(St. Teresa of Avila, painted by François Pascal Simon Gérard, 1827, courtesy of Wikipedia)
Christ Has No Online Presence but Yours
Christ has no online presence but yours,
No blog, no Facebook page but yours,
Yours are the tweets through which love touches this world,
Yours are the posts through which the Gospel is shared,
Yours are the updates through which hope is revealed.
Christ has no online presence but yours,
No blog, no Facebook page but yours.
--reworking of St. Teresa of Avila's prayer, "Christ has no body," by Meredith Gould
I had the treat today of a rather slow afternoon in the office. My cases were signed out, my computer woes we had earlier in the week were at least partially resolved--enough we weren't inconveniencing the world, anyway--go I got to steal a little time "cruising articles." That's always a real bonus for me, when it happens.
It all started with this article some of my friends had been passing around on Facebook, one that is of great importance, I believe, in understanding that new reality of "online presence." Then I bumped into this piece of research from the Pew Foundation. I think it's important to realize that we may be evolving, as a society, where our "roots" are not simply geographic, but relational, and relational in terms of our ability to network via technology.
It wasn't long after that I got another piece of news--blog friend Kirstin has made the decision to actively choose Hospice care in light of the continued spread of her metastatic malignant melanoma.
You might wonder what these three articles have to do with each other.
Well, I am reminded of many, many things in regards to this prayer above, not just as it relates to Kirstin's situation, but many other situations. In just this year alone, I've seen social networking keep people safe and sane during a tornado, find a dog a new home, and connect people to each other under the backdrop of my Facebook wall (they are there because they are connected to me somehow, but they are interacting more with each other and not me--I call it my "bar n' grill" where I just serve up the entrees and let them go do their thing in a safe environment.)
Now I am watching an outpouring of love (deemed "A flashmob of grace" by our blog friend MadPriest) as people from all over the world send their love, offer their prayers, and interact with her and her roommate Andee. I will be the first to tell you that this is not the same as real, physical presence--nothing takes the place of real hugs, real hands, and real proximity--but it is this outpouring of the social networking and blog community that helps me understand that this is how intercessory prayer works.
I used to be such a butt about intercessory prayer. I used to think it seemed too much like "Persian rug trading with God." I used to think it was a way we deluded ourselves into trying to force God's hand with volume and numbers and intensity of prayers. But what I've come to discover is that it is a net--a net we simply cast out and accept whatever lands in it. I have come to realize I have been both the caster of the net and one of the many fish caught in it. It has taught me valuable lessons about having a mindset of abundance rather than of scarcity.
In short, I have never been so glad to have egg on my face in my whole life about something. Thanks to my social networking and blogging friends, I have come to realize we are all freely swimming in a net packed to the gills with grace and love and hope.
I must say I am sad this day has come for Kirstin. I truly, fervently hoped it would not come any time soon. But in that way that we physicians "smell the end coming on," even from a distance, even not being physically present--when she reported this most recent trip to the ER, something clicked in my head that said, "Uh-oh...I have a feeling this ER visit is different than the others." There was just something about her discussion of her shortness of breath that told me she had moved to a different place with this.
I started to suspect this news would be forthcoming from the time she was noted to have a tumor in her knee that was at risk of causing a pathologic fracture (and did). I guess you could say my nostrils have been flaring to get a whiff of this from the time I heard that, and my antennae were up--not because I could do a single thing, not because I cared to insert my opinion into it, not to poke or gossip--but to merely be "on alert" to simply be there and be present for "when this news would break." I even went home after work and had a meal of sushi in solidarity (Kirstin dearly loves sushi.)
Now that the news has broken, I am crying tears of joy for the outpouring of love that has invaded Facebook and her blog from the "flashmob of grace." I am sad--incredibly sad--that her life is now on course to end, in an unmistakeable way. But I am grateful she is actively choosing Hospice. For years I have waged a private battle to teach young doctors in training that this is not "abandoning care," that this is not "losing," and most of all, "Young docs, this is not about YOU. This is about letting people make decisions that impact their quality of life, not just in pain management, but in finishing unfinished business and having a spiritual quality of life that matters. I have seen people who "got it wrong" in life time and time again, and in their dying process, they finally "got it right." I think there's real rejoicing in Heaven when that happens.
I know both ends of this. I wasn't as young as the young doctors I now train when I went through it, but I was still young. I wanted to win. I wanted to make people well. I wanted to kick disease in the butt. But I have come to realize it was to make me feel better sometimes, not always the patient. But I have spent two decades of my life assigning names to biopsies--names that indelibly change lives, and not always for the better--and I am getting tired of playing to win. I don't care anymore if I'm smarter than the next guy or gal in my field. Instead, I care that I am simply smart enough to be whole. To be whole enough that I can truly rejoice in someone's decision to choose palliative care over "one more sickening, nauseating, weakening treatment" when the odds are slim and none. Yes, it's still important to me that I stay reasonably current in my discipline. But I have realized for about five years now, I care more about being whole, and I no longer care to sell out being whole for being "right." I still have lessons there. But I have hope, because I see progress.
So Kirstin, I say this to you today: Thank you. Thank you for your life, your courage, your humor, and your bravery. I know in your blog you have worried you might disappoint your "warrior friends." I don't know if you think I'm a warrior friend or not. But I think you are still a warrior. You've simply traded storming the ramparts of that fortress of your melanoma for storming the gates of Heaven. I am still not quite sure Heaven can get things ready in time for the likes of you! I thought today my one big regret is I've never heard your physical voice, nor you, mine. But then I quickly said, "Naw. I've heard her voice. Loud and clear."
Thank you. Thank you for teaching me this journey to wholeness is worth it. I've been teaching long enough to know good teachers know when to let the students teach them. I'm proud to have sat at your feet for it. Hugs to you and A. Stay with us as long as you can, but when you can no longer do it, know we will be faithful in our watch as you go to the other side of the river.
Godspeed, my friend.