Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ain't Got Time to Fix The... Shingles?

For a bit of a health update (am I getting old or what?) here's part of the weekly e-blessing I sent to my adult children today:

The older I get, the more I'm grateful for how blessed I've been. Life that has been good way beyond deserving, with my wonderfully loving family and church family, good health, meaningful work and wonderful opportunities to grow and serve.

All this became even more vivid in my mind when I noticed some strange, ugly looking sores on my chest and my back last Tuesday. I had been experiencing some itchiness in those areas for about a week but had never seen anything like this. I first thought I might be experiencing a recurrence of my one and only diagnosis of "cancer" twenty-plus years ago, involving a small spot on my thigh that turned out to be an easily removed case of basal cell carcinoma. But this looked far worse, and I was thinking something far more serious, like melanoma (!). Strangely enough, I found myself not only feeling the dread of a big "What if...", but a sense of peace in having enjoyed a long and truly satisfying life and feeling quite ready to go if that were my lot.

My good skin specialist, Dr. Carolyn Miller, whom I got to see Thursday, took one good look and immediately said, "Oh, you've got a case of shingles." Much as I hated to hear that (having heard all kinds of horror stories about the condition) I felt a great sense of relief as well. I hadn't expected this diagnosis, since I had gotten a shingles shot over two years before, but was told that would at least help me experience fewer and less prolonged symptoms, and was prescribed a medication that seems to be helping.

I guess it's all a part of growing older. It's life. There is spring and there is autumn, the season I'm in now.

Here's a quote by Parker Palmer, a Quaker writer I've come to appreciate. It's from his book, "Courage To Lead":

"This hopeful notion that living is hidden within dying is surely enhanced by the visual glories of autumn. What artist would ever have painted a season of dying with such a vivid palette if nature had not done it first? Does death possess a beauty that we - who fear death, who find it ugly and obscene-cannot see? How shall we understand autumn's testimony that death and elegance go hand in hand?

For me, the words that come closest to answering those questions are the words of Thomas Merton: There is in all visible things ... a hidden wholeness. In the visible world of nature, a great truth is concealed in plain sight: diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites. They are held together in the paradox of the hidden wholeness."  

Love and blessings,
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