Cancer, Wackos and Ferry Landings

Posted: September 2, 2014 in difficulty
Tags: , , ,

As I walked by, I heard a older gentleman say to someone he was talking to on the phone, “I’m not sure we are at the ferry landing.”

He was at the ferry landing.

I know; I was there, walking by him, at the landing. This place is familiar to me. I have been coming with my family for years.

The whole thing seemed familiar — the bewildered person, wandering around a bit confused, not quite clear as to what was going on.

I see them all the time, the semi-confused. I know them: I am them. We humans all suffer myriad disorientations and confusions.

Lately I have noticed that places can disorient, (parking lots, new cities) and also that sicknesses can create significant bewilderment.

Illness seems to cause the Voortrekker syndrome — “Where the heck are we now?”

Poor health, impairment, disability — it’s freakin’ foreign, and can elicit some pretty wacko responses.

About six months ago, my brother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. People by and large have been great, but his cancer has created some very interesting responses.

He has cancer, and some people are delusional.

“You have just got to read this book!”

“Listen, there is this diet …”

“I want to pray for you, right now, and I believe that God is going to heal you completely, right now!”

“I read this article. I am going to email it to you. You just have to read this article and …”

“There are several herbs that I have been using …”

“In Mexico, you can go to this clinic …”

“Have you ever heard of the healing power of magnets?”

They come to him, these self-appointed healers, with great energy, enthusiasm and love, offering their gifts at his altar, caring so much, and they really do, and they come to him, basically — insensitive.

Books are good. He has read books.

Diets are good. He eats well.

Prayer is excellent. Hundreds of friends and family member are praying for him everyday.

Articles inform. He has read more internet articles than is probably good for his mental stability.

Herbs, Mexico, bracelets, magnets — they all have their proponents, but what is really helpful?

A few thoughts.

It is not particularly reassuring to anyone, when amateur healers appoint themselves to the position of fixing the sick. It disorienting. The blind cannot lead the blind.

“You know how to do what? Heal cancer? Really?”

Those who don’t know what to do shouldn’t pretend they do.

Which leads to an interesting question?

Why? Why do people feel such a compulsive urge to give a remedy that they really don’t know will work, that they don’t even know hasn’t already been tried by the person, for instance prayer or a special diet? Why do they rush to offer things inappropriate to the person or the situation?

Perhaps this is because they really do want to help, very badly — too badly — and so they instinctively grasp at the first thing that comes to mind, something that they were told worked for someone else, something they found on the Internet, something they wish worked. They just can’t take it, not to offer a remedy.

These well-meaning ones are reality resistant — compulsively. They don’t know where they are at. They are at the ferry landing, and don’t know it; they are at the entrance to the River Styx, and they can’t recognize it. They are disoriented. Perhaps they have never been there before.

And at that point of confusion they are not quite safe to themselves or others. Unconsciously they blame the victim by implying that the sick one hasn’t done something right yet, hasn’t prayed with the proper amount of trembling, volume or spiritual mojo, hasn’t read the right book, eaten the right plants, gone to the right doctor or worn the correct metal.

Maybe, just maybe, this is because they are themselves are uncomfortable with sickness, brokenness, disability and loss. Perhaps they haven’t come to terms with the shaper edges of life. Maybe they haven’t accepted pain as part of life; maybe they haven’t integrated suffering and death into their philosophies, their epistemologies or their theologies. It’s denial, and it makes people offer up wacko responses.

It seems to me that God himself is much more comfortable with sickness and suffering than we are. He allows it. He uses it. God is not in denial about the rougher side of life. It seems to get along with it. God is sovereign, he can fix anything, but under his watchful, loving eyes, everybody gets sick at some point, and everybody dies.

So what would help? If the impulsively gushing of remedies doesn’t help, what does? How do we do something good here, how do we avoid wandering about confused, among the suffering?

I know what I have experienced that has helped me through some tough medical issues. It wasn’t aromatherapy.

When I have been sick, what has helped me has been when people affirmed me for some aspect of my character, particularly when it was true.

“You haven’t lost your core,” someone told me once during a particularly difficult time. “You are still who you are. You haven’t lost you.” I liked it. It made me more confident that an important part of me was surviving my difficulty.

It has also helped when people have had the sensitivity to ask a few relevant questions and then really listen.

“Wow, so what do your doctors say is next for you?”

“Cool, I’m praying that this will really work for you.”

And it has really helped when my dear ones have made simple expressions of love for me and my family.

A hug, a pat, a kiss that conveys real care, it helps. Real love helps, especially when you and most of the people around you are a bit confused by the complications of acute illness. Then it helps to be loved. It helps you get on the next ferry and travel to wherever it is that you have to go next.

  1. Marilynn Calderon says:

    Beautiful article and very helpful. I admit I hAve been on both sides of the disoriented responses. I really got a lot out of your message on Sunday too. Signed, Just another wacko

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