“What God cares about, with all the power of God’s holy being, is the quality of my life…not just the continuation of my breath and the health of my cells–but the quality of my life, the scope of my life, the heft and zest of my life…fear of death always turns into fear of life, into a stingy, cautious way of living that is not really living at all….”
Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor
Nothing “stingy” here! The days since my return to Germany have been filled to the brim with joy–and occasional frustrations that I refuse to let tarnish it! These have been two celebratory weeks of reconnection and reinvestment in the lives and the work that have kept me joyfully toiling for nearly 18 years in this place where my past finds fulfillment in shaping the futures of students. How I’ve missed fielding their questions, feeding their curiosity and watching them catch glimpses of glory in the most mundane of circumstances.
When I was about 11 years old, I wandered down to the town fair in Lamorlaye, France, and spent a chunk of my allowance on a bumper-car ride. Mind you, I hadn’t ever been in a bumper-car before, so I really had no expectations other than the coolness-by-association I hoped to gain by mingling with other courageous souls. (Trust me–I needed it! I was a mousy, frightened, angst-ridden little girl!) To this day, I’m not sure why I was there utterly alone on that afternoon, but I was. No friends, no parents, no brother. I purchased my token and took my place behind the steering wheel. I was about 30 seconds into my disco-pounding ride when someone hit me from behind, propelling me into another car that was heading in my direction. My solar-plexus met the steering wheel with enough jarring force to knock the breath out of me.
As the French are extremely sympathetic people (particularly those drunken fairground workers!), a man saw me slouched forward in my shiny red car, trying to gasp some air into my lungs, and came to the rescue. He hopped onto my car’s bumper, drove me to the edge of the ring, lifted me unceremoniously out of the death-vehicle which I was sure had just caused my imminent demise, dropped me on the metallic apron surrounding the bumper-car ring…and walked away. I’m not sure how long I lay there waiting for my lungs to start functioning again, but I’m pretty sure the experience had a lot to do with my waiting until I was 21 to get a real driver’s licence!
Well, BFA headed to the nearest Swiss city a few days ago for its Herbstmesse (fall fest). It’s a yearly tradition that the entire school converges at the bumper cars at a predetermined time, and in all my loooong years here, I’ve managed to avoid actually taking a ride. But when Squirt (who I’ve known and loved since she was in 7th grade) informed me that she’s a senior now and this would be our last chance to make a memory of such momentous import, I succumbed to her pleas. Two bruised knees and a shattered vocal chord later, I’m pleased to report that I survived without any need for mouth to mouth resuscitation this time! It just goes to prove that some things really do improve with age!
Post-ride…a little bruised and blurry, but victorious!
but the goal thus reached is not worth reaching.”
The routine that will see me through 33 sessions of radiation therapy started this week. I get zapped every morning by a giant machine that circles me like a character from Star Wars, uttering strange sounds and, if all goes well, destroying any stray cancer cells that might have eluded my surgeon’s scalpel. On two of my five weekly trips, I’ll be accompanied by my dear friends, Renee and Mari Ellen. It might as well be a party, right? I’m fortunate enough that my radiation takes place in Switzerland–firstly because the bedside manner there seems to be a vast improvement on the treatment I’ve received here and secondly because…well…I get to drive through France to get there. It’s a 35-40 minute drive each way, mind you, which takes a big chunk out of my day, but how many people get to drive from Germany to France to Switzerland on a regular basis? I’ve decided to be grateful and joyful on that count!
Views from my radiation route…more below.
a barbarous vocabulary…[like German!!!].”
Remember how I’ve mentioned on multiple occasions that God has blessed and comforted me through His people in the ups and downs of the past months? Well, I walked into the radiation Klinik in Switzerland for the first time last Friday and found a familiar face behind the front desk. Eliane attends my parents’ former church in France and knew of me before I got there. She is French, so there is no language barrier between us, though she works in German-speaking Switzerland. It was she who put me through my initial CAT scan, did my prep work, and administered my first dose of radiation. She’ll be there regularly in the days ahead too. If you’ve been praying that this experience would continue to be filled with what the French would call “winks from the sky” (random acts of divine kindness?), your prayers are being answered. What are the odds that I would already know someone who works in a randomly chosen radiation clinic in Switzerland? And all the other technicians I’ve met so far are equally kind women with bright, sunny spirits. Each of them is another of God’s gifts to me.
Members of choir…
“Love wholeheartedly, be surprised, give thanks and praise.
Then you will discover the fullness of your life.”
Brother David Steindl-Rast
My gratitude extends to you, too. I am supported and strengthened every day by the prayers of friends and warriors around the globe–and in those moments when I am most keenly aware of each of you, words fail me. As I’m sure you’re wishing they would now! So I’ll quit my rambling and leave the rest for another day…