Yours, Daniel
A Gentle Grace

On FLGBTQC-L@MTSAC.EDU [the listserv for Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns, a Quaker group], M_ wrote:

People say this inertia is typical for enduring the ravages of chemotherapy week after week. But I wonder, should one just accept it or work actively to defy it?

To which I wrote:

Our society doesn't like the idea of not fighting. It says there are only two options, a devoted fight and fight and fight, and a giving up. But there's another way: a kind of divine float.

When my Mom was going through her chemotherapy, her feet got very dry and we, her sons, helped her put lotion on them every night. It was not the only thing which had to be done, but it was the thing I dreaded every day up until the moment I came in with the tray to sit on her bed and help. I didn't like touching her this intimately, causing her such pain as this caused, feeling her frustration and fear so closely night after night after night. We often talked, at other times in the day, about how the feet were doing and whether we should adjust the medications, but in those moments before sleep, in the light of the muted TV, I would carefully remove bandages, clean wounds, tell her what I found as I found it, moisturize and rewrap bandages. It was a small thing, it seemed, just a maintenance thing. But afterwards, now, it is the thing I remember most. I cared for her. She let me care for her. It was small, it was maybe not big at all in the larger fight against cancer, but it was something we could do. There were many things we had to do; this was one of them. In retrospect, I realized that there was grace there. In the small thing. In the midst of the huge pain and worry. At these moments, it was not winning the war that mattered but how we treated each other in the battles along the way. There's grace there, but I don't think it is a buoying, cheering grace. It's a very small thing that gets you through moment-by-moment. After a while you realize how big it is. It never stops getting you through.

When I was coming up from suicidal depression, I finally learned that lesson that some days getting through the day is enough. It's more than enough. It is huge. It delivers me into the win. I experienced this. I still experience this.