In the past month, my active, vibrant 69-year-old mother received some stunning news: She has advanced lung cancer, and the doctors estimate that even with treatment, she has approximately two years to live. (She and I both know that people beat those estimates all the time, but still…) For a woman who has never smoked and has been the picture of good health her entire life, this came as quite a shock — indeed, it has been a shock for the entire family. Yet even in this, the Holy Spirit has laid some real gifts.
Of course, I’m doing lots of Course practice to help me with this. I’m making full use of my “problem-solving repertoire” of practices (often applied to her in the second person): everything from “You are not a body. You are free” to “There is no order of difficulty in miracles” to “You are God’s Son, complete and healed and whole, shining in the reflection of His Love….” And it has really helped immensely. As with so many difficult times in my life, I find myself saying, “How could I ever have managed this without the Course?”
But perhaps what has helped me most — a real gift from the Holy Spirit — has been my mother’s amazingly positive attitude toward the whole thing. Now, don’t get me wrong; she has certainly gone through some sadness and anger at what has happened, and will likely experience more, especially as she experiences the ravages of chemotherapy. But her overall stance has been one of realistic optimism, peaceful acceptance of the real possibility of her imminent death, and joy in life no matter what. It’s very clear to me that this is not some sort of desperate denial — it is very genuine. She has a perspective on the whole thing that, though she is not a Course student, could have come right from the Course; in her words, “Love is all that matters.”
My mother’s attitude has truly inspired me. I find that her own peace and joy in the midst of this situation enables me to feel peace and joy too (though I still have sadness and concern as well). It reminds me of a major teaching in one of my favorite Workbook lessons, Lesson 100. The teaching is that when you feel genuine joy and extend it to others, it heals their sorrows, because joy is infectious:
“Just as your light increases every light that shines in Heaven, so your joy on earth calls to all minds to let their
sorrows go, and take their place beside you in God’s plan. God’s messengers are joyous, and their joy heals sorrow and despair….You are God’s messenger today. You bring His happiness to all you look upon; His peace to everyone who looks on you and sees His message in your happy face” (4:2-3, 6:4-5).
My mother (who goes by the beautiful name “Morningstar,” her maiden name) has been God’s messenger for me. Her reminder that “love is all that matters” has made a painful event into an unexpected blessing. On Wednesday, I’ll be traveling up to Washington State to spend my birthday with her. (I’ll be out of town for a week, so I may not reply to blog responses as quickly as usual.) I’m looking forward to seeing her happy face.