Sometimes, I feel as if nothing I do matters. I have struggled and fought and I have failed. Oh, have I failed, in a million small ways, and in a few pretty large ways too. Some days I feel weak and worthless. But yesterday helped me see a bit clearer.
Yesterday, I attended a memorial service for a patient. Her name was Angie, and she died at 45 from breast cancer. The ceremony was held in a garden space, where a stand of trees stood proudly in the middle of barren desert. In this oasis we were sheltered us from the Arizona sun, still so unrelenting even in late September. Native voices and drumming sliced through the air, carrying our prayers of healing and sobs of grief high in to the heavens. We honored the four directions, the circle of life and all its infinite passages. We held hands, a rainbow of humans from all walks of life, touched by this one woman. Years of addiction had scarred the hearts of some, yet there, under the shade trees, there was healing and love and hope for all of us. We were united in grief, united in being alive.
In this sacred space, I received kind words of gratitude for the care I gave to this woman while she was alive. I felt her community honor me as a healer to the sick and a friend to their loved one. Her case worker and strongest supporter during the last year of her life presented me with a print of a dragonfly, a symbol not only of the community where she lived but as symbol of transformation, of rebirth. It was how Angie wanted to be remembered. She is now in the spirit of the dragonflies. She is liberated and omnipresent and I believe she is still here. In a way, her illness gave her the medicine to be everywhere and everything, to transform from a homeless crack addict to an inspiration, a visionary, a healer.
I felt some apprehension about attending the service, as it promised to crack open my own barely contained well of grief (which it did). And sometimes it is hard to accept gratitude. I want to cast aside the humble thanks of others and say “its only my job.” But it’s not “only my job.” It is a blessing and an honor and a calling. I couldn’t save Angie from cancer, nobody could. At times I couldn’t even lessen the pain. But I walked beside her, I was at the door of her final passage. I was a part of humanity’s best side, the wide embrace, the soothing words that call forth light in the darkness. I was part of an easing of her burden, part of her finding wholeness even while she was dying. I was part of a miracle.
We all know about the shadow side of our civilization. We slaughter, we rape, we decimate, we wreak havoc on the earth. Sometimes, I can’t bear being a human, can’t face being a tiny limb of the global curse. But yesterday, I felt honored to be alive, to be a person, to be a part of a community wider than my own mangled thoughts, my own voice pleading in the darkness.
A single wave is meaningless, yet the collective tide can carve canyons and move mountains.
I am honored to be part of this mysterious force.