Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sometimes it's sad

While I never name the Corporation where I work in my blog, my blog title references the fact that I am a working mom. The place I work involves children with cancer, and sometimes my job, even though it does not involve patient or family contact, makes me sad.

A couple of days ago, I had a harder day than usual. I inadvertently stepped into a conversation that was the second-worst situation one can hear around here. A mother had gotten terrible news: the doctors predicted that her child had three months to live. Nothing would help her.

Later that day, in the cafeteria, a girl of around eight or nine was crying. Not the kind of crying my children do (the silent, tearful kind). Not the manipulative crying you hear from children in the grocery store. The kind of crying when a child is truly, truly in pain. Her mother was looking for a nurse, telling anyone who would listen that it was her daughter's first day of chemotherapy, and that her head was hurting. While the mother found the phone and called for assistance, one of the cashiers took it upon herself to comfort the girl, holding her in her arms. Seeing that, the moment of tenderness from an employee who could easily have looked the other way, saying, "That's not in my job description," is what makes me proud to be here.

Being in the South and being Unitarian Universalist makes for an interesting tension in one's life. References to old-school Christianity abound in my daily life. The crying mother? Asked us all to pray for her child, and told us her name and the child's name. The cashier in the cafeteria? Told the mom to give it up to God. That's the mainstream way of thinking in my part of the world. And, even though that's truly, truly not how I believe, I'm not going to argue. I'm not going to find fault with people who simply need the comfort that comes with the belief in God and heaven.

Because life can be very scary. Seeing children with cancer, seeing families watching their children suffer, is hard. And it's easy to despair, to shake one's fist at the heavens, asking, even demanding, "Why?" "What is the reason or the justice or the mercy in allowing this to happen?"

Which, in a ridiculously simplified summary, is why I mostly choose not to partake in that belief. In my adult life, I've not found a way to wrap my head around any notion of God. The world seems too full of random misery and random joy. Without pattern. Without justice. Some suffer, some feast. And that gross injustice of the universe, pediatric cancer, is my "proof" that it's chaos which reigns, and nothing more.

That being said, I would never deny others their beliefs. While Marx scoffed that religion was the opiate of the masses, I choose to tolerate the faith that keeps some people afloat. I don't bristle when someone asks me to pray for their loved one. In fact, most of the time I do pray. (To whom? Eh, whomever might be listening, I suppose. That's the prerogative of an agnostic...I'm not at all willing to say there isn't someone listening. But I'd be hard put to tell you whom or what.) And I've even been known to tell someone to give it up to God, without irony. Because it's easier to speak to someone in language they understand, especially in the hard times.

My day was happier yesterday. I saw children who were healing, who were healed. I heard the name of my small friend who is a patient here, being summoned to a clinic for his weekly treatment. I saw his face in my mind, his happy smile that contains all the mischief you expect from a boy his age. I saw his thick hair, never lost to his treatment. Some might say that he has guardian angels looking out for him. Some might say he's lucky. Some might say that faith and prayer have saved him. I say, "Thank goodness for good medicine." The only place that I'm willing to (begrudgingly, perhaps) give credit to "someone" is in imbuing scientists and doctors and caregivers with great talent. I just hope that the little girls find some good medicine too, and quick.


Lizard Eater said...

Beautiful post. And Kudos to you for working where you do. Some would not.

Jess said...

Because it's easier to speak to someone in language they understand, especially in the hard times.


Thank you for writing this post.

jacqueline said...

I also live in the South and it is hard sometimes though to hear such simplistic terms thrown about. Especially when it pertains to you or your situation. I, like you, try to handle it gracefully, but sometimes in the privacy of my own home I get mighty frustrated.

kalisah said...

Well said. You certainly can't judge how a parent deals in that situation. I used to be shocked that some of the parents smoked, when you know - their kid has CANCER. But who knows how one of us would handle it. Let's hope we never have to find out, right?

I think for me, if my child were fighting for his life, I would have to believe that SOMETHING greater than myself was at work in the universe. You know? B/c at that point, I'd be totally powerless. I would not have the power to save my child. So I would need to believe that someone or something DID have the power and would choose to save him. And I surely wouldn't be beyond ASKING him to save him.

Mom said...

I love your tender heart!

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