding someone while she experiences what life gives her. There was a deep sense of reference as Carole read, tears, a sense of holding ourselves and others in these robust and frail bodies,the connection of hearts and souls. J. had gone outside on her cell phone to schedule the first chemo session and we breathed our love out to her.

There is an amazing power in community. I have known this since September 16, 1989, when I went to my first AA meeting. I had been in the treatment center for four hours, was drunk, and still I could feel something astounding, something magical in the room and the shared commitment to sobriety (which meant nothing really  to me in that moment). I just remember that when we held hands at the end and recited the Lord's Prayer (which I did not believe in), something changed in me, something opened in me to life in a different way. I felt that something yesterday in our circle of writer friends and heart mates.


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