The Need to Honor
I have learned to create a space for everything that comes my way in life, whether good or bad. After my 18-year-old daughter Jeannine died in March of 2003 as a result of cancer, I tried to suppress or distract myself from the seemingly endless wave of intense pain that permeated the core of my very being. I discovered that no matter how hard I tried, the pain just kept resurfacing. I think trying to suppress the pain of loss is like trying to suppress a beach ball in a tub of water. After a certain amount of time that beach ball will come to the surface. Suppressed pain eventually comes to the surface, demanding to be experienced and demanding to be transformed. Once I discovered this truth, I was able honor my pain because of the opportunities for spiritual growth and self-discovery that were created because of its presence.
Making Room for Cancer
“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know”
During the last few years of life, I find myself returning to this wisdom from Pema Chadron, when a theme repeatedly plays out in my life. More often than not it has helped me to see the greater purpose in that repeated event.
Recently, I began to think about the impact that cancer has had on me. In addition to my daughter, I have experienced the death of another relative and two close friends and mentors due to cancer. Once I became cognizant of that, I felt it was time to determine if there were any teachings to be discovered. I have been able to transform my perspective on life and death because of the challenges presented by Jeannine’s death, not because of her cancer diagnosis.
The Face(s) of Cancer
Before I could discover the teachings that cancer revealed in my journey, I needed to put a face to it. After some reflection, my face of cancer became the faces of my daughter and everyone else I have known and loved who have died from cancer and survived it. Having that collage in my mind inspired me to search within, without the visions of the physical deterioration and excruciating pain that is so much a part of this disease. After my search concluded, I discovered gratitude for what cancer has allowed me to discover:
Though I have created a space for cancer as a teacher, I realize that it can again manifest in my life. I am a man who has not gone through life unscathed and understand that things can change without warning and at lightening speed. There is always the possibility that cancer will be a challenge that I will once again have to embrace.