The Meaning Of The Butterfly Is Revealed

Hope

Image by califmom via Flickr

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My husband was raised Catholic. He attended Catholic school until eighth grade, made first communion, confirmation, and didn’t leave the church until just before we were married. At that point, he became Protestant. When he knew he was dying and we were making his funeral plans, one thing he wanted to do for his family was to have a Catholic mass. It was his gift to them. It was a beautiful gift.

Bob and I had never met Father Gus before Bob passed. I had no idea exactly what he’d say during his homily. As I sat between my children with Janell just to the other side of us, Father started to tell a story about butterflies and caterpillars.

I quickly looked over at Janell through tears and a smile. Father continued on. “On Earth we are the caterpillars climbing the stalk of the plant trying to reach the leaf. In Heaven we become butterflies.” Or something to that effect…my mind was a little fuzzy, but that was the gist of what he was saying. Caterpillars here. Butterflies in heaven.

I cannot explain the peace that came over me. I got my sign. I think we all want a sign from our loved ones when they pass. Whether you believe in signs or not, you want that comfort from knowing that things will be alright. I had my butterfly.

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Snippets In Time

fuck cancerThat’s what blog posts are. They capture a moment in time. They are not fluid. They don’t get updated when information changes or a situation is altered.

They are a slice of life.

A snapshot.

To base our assumptions (ass-ump-tions) on those snippets in time is a dangerous thing. We can use them to try to piece together a picture, but they’ll never give us a perfect image of someone’s everyday life. They’ll never tell you who takes out the trash each day, how many conversations are had at bedtime between a husband and a wife over major life decisions, what kind of agony a person goes through watching their loved one suffer day after day as their body fails them in the simplest of tasks. Instead, you just get snapshots. And you build from there.

If you skip a post, misinterpret the tone, don’t share the writer’s sense of the world or humor, you’re going to paint a different picture altogether. It may be the failing of the writer or the failing of the reader. Either way, it’s going to be an inaccurate picture of that life.

The only way to know a life is to live it. The only life you can know is your own. That’s why you cannot judge the life of another. (Now hold up while I get all religious on you or tune out if it’s not your thing.) That is why the only one to sit in judgment of our lives is our Creator – the same Creator who can handle our anger when we feel let down, our joy when we feel lifted, and our hurt when we don’t understand His plan.

If this past year has taught me anything, it is that I can lean hard on my God. He can handle it all. Every priest and pastor who has counseled me along the way has said just that. The error comes in thinking that He cannot, in thinking that we have to shoulder the fear, anger, frustration, and hate ourselves. We don’t. It is not our job. God can even handle the F-bomb. You’d be amazed.

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Lord, Who Shall Abide In Thy Tabernacle


I'm lying on a foldout chairbed in my husband's hospital room. I have blue rosary beads wrapped through my left hand. They belonged to one of my ancestors, my mother was unsure whom.

I prayed the rosary tonight as I sat alongside Bob's bed, listening to him gasp, cough, choke. I paused more than once to adjust his pillows, reach things he needed, help him. Eventually, I finished.

I love the feel of rosary beads. I love the symmetry. I love the repetition. The meditation of the prayers. I love the multisensorial experience.

Or at least I hope I will.

This was the first time I prayed the rosary.

I'm not Catholic.

I'm Protestant.

We totally got ripped off on the meditative prayer-bead rituals. So, I'm borrowing. I hope y'all don't mind. If you do, just pretend they're my worry beads.

Because the only other scripture I have memorized is the 15th Psalm, which I had to learn in college for my sorority. And the only way I could memorize it was to use a TV evangelist voice.

I wish I had audio capabilities here in the hospital to give you a sample of my rendition of what has to be one of the lamest Psalms to ever commit to memory (but awesome in a TV evangelist voice).

"Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in Thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly and worketh righteousness and speaketh the truth in his heart. In whose eyes a vile person is condemned, but he honereth them that feareth the Lord."

It goes on, and on, and on, but I'll spare you. Trust me when I say, it is not a comforting scripture to recite in your hour of need. Fun at parties, though. For now, I'll continue honing my rosary skills.

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The Good News Is I Can Pray Again, The Bad News Is I Just Told God To Fuck Off

Mary Magdalene, in a dramatic 19th-century pop...

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I’ve been having a crisis of faith for quite some time. Most of you think it started when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. It was actually in the works a little earlier, when my friend died of cancer a few years before that. God and I were on rocky footing. Bob’s diagnosis was the straw that broke the telephone wire.

But, over the past week, as calls for prayer requests came from my husband as he prepared for his follow-up visit to the oncologist, I felt like myself picking up the God Phone. I placed my call. I felt like Someone was on the other end of the line.

When Anissa had her stroke. I prayed. And again, I felt like my prayers were going somewhere. I didn’t feel like I’ve felt these past months. I didn’t feel like the line was disconnected. So, I kept praying.

Then Wednesday came. My husband went in for his pre-appointment blood work. He’s been nervous about this appointment. He’s been having nightmares about his tumors coming back. So, he kept checking online for the results of his blood work. By the evening, all the results were posted.

Everything looked great. Except for two very important numbers. The two numbers that would indicate a return of his cancer were up—his LDH and his sed rate. One of them, his LDH, was way up. Up higher than it had ever been. We hoped the lab had made an error.

Then he went to see Dr. W. Then he called me, waking me from a dream where I’d dreamt that the lab made an error. Instead of my happy dream, my husband told me that Dr. W thinks the cancer is back, in his lung. That he has a bone marrow biopsy scheduled for Friday. That he’s having a PET scan next week. That if the cancer is back they’ll do three rounds of intense chemo, stopping just short of killing him, then perform an autologous bone marrow transplant.

Then I stopped being able to think straight. We talked about Christmas and our son’s birthday plans, but I don’t really remember because all I was thinking was, “God, FUCK YOU! FUCK. YOU. How dare you! This is the biggest pile of bullshit. What the fuck? Explain this to me, because I don’t get it. And then come explain it to my kids, ASSHOLE. YOU TELL THEM!!! Because I shouldn’t have to deliver this message to them TWICE! What kind of plan is this? Huh? That’s my prayer, God. FUCK YOU. And, you know what? You handle it, because I sure can’t. You can just FUCK OFF if this is your grand master plan for me and mine because it sucks ass!!”

So, yeah. That was my day. How was yours? Did you tell any deities to fuck off today?

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Replacing Faith

First, I’m tired of calling my husband, Hubs. His name is Bob. He’s nearly died in the past few months, and I’m going to call him Bob. If some twat of a lawyer wants to threaten me because I call him by his name, so be it. My family has been through hell, and we’ve come out on the sunnier side of the tunnel. So, kiss my ass.

When Bob was diagnosed with lymphoma, and I thought he might die, and he thought he might die, I had to place my faith in the doctors and medicine to heal him.

Other people prayed. He prayed. Family prayed. Friends prayed. Strangers prayed. Maybe that helped in some way, but the thing that I saw heal my husband was the medicine. I saw the IVs of drugs drip into his veins, and I saw him get better. I saw the filled bottles of pills become empty, and I saw him get better.

I would love to be able to say that going through this process has strengthened my faith in God, but it hasn’t. It has solidified my faith in science.

Ten years ago, when my sister-in-law had lymphoma, some of these medications did not exist, and her journey was more difficult. Science changed that.

Sure, we can debate whether God made it possible for the scientists to develop the medications that healed my husband. That’s not really my point. I’m not trying to get that philosophical.

When this all started, I shared that I couldn’t pray. I still can’t. I thought that if Bob was healed, maybe I’d feel that joy of having a faith in God return, and I’d be able to pray again, maybe even for other people or other reasons. But, no. For now at least, it’s gone. I haven’t even decided if I miss it yet. It’s just not there.

EDITORIAL NOTE: I may need to change my stance. I just spent 4 1/2 hours moving furniture, mostly unaided by anyone with a penis as the one able-bodied penis owner present can't risk any injuries at the moment. (Fuck Cancer In The Eye.) Just as my back was mid-spasm from movie a 300-pound tv atop a 40-foot high perch, I hunched over a bag of unidentified crap when Lo, there was before me a bag of forgotten Easter candy. At first frantic rummage, it appeared to be all shit-candy, just Sweet Tarts and that crap Hershey's tries to pass off as dark chocolate. Then, I found it. The Holy Egg, still sealed shut in all its mismatched plastic glory. As I cracked it open in my shaking palm, a bounty of Jelly Belly beans spilled forth. As I shoved them into my pie hole, I looked to the Heavens and gave thanks.

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