Sunday, June 25, 2006

The check in the mail

Pretty Lady would like to make a very earnest prayer request this evening.

About seven or eight months ago, her acupuncturist referred a friend of hers to Pretty Lady for a healing treatment. This gentleman, a darling man with a truly generous soul, had been manifesting signs of odd, undiagnosable neuromuscular problems--weakness, pain, loss of muscle control.

As soon as Pretty Lady laid hands on him she knew that something was terribly wrong. She also knew that the problem was beyond her ability to handle; possibly beyond anyone's ability. She knew, however, that the more healing treatments one receives, the better, even if it is simply for surcease of suffering in the most temporary way.

Thus she offered the gentleman a barter--as many treatments as he wished, in exchange for professional photographs of Pretty Lady's artwork. The lovely man insisted on offering Pretty Lady more for less, and when she demurred, he beat his price down once again.

Unfortunately, the gentleman was too modest to insist upon the rights he had so graciously accepted. After one more session, during which he imparted the information that it was, indeed, Lou Gehrig's disease, he did not call again. Pretty Lady worried terribly, but respected his privacy, and did not phone.

A couple of weeks ago, she ran into her acupuncturist in the grocery, and asked after the photographer. The news was, to put it bluntly, dreadful. Our dear friend has been forced to close his studio, has lost the use of his hands, and is making his way occasionally into the street with the assistance of a walker. All methods of attempting to slow the process of the dread disease have been unavailing. This week, a check for the last healing session arrived in the mail.

During our last conversation, Pretty Lady communicated to this wonderful man what she believes to be true; that the soul is immortal, that we take on suffering in order to learn, and that persons who undergo such suffering are to be admired, rather than pitied. Pity, in her view, is a form of condescension. It masks our fear that suffering and pain are contagious, and contains the seeds of a form of judgment which says that such sufferers must have brought it on themselves.

In my view, the most important thing we can do when a loved one is suffering is simply not to abandon them. Trying to 'fix' or 'heal' them does not always succeed; when it does not, the ill person can be made to feel that they have failed, not only themselves, but their loved ones as well. In our fear, pain, and helplessness, we may turn away in the time of greatest need.

This is why I ask all of my friends to send love, simply love, to Mr. O.S. of Brooklyn, New York this evening. To be present in spirit, and not turn our faces away.