When you strip away all the scintillating debate about the existence or non-existence of a dimension of life beyond this material realm, what are you left with?
You are left with the reality of physical death and the choices we make about how we live in light of this inevitability. We will all die. We must all face this inescapable reality of our existence. We all choose every moment to move towards this reality with greater grace and openness, or more entrenched resistance.
For Ashley Makar the confrontation with death has come tragically early. At the age of 33 she is living with a deadly diagnosis of esophageal carcinoma.
Ashley reflects with disturbing honesty and translucent faith on her journey with cancer at http://killingthebuddha.com/mag/confession/communion-on-chemo/.
She faces the inevitability of her own death with refreshing openness:
I believe in the healing power of prayer. I can feel the anonymous prayers of strangers in the shawls around my shoulders. I can feel the morning prayers of my friend’s mother, also living with cancer, buoying me up to embrace each day and celebrate life. I can already feel the unction of last rites—the repose that lets you rest, and die, when you need to.
But, extraordinarily cancer for Ashley is not only about facing the reality and the inevitability of dying. It is also about living; it is about how she spends the remaining days or months of her physical life. She desires to live with her cancer, resisting the temptation that can come to us all, no matter how “healthy” we may be, to live in death before we die.
I don’t believe God will heal my body completely of cancer, no matter how much anyone prays; no matter how much holy Kool-Aid I drink. But the communion wine goes down smooth, the holy oil soothes, and my life force is stronger than ever—in light (yes, light!) of my cancer. There will come a day I can’t swallow anymore. But until then, I’ll keep drinking life to the lees. I’ll keep writing, trying to put words to the mystery I see in wondrous and troubling things.
I imagine all those prayers for healing swooping over the ground under my feet, like the shadows of birds. Evidence of living things unseen, faith making me well enough to live abundantly, with cancer.