I’ve studied and worked in many areas of alternative medicine over the past 25 years. Between my daughters’ terrible illnesses and that of others I’ve striven to heal, I expect I’ve seen nearly as much sickness and suffering as most physicians. In the process, I’ve come to know that illness wears a thousand masks and often provides us with a unique and rarefied opportunity for learning – one we’d choose to forego, of course, if given the chance – but, nonetheless, a catalyst for breathtaking expansion.
Life breaks us all, Hemingway said, some of us get stronger at the broken places. Those who survive the test of catastrophic illness, are compensated with the strength to handle all else that life will ever toss at them. Gifted, too, by the knowledge that no matter how much the illness has taken from them, they are not less than they were before, but infinitely more. Not that any of us would opt for such a learning experience given the chance not to. As Mother Teresa said, when asked about the notion that God never gives us more than we can handle, “I just wish He didn’t have so much confidence in me.” And as Saint Teresa said after having been dumped in a stream while on a mission of mercy, “If this is the way you treat your friends, God, it’s no wonder you have so few!”
Adding Insult to Injury
Unfortunately, over the past few years, a growing number of sick people have come to me burdened with an additional sorrow… the New Age-y concept that says all illness is psychically self-inflicted and can be banished by adopting the proper attitude. The reality, as any healer or doctor who’s ever laid hands on a body can attest, is far more complex than such a simplistic explanation. The concept “just think it away” really frosts my petunias because it lays a heavy burden on the sick, that of being judged as well as being ill.
This little prayer/poem grew out of respect and admiration for those who suffer and struggle toward recovery, often against staggering odds. I offer it in hopes that it may give heart to someone, somewhere, who has been so harshly and unfairly burdened.
Prayer for the Sick
Cathy Cash Spellman
What is this New Age nonsense
That’s been visited on the sick?
The sanctimonious ones who ask you
Why you’re doing this to yourself,
Or tell you
You attracted your illness, so
Why don’t you just think it away?
So first you’re ill
And then you’re judged.
How deadly for the soul
Never mind the body.
Well let me tell you, dear sick friend,
It isn’t nearly that simple.
As a healer, I’ve laid my hands
On a thousand bodies troubled
By a thousand ills
And there are more reasons for sickness
Than the Gnome of Zurich could count
On a good day.
Immune systems brought low by
Bacteria and virus in an unclean world
Psychic wounds so deep they kill
Heartache too great to bear
And whatever the ancestral gene pool
Coughed up on a given day.
So hear me out
Before you take to heart
The well (or ill) meaning friend
Who adds to your burden of suffering
By laying gratuitous guilt
On your already too full plate.
Here’s how it really goes:
Life tries us all
Some more fiercely than others
Illness is one of those trials
And often, it’s an opportunity disguised
To reevaluate life
To reconnect with love
To be braver than you ever thought possible
To fight like hell for what you need
To learn who you are in the clinches
To find out who your friends are
To learn that triumph doesn’t always mean winning
To believe in miracles.
To change the future.
So do your best with it, friend
And give yourself a break
And when they ask you
Why you’re doing this
Tell them it’s a private matter
Between you and God.
© Cathy Cash Spellman/The Wild Harp & Co. Inc 2010