A couple of days ago, I had my annual physical. Everything we checked in the office looked good–blood pressure, pulse, heart, lungs–and my doctor ordered a slate of bloodwork for me, to be done fasting. So this morning, I got up early-ish and caught the bus down to the Catholic hospital that houses both my doctor’s office and the blood lab and rolled into a very empty lab at nine a.m. I was out again ten minutes later, with the usual cotton ball taped to my arm over the needle puncture.
On my way down to the lab, however, I stopped before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s a tall, slim, simple statue of golden-brown unpainted wood, dating from the late twentieth century. It stood in the lobby of this Mercy Hospital in my teens, several renovations ago, when I had family members in and out of cardiac arrest for several years together. I knew that statue and it knew me, and I stopped there today to pray. I noticed on the dedication plaque that it was commissioned to have perpetual flowers before it; it doesn’t any more, alas. Nevertheless, I said three Hail Marys and followed them up with a prayer for my ex-husband. He’s just been diagnosed with stage four cancer.
It’s been a very hard week. My ex and his wife moved out of state this year when he took an exciting new job; his mother, who just turned eighty-nine, followed them in October, not to live with them, but into a new house of her own. Everything had been going extremely well for them; my ex’s Facebook posts were mostly pictures of the house, the garden, the cats. I was especially charmed by a picture of their fireplace lighted for the first time this year; Nadia the tortoise, whom I have fed and petted, had settled by the fire to enjoy the warmth.
Now a man I spent over twenty years with, who is still my friend in spite of everything, is sick unto death, a few hundred miles away, and I can’t do anything for him. In the first rush of concern, I started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to take the train to visit them. I met my goal, but then his condition and prognosis improved, and it makes more sense for me to wait and visit in December, perhaps. Nevertheless, this disease is not curable, not survivable. This is the beginning of the end.
I was participating in the Trans Rite of Ancestor Elevation. I carried on with that, taking for my motto what one of my favorite college instructors used to say: “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” I feel like I participated badly, half-heartedly, but participating badly is far superior to not participating at all. I was given to understand that this is part of my job, to pray for the dead, so I did it. I am also understanding that it’s part of my job to pray for the living: For transgender folk who are alive and well; for my ex-husband, my friend, and for his wife; for my friends who suffer from chronic illness and are often in pain, and for my friends who are mentally ill and struggle with depression, anxiety, and other difficulties. Even if I do it badly, I should do it.
I would ask you to pray for me, dear readers, as I shall be praying for you.