Christ In Winter: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…
[Repeated intro]I have been thinking about the “hinge” books in my life, those books that open a door in a unique way. There are hinge occasions that are not books, of course—people, events, places, movies. Books have a special niche of hinge importance, though--especially to people of my generation, who did not have access to more modern forms of input when we were in our hinge years--because they take time. If a book has hinge importance, you don’t just glimpse it, you ingest it. And you may go back to it time and again…
The whole list of my hinge books is at the bottom. That is too long a list to explore at one time, so I’m going to do only one book per column. Today’s hinge book is… LOVE, MEDICINE, AND MIRACLES by Bernie Siegel
I was lying in the hospital bed, in a sort of stupor I had never known before. I had just heard the pale oncologist say that I had but a year, or two, to live. I had just turned 53, quite literally, because the surgery was on my birthday, at midnight, in the emergency room. I had not walked my daughters down the aisle. I had not played trotty-horse with my grandchildren. I was not prepared to die.
Then Judith Unger brought me a copy of Bernie Siegel’s book. I was in no mood to read, but I trusted Judith. I had met her when she was a first year student at IU, Judy McCaffrey then, when I was a junior. She had married my friend and colleague, Paul Unger. We had been friends ever since, raised our daughters together. She was a social worker with a master’s from the U of Chicago. She knew what she was doing.
So I read Bernie. The whole book became my wellness manual, but two things he said were especially important.
First, he asked, “What did you do to cause this cancer?” We tend to think of ourselves as victims, not actors, when we get a disease, especially cancer. It jarred me out of my stupor. Did I do something to cause this?
Some people protest that they did nothing to cause their cancer. Like my late friend, Rosemary Shepherd, some of them are correct. They themselves did nothing to cause the cancer. It’s just the luck of the draw, or something others did, like polluting the air and water.
Some causes are obvious. If you smoke a pack a day and get lung cancer, you know what you did. But some causes are well hidden in our unconscious lives. I could not think of anything right away that I had done to cause the cancer, but I have an “action bias.” I want to do something… about anything and everything.
So in addition to chemotherapy and meditation and journaling and support group, I wanted to determine whatever it might have been that I did to cause the cancer, so I could reverse the process. I never discovered anything in particular, but the process of examining my whole life, to try to get each element into rhythm and balance with every other element--the process of healing that is called wholeness--that process was a hinge for me.
The other thing Bernie said was, “Not everyone can be cured, but everyone can be healed.” That resonated with me. I talked about that in the paragraph just above, but that was then. This is now, and Bernie’s “healing is the important thing” mantra has stayed with me not just during that one to two years. It’s been with me for 29 years come February.
You can read more about this in NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE: Reflections on Life and Healing for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them, published in two editions by AndrewsMcMeel. The second edition was written following the family cancers subsequent to my own—wife, daughter, grandson. Available in hardback, paperback, audio, electronic, Japanese, and Czech.
The hinge books:
TRAMP, THE SHEEP DOG by Don Lang, pictures by Kurt Wiese. 9-10-18
THE PREACHER AND HIS AUDIENCE, By Webb Garrison 9-11-18
JESUS OF NAZARETH by Gunther Bornkamm. 9-12-18
MAN’S NEED AND GOD’S ACTION by Reuel Howe 9-13-18
IDENTITY & THE LIFE CYCLE by Erik H. Erikson 9-14-18
THE IMMENSE JOURNEY by Loren Eiseley 9-24-18
GUILT, ANGER, AND GOD by C. Fitzsimmons Allison
PROFESSION: MINISTER by James Glasse 10-15-18
LOVE, MEDICINE, AND MIRACLES by Bernie Siegel 10-23-18
JESUS, A NEW VISION by Marcus Borg 10-19-18
BIOGRAPHY AS THEOLOGY by Wm. McCutcheon