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Quiet, Please

It’s that time of year. I fly to the other side of the state, make my way to the hospital from the airport, and step into the meditation room for a moment of reflection before checking in. It’s a small room on the first floor. After the angst of leaving my family, the craziness of parking, and the grit of the city, this room is a soft landing. I heave open its thick, church-like door and take in the shift. Noise gives way to quiet. My eyes adjust to diffused lighting, and the only sound I hear is a soft trickle of water. Smooth round rocks remind me of the sturdiness of the earth, the miracle of nature, and I take a seat. I see that a few of the stones have been formed into the shape of an impromptu cross on the floor, others piled in Zen-like patterns on a shelf. I bow my head, breath deeply, seek the presence of God. Nothing. I focus on my breathing, inhale through my nose. Slowly exhale through my mouth. Count to ten. Nope. I could be in the sale aisle at Walmart. I feel no sacred presence, no sense of connection. Sometimes it happens this way, so I wait. But waiting for God in meditation is like waiting for a treat to heat up in a microwave. The seconds tick by slowly. I glance at my cell phone, then flip it into my bag. I jiggle the keys of my rental car, then put them away. Who am I kidding? I can’t meditate. I’m an impostor. I try one more time, do the deep breathing thing again. It’s no use. I get up, wander to the entryway and see prayers other people have written and take them to my seat. One by one I read through them, their heartfelt communions with God. I take out my pen and start scribbling. Writing by hand, the loopy letters like art across a page, connecting the heart to the mind to the hand to the paper to the universe, is a prayer in itself. I ask for peace. I ask for understanding. I ask God to help me be aware of His constant presence and to do the same for my beautiful young daughter and my husband. I ask Him to be with all the daughters who have lost their mothers, to help me cope somehow if I learn today that Lauren will have to forge her way through the world without me. And then my tears come, as they need to. Sometimes, tears are little wisps of water, like dew on grass after a cool evening meets the sunrise. These tears feel like pudding, like a concentration of toxins balled up in thick salty masses gushing out of my body, dropping heavily onto my shiny oak chair, leaving a pattern of spray on my grey tee-shirt. I let them fall. I leave them there in that room, where so many other tears have been shed, where anxiety, hope, fear, forgiveness, love and hate have converged in big moments while people and their loved ones go to learn their fates in the adjoining space. My meditation over, I carefully place the stack of prayers back in the entryway, mine now among them. Then, with the light of God surrounding me, at peace again in faith, I make my way upstairs to the exam room where I’ll learn more about whatever is likely to happen next.

This piece was published first on BreastCancer-News.

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