Friday, March 4, 2011


O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice: In the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.
Psalm 5:3 New Revised Standard Version

            I was supposed to be at the hospital for my chemo infusion two of every three Fridays during the four months of treatment. All the morning patients were due at 9 a.m. I quickly caught on that we patients outnumbered staff; one nurse was assigned to four of us. She couldn’t possibly insert the needles and start the lines simultaneously. I nominated myself to be her late patient, and was very cavalier about it if my drivers wondered why I was still eating breakfast at 8:30 when we had a half-hour drive.
            “It’s not like a play or a concert,” I said. “They can’t start my chemo without me.”
            I am not a morning person. Year after year, however, I was at work by 8 or 9. Working as a freelancer had allowed me to set my own schedule, to sleep in most days. Getting up early for a chemo treatment merely added insult to injury. But I had to get up, had to take the very pricey new anti-nausea drug at a certain time.
            One Friday I lingered over breakfast, teared up as my driver sat patiently. “I don’t want to go,” I said.
            “What’s the worst part?” he asked.
            How could I say? Where would I rank the sheer tedium of a fuzzy day in a recliner, the “big stick” when the needle pierced my flesh, the bloated feeling and need to go to the bathroom—no simple task, with all the lines I was connected to—multiple times?
            During most of the history of Christianity, Friday was a holy day, set apart for fasting and prayer in remembrance of Christ’s crucifixion on that day. It seemed altogether fitting that I spent Good Friday in the chemo room, hoping for my own resurrection.
            After chemo ended, one dear friend and I exchanged e-mails for a while on the wonder of a Friday without chemo. Gradually, of course, I stopped thinking, It’s Friday and I’m not in chemo. I do remember that other people are, and that Friday is my chemo nurse’s day in the infusion room; I pray for them often, though not always.
There’s a reason Peter wanted to build tabernacles on the mountain where he saw Jesus transfigured—we humans can’t hold on to our experiences, whether they are mountaintop or valley, for very long. So we make tabernacles, erect churches, light candles, compose music, write them down as best we can. Rituals are to help us remember. This rainy Friday morning, I am thinking again about where I was four years ago, and how God has answered my prayers and pleading.

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