Have you had that moment yet? Has someone you loved deeply become ill and you see the road ahead including the end? The abyss.
The Actual Dance is the play I wrote about that moment in my life. When Susan, my wife then of 34 years, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer it soon became apparent to me that she would not survive. The arc of the play is the journey through “good news” to “not-so-good news” to “bad news” to a moment when everyone around us goes dark. A post-mastectomy lump on her chest. If, as suspected, it was a manifestation of a rampantly exploding cancer the clock on her life was slowing toward dark-midnight quickly. A “get your affairs in order” aura, rather than with words. Maybe there was something about how Susan and I related to each other in the presence of the medical teams that made them reluctant to speak plainly.
Why so grim? The doctors knew what we knew. Susan’s mother had died of metastasized breast cancer at the age of 56 and Susan was 54. My mother had died of breast cancer that had metastasized 7 years after her surgery (at the 5th year post-treatment people are still declared ‘cured’). So, I ‘knew’ what was going to happen, and I could NOT imagine how I could do “it” – be with Susan as she took her last breath.
It is in just these moments so many people look for answers from God or in God. Just this past week I was in a group in which the question came up about belief in God following such personal challenges. It is not easy to reconcile losses like this with a view of a divine entity. I know because I know the existential paralysis that comes with confronting the unimaginable in our lives. What I do have to offer is what works for me.
It is summarized in fact by this simple statement: “I don’t speak God.” Judaism does not as a rule account for or offer an anthropomorphic God. Indeed, the Jewish “God” has no name, referred to only with a set of Hebrew letters which are translated by convention into “Adonoi.” God is a singularity of some sort that is granted status of creator and sustainer of life.
So yes, I do not speak God. For me the divine exists but is of a different kind. I can no more “speak” to God that I can speak to a “quark.” And yet, I know God is and is a part of me. I have been given the gift of having seen some part of God as I watched my mother’s soul jet out her and of the hospital room as the nurses declared “she’s gone.” I know the divine as a tangible other world ‘substance’ that exists formlessly (as we know form). It is love. It is life. Maybe God has a communication capability that speaks in ways we hear without sound. Yet, we can engage with the divine – a link to somewhere and something different. It comes in our hearts and minds and breath.
My poem for this is called: US I wrote it in 2012 and it continues to resonate for me as I hear and experience others struggling with these difficult questions:
Life exists in each of us. A form of the divine.
A tangible essence of who we are.
Love is when our essence became entwined.
Each an equal half of the other.
‘I love you’ simple awakens the US in you and me.