I wrote this a year ago last fall when a cancer-friend was dying. In this new year, two women I know and care about have already died from cancer. Although this was not written with them in mind, I offer it with love for them and for all who are touched by this disease.
Will you not give us life again, that your people may rejoice in you?
Ps. 85:6 Book of Common Prayer
The bond among cancer patients forms quickly and runs deep, even though cancer may be the main common ground. To speak the insider’s shorthand of chemo treatments, ports, the metallic taste of food, baldness, and a host of other horrors, means that we have an empathetic connection that doesn’t require long years of friendship to form.
So: one of my cancer friends is dying. She’s lasted longer than the doctors thought she would, but it’s fairly clear she will not see the new year. She will go out with autumn’s dying, a blaze of color herself.
When I read this verse today, I thought of her and of the new life that awaits her. I know the psalmist was speaking metaphorically—the nation of Israel had been at that time as good as dead. Restore us, revive us, are the pleas. Today for the first time I wondered if “life again” might be applied to eternal life. We don’t begin our eternal life on the day of death, but on the day of birth—or perhaps before.
What awaits us we do not know. We have no firm answers, but from the graciousness of my beloved dead who come in dreams and live in my thoughts, I am convinced there is something, some form of life, perhaps not unlike this one, but better. In one dream, my father drove a yellow sports car, far different than the sober sedans he piloted when I knew him, though I’ve been told that as a younger man, he’d had a convertible. In another, my mother was walking in a white robe, a literal bathrobe, but one far more luxurious than her practical choices when alive, her wet hair in a towel, as if coming from a spa treatment, which she never had in this life.
When I think of my friend in her renewed life, I imagine her bubbly and sparkly. If the stories about heaven are real, she will have genuine gemstones aplenty with which to make her bracelets. Perhaps a group of cancer patients will meet together and work on the jewel-studded crowns that the faithful will receive. Heaven sometimes seems a far-fetched idea, but, as a professor I once had used to say, “A God this wild, it has to be true.”