Sometimes life is like a parking lot: full of speed bumps.
Three months ago I bought tickets to New Zealand for Jerry and me. We plan to spend Christmas with my cousin there. It seemed a bit crazy, since we were going to Alaska, coming home, the next week having Thanksgiving here on the island, and a week later setting out for the Southern Hemisphere. But that’s what I planned.
We came home form Alaska; all was going well when it turned out that the house sitter I had arranged for the New Zealand trip was not what we wanted. She came well recommended from a friend on the island, but he had revised his opinion while we were in Alaska. He is missing valuables from his house. He couldn’t get her to leave his house when he got home from his trip, and had to pack up her belongings and move her to a hotel. She has made herself a reputation on the island for being extremely odd and difficult to get along with. I tried to find a substitute, but ultimately had to book the dogs into a kennel.
I got an email from a dear old friend (and long ago a lover), Richard. He has an inoperable cancer. I am a few years older, so he is in his early 70’s. Not ready to go. He says he feels fine, appears in perfect health but has overwhelming anxiety. He says, “ Had the members of my church gather around with their hands on me and they prayed. If God is listening a crowd should have more impact. . . . If you have any spiritual inclinations I can use all the prayers I can get.”
I will do my best, but I think I am not the right sort of person to be of assistance with prayer. My problem is that I don’t believe in a god, and certainly not Richard’s God. I think this universe, though deeply mysterious, is mechanistic. If there is a god, which I doubt, he would be as mysterious as the universe itself. How would I address such a god?
And how would I pray? Would I say: please don’t let this disease kill my friend? Let him be taken at some later date by something else. Or perhaps I should pray that he not suffer, or that he accept his destiny and trust in — Who? What?
I wrote an email to my lawyer daughter, a devout Catholic, who understands prayer better than I, and asked her to light a candle and say a prayer for Richard. And you, my friends and readers, will you say a prayer for Richard? He is a good man, and has more good to do in this world before he passes on to the next (?).
Thanksgiving came. My grandson, his wife and baby all had bad colds and couldn’t join us as planned. Besides, there was a heavy snowfall all day on Thanksgiving. The drive from Seattle would have been awful. The dinner was good; I had 7 people at the table and a mountain of left over food, all of which I persuaded my guests to take home. Since we plan to be away for a month I don’t want food in the house.
We had a pleasant, low-key afternoon, but I was disappointed not to see the baby. I enjoyed my almost 13 year old granddaughter, Clare, and so did the dogs. She petted and played with them. We laughed together about my all black cat’s one white whisker that sticks straight out like a long tusk.
Clare is a sweet tempered, well behaved child who loves all animals.
Our big problem now is that Jerry is experiencing a recurrence of cluster headaches. These are excruciatingly painful headaches that center around his left eye. He is having 2 to 3 episodes a day and they interfere with his sleep. The sharp, stabbing pain is brief, usually lasting less than an hour, but it leaves him feeling wiped out and there is a residual ache.
I am starting to pack and wondering whether we should go. I think we must consult the doctor, but naturally he is not available because this is a holiday weekend.
In the meantime the temperature has climbed to 40F and all this snow is turning to mush. A week ago there were still leaves on the trees. Now they are scattered in rumpled confusion all over the wet dirty snow, along with twigs and branches blown about by the storm. The outside world looks dismal.
A flicker comes to the suet feeder. As he flies, orange feathers under his wing and tail flash for a moment in the dull November scene, but when he folds his wings just a sliver of orange can be seen. The sun shines briefly.
I’ll do some packing, and some hoping.
Sounds like you’ve had more than your share of not so good news. I’m sorry weather spoiled your holiday but you still managed to have a nice time. I wish you good luck in finding another house sitter — she sounds like a nightmare. And yes, I will pray for your friend. To be honest, I don’t know if it works or not but it surely can’t hurt because it’s a positive energy. I’ll add a few for Jerry, too. I hope you get to go to NZ — it’s on my list of places I’d love to visit and I look forward to your adventures.
Keep packing. Sometimes life is like a parking lot with a lot of grocery carts in attack mode.
Continue doing the work in front of your hands, Anne. Life will unfold as it should.
As to your friend, I don’t believe in prayer either but often will think of a sick/hurt friend and light a candle and just concentrate on sending them white healing light.
I will think of Jerry like this tonight.
Try to get to a doctor. Just because you will enjoy the trip so much more if you have some answers or ways to cope. Seven for Thanksgiving is lovely…we only had 4 counting us! I have not a clue in guiding someone with prayer as I am much like you.
Speed bumps indeed, I’m sorry to hear! Sending healing thoughts to Jerry and your friend, and good wishes for all to work out for a safe journey and a happy holiday in NZ. I’m always amazed at your energy, you don’t stay put for long!
I would pray, but God stopped listening to me long ago. New Zealand! It is the number one on my Destination Wish List. I hope things work out so you can go.
Life in flux and along speed bumps…. I wills end out healing thoughts for your friend — and for Jerry, who should see the doctor, so that if you do go away, you can have a more enjoyable trip with knowing what might be causing this reoccurrence. Of course, the weather shifts have been weird lately too, and that might have an effect on migraines.
Life is an adventure for sure and you and jerry make it more so! I am much like you in your your lack of god belief but I hope that neither your friend nor Jerry suffer too much. Nor you either 🙂 Enjoy your NZ trip. Will look forward to your reports.
Sending you and Jerry and your friend Richard good vibrations of all kinds, sensory and extra-sensory, material and spiritual. Hope all goes well for your NZ trip.
Jerry has my heartfelt empathy, Anne: I used to get cluster headaches, when I was younger.
Hope all goes well for both of you, and for your ill friend.
Thanks for your comment in my blog. I have been reading your very interesting blog. You are a much better writer and blogger than I – however we do have a few common denominators. Both of us are undoubtedly writing our last chapter,both are rather rootless for good reason,both agnostic,and tell Jerry those cluster headaches are the most horrible thing I have ever suffered. I got one after I stopped smoking at age 60. It will pass,SOON I hope. Take care,
Betty [another Canadian]
I will continue to remember Richard, and I think you are right about prayer – sometimes we don’t know how or what to pray for. In those circumstances I just try to imagine bringing the person closer to the love of God. Every Blessing as you get ready for your trip.
Troubled times, Anne. As you know, I’m of your mind when it comes to divine intervention – or divine anything. But whatever brings comfort in such circumstances so I hope that your believing friends here and beyond will support Richard in the manner that has meaning for him. And I hope for relief for Jerry. How enervating that pains sounds.
Believers or not, there is strength in the sense of friends out there – even the ones you’ve never seen!
I have just finished a novel which will be going to my agent as soon as a friend has read it and commented. In it my co-central character, Clare, is/was married to Jerry. The names jumped out: slightly disconcerting. Perhaps an augury.
For two decades I imagined I was an atheist, announced this several times on my blog to avoid accidentally treading on commenters’ feet. Now I think I need a new, more exact label. Atheism demands an intellectual rigour which I lack. Humanist? Rationalist? Why should this matter? For roughly the same reasons you are presently experiencing. When I’m invited to react to others’ problems my responses are ad hoc and depend on fleeting articulacy. It would reassure me if I were able to operate from some kind of framework, however ramshackle, however poorly understood. My best friend died a decade ago of terrible motor-neurone disease. When I look back I think I said the right things (in the sense that anything is right) but I may have been too clear-sighted, somewhat lacking in visible and/or audible sympathy because that’s how we were in life. Perhaps I need a new label for the benefit of others. Sorry about the incoherence.
My wife and I have been three times to NZ. We told ourselves we were going for the scenery (which of course is magnificent) but our memories are of the people. Rent a car. Keep it filled with fuel. Don’t limit yourself to North Island. Be prepared to eat a lot of lamb. Buy wine en route and offer it up at dinner assuming you’re going the B&B route. Which is the best.
It sounds like a cluster of small setbacks which have come all at once. I have never had those headaches, but they sound awful.
I’m sure a month in New Zealand will put everything right again. And don’t worry about boarding pets. We do it all the time. It does not hurt the animals, if it’s a well run place. They are not people, no matter what anyone says. The expense is a problem, of course.
Have a wonderful time!
Sounds like a check-up for Jerry wouldn’t go amiss to put your minds at rest, but look forward to the trip, and try not to worry. Pets are not people, true, but sometimes they can wring our hearts more because they can’t be explained to, and are more dependent on us. Even so, most people who run boarding kennels are professionals who love animals, and they are better off with them than an unreliable house-sitter!
Lionel Blue, who you may remember as an English rabbi often on the radio, said in a book something along the lines that he couldn’t really be doing with a God who would heed his prayers and attend to his personal needs and problems, but ignored all the ones going up from Auschwitz and similar. But he was nevertheless a man of true religion. Others who are not believers at all, like Iris Murdoch and Jacques Derrida and many others, still prayed and pray. I’m not sure one can exactly say what it means, but if it means something to oneself, then do it, I suppose. If not, then just hold people in your heart and think loving thoughts, and, as Dick said, it is good to know that sometimes that we aren’t alone.
I am delighted that you had/have cats called Abelard and Heloise! (Saw your comment at Zhoen’s) I always said if we got cats again I’d make it a male and female and call them that, since he would have to lose his balls and she’d have to live the life of a nun!
I will pray for him. I hope the trip turns out ok, sometimes the series of events leading up to a trip or an occasion can confuse us into wondering if its meant to happen. If I was closer, I would be happy to house sit properly 🙂