Listen to Your Life

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

Frederick Buechner, “Now and Then”

I would love to say that I have lived my life just as Frederick Buechner said I should. I met those incomparable words back in 1984 and fully intended to make them my life’s mission. Ah, well, intentions can be holy in their own way, and if mine managed to capture a bit of Buechner’s elegance, then I can say that I have found my way more than once to the holy and hidden part of it. And because of that, I count the vast and wondrous swath of my life as grace. Even now.

I am in the midst of gathering information and making decisions about how I move forward now that the lymphoma that was in remission has returned. I am listening acutely. And with love. Next week I will see two Mayo doctors who specialize in my cancer so that we can together find the best road to take. I am in the midst of the fathomless mystery that is my life and that now demands that I search it with courage and hope and truth. With each step, my mortality grows more palpable, and my always unknown time ahead, even more precious.

I try to picture the physical presence of this new mass that is growing in my belly as I await treatment. I am reminded of other things that have resided there for a lifetime or for but a season. Until cancer, they were all life-giving, life-affirming, life celebrating things.

Magnificently intricate systems for carrying blood and nutrition, antibodies, red and white cells, and more, have been holy and hidden there. Systems for eliminating what was not needed have been homely but mostly efficient. All the complex, holy and hidden parts of myself have kept my sacred body alive and mostly well, for these 80 years.

Most preciously, the womb with which I was born awaited its time for the planting of another life. And in its time and once a month, it sloughed the tissue that was not yet needed. And in its time, that tissue stayed, and it matured to hold and nourish the growing hidden and holy children who would be my two beloved sons.

Now, this place where cancer dwells and grows becomes the place that still gives me life, but which may also take this life away. I am still learning how to hold those both at the same time, hidden and holy as they both are.

Life is grace, though, and the Spirit walks with me as its benefactor. The boredom and the pain, the excitement and the gladness. The uncertain and the true, the unknown and the known. They are all still in my company. I am still listening.

And I’m still okay with that.