Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Lenten promises

I met a woman today who is waiting to hear if the cause of her pain and weakness is a scary but stable thing or a scary but progressive thing. Really smart people are spinning her blood, looking at pictures of her brain, investigating every medicine she's on; all while both she and her family hold their breath. She is tired of being in untreated pain, and she is scared.

As we talked about what we would do together post-firm diagnosis, we discussed the differences between a treatment path for the relatively good news (therapy to both compensate for difficulty and to attempt to restore function) vs. the really rotten news (getting a feeding tube before you really need it so you can transition from eating for nutrition to eating for pleasure, planning for alternative communication systems like this one should you completely lose the ability to speak), her family jumped in and said, "While I appreciate the perspective you're giving us, we need her to live for right now -- not being able to say for certain what is going to happen is the thing that is killing her -- she needs to understand she can be sick but still have quality in her life. Today has to count for something." Amen, I thought.

This was a perfect conversation to have on the eve of Lent.

We are so fortunate to have the other side of Easter to give us certainty, but this time of self-reflection often feels very much like the limbo that has this woman trapped by her own fears. The weight of things that we need to let go of obscure the moment at hand, so we are given time to shake them off, to volitionally set them aside. But no future time is guaranteed, so it's now or never. Surely today does count for something. I hope I remember that tomorrow.

The painting is a portion of The Battle of Carnival and Lent, by Pieter Brueghel, the younger, which is actually a copy of the elder's original.

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