I’ve not written much lately, and a few of you have asked, “Are you okay? We haven’t heard from you in a while.”
The easiest explanation is that time has been scarce. Teaching at the university, serving as Transitional Pastor at a local church, and working on a few other projects and events have jammed my calendar to near-overflowing. During Spring Break, Anita and I went to see our son, Eliot, in Chicago. It was a great trip: we saw Hamilton, celebrated birthdays, savored some of the Art Institute’s treasures, and spent time with Eliot and some of his friends in wonderful restaurants. I wouldn’t trade that trip for the plans I’d originally made to use those days to catch up on work. So, it’s true that time has been in short-supply.
Another reason for scarcer writing is bewilderment. What might I say that would be helpful and meaningful about the swirling and perplexing problems which we face? High school students are more articulate about gun violence than I could ever manage to be. Many commentators and editorialists have thoughtfully, even prophetically, critiqued the hypocrisy of “evangelical” religious leaders who “give mulligans” to a president whose values, policies, and practices simply contradict the teachings of Jesus. Many others have decried the paucity of genuine leadership and moral courage among congressional officeholders. Other than saying “Amen; I agree” with the students, the critics, and the decriers, I’m flummoxed about what to say.
I’m also dealing with “survivor’s confusion” (not the same as, but related to, “survivor’s guilt”).
As most readers know, I’ve been dealing with Multiple Myeloma for a little over four years. For 2½ of those years, I felt terrible most of the time. The disease and the treatments had corrosive effects on my body and mind. I came to edge of death. The losses I sustained, the diminishments I underwent, and the fatigue I felt convinced me that I wouldn’t live much longer.
Feeling the nearness of death, I faced mortality as fully as I could manage.
I left a job for which I didn’t have sufficient physical or emotional energy.
I took stock of what I’d done and hadn’t done. For some of those things I celebrated and gave thanks; for others, I lamented and confessed.
I clarified what I still hoped to do and got in touch with a compelling sense of urgency.
I resolved to be a good steward of my pain and to share with others whatever I could learn from it.
Throughout these years, I’ve prayed along with the refrain of a tender and trenchant song by Audrey Assad:
Bind up these broken bones
Mercy bend and bring me back to life
But not before You show me how to die
No, not before You show me how to die
Because I felt so badly, I focused on: “Not before You show me how to die.”
There are two reasons to learn how to die. One, obviously, is so that we don’t come to the end of our lives with unfinished business, deep regrets, and unexpressed love.
The other is so that we are ready, at last, to live. “Mercy bend and bring me back to life/but not before You show me how to die.”
Until I am, in the language of hospice care, “actively dying.” I’ve been shown as much as I can see about how to die.
Now, mercy is bending and bringing me back to life. I’m surprised to be alive, and I’m so very grateful.
And confused—delighted but confused—because alive is not what I expected to be. I didn’t think I would see my 61st birthday.
The confusion has affected my writing. I don’t want to write about cancer, pain, fatigue, and death, experiences I’ve been writing about for years now.
I’m making my way toward a new point-of-view.
The confusion is clearing. I have an unexpected opportunity to live—who knows for how long?—as fully, mindfully, joyfully, and gratefully as I can manage. I want to write in those ways, too.
So glad to learn why we haven’t heard from you as much, Guy… much better than the alternative! It may be a cliché, but perhaps God isn’t finished with you yet, or perhaps you aren’t finished helping the rest of us find God. ❤️
Jan, it doesn’t sound like a cliche from you, since I know that cliches aren’t your "thing." I appreciate very much your encouragement and affirmation.
Your perspective is always welcome since most of us may face some of what you are dealing with. Thank you for being willing to share such deep and overwhelming thoughts. May you continue to be well.
Thank you so much, Frieda, for the gracious affirmation and encouragement. My best to you.
Your candor in sharing your experiences Guy is an inspiration to me. Thanks.
Thank you, Larry. Glad my words might provide a bit of help.
God bless you, Guy, and Welcome Back!! Your wise words always add perspective and inspiration to my day.
Thank you so much, Ed. Good to hear from you.
All those words you have written while unwell may have been easier to write because there was a focus and unspecified, but ever-present deadline. Now the confusion may have had something to do with learning how do you pray gratefully and serve meaningfully while maybe wondering if there is a finite time for being well. Is this another version of the black shadow you once spoke about residing in the corner of your hospital room/
Thank you, Sandra. Your questions are good ones, and I’ll ponder them along with the many others that continue to swirl. I appreciate your taking the time and care to be in touch.
I can’t help thinking that it is not confusion you are experiencing but awe, a tremendous, bottomless awe. And with it gratitude. Thank you for this conversation on our journey. Thank you for every step.
Bill, thank you for helping me re-framed confusion. Maybe what I am feeling is confused awe or awed confusion. I, too, am grateful for the ongoing conversation.
Thanks Guy. I look forward to your words of wisdom.
Thank you, Loveta!
Guy, I am so glad to hear from you. I told Bob this weekend that I need a "Guy" fix and he said he would like to be included. Thank you for your words that make sense in a somewhat senseless time. It bewilders and confuses those of us who look for clarity. Your news of your health was so encouraging and I praise God. I know no one else like you…your complete honesty about your condition and the condition of the world is a balm to me. Bob and I send our love.
Dianne, thank you so much for this gracious affirmation. It means a great deal to me. I hope you and Bob are doing well and that you will have a joyous Easter. Love and peace to you.
Guy, even your acknowledgement of feeling "flummoxed" is helpful! Your words have long given voice to the perplexities we face. It is good to hear from you.
Thank you, Cliff. If my being flummoxed helps, then there’s more help on the way, I am sure. Grateful for you.
Your continual inspirational commentary, whether delivered so eloquently on "paper" or from the pulpit, is likened unto the joy of a quenching drink of cool water in a hot desert oasis — so welcomed & completely satisfying. Happy Easter and God bless you. Prayers continue.
Paddy Sue Gay
Thank you so much, Paddy Sue. And, joyful Easter, peace, and love to you.
Guy you so much for what you have written. My nephew is facing a liver transplant and your journey is helping me to know what I can share with him about your continuing journey and my own journey. I hope you don’t mind if I do this.
Bob and I continue reading and learning from you. Love, Mae
Mae, It is so good to hear from you. I’m very sorry to hear of your nephew’s health challenges, and I am glad for you to share with him anything I’ve written that might be helpful to him. My love to you and Bob, Guy