June 2, 2012

The Art of Healing

Healers are gathering in Louisville, Kentucky, today, at four o'clock.  We're gathering together in a healing session for the west end of the city, which has undergone terrible violence in recent weeks, including three deaths.

We're each being asked to play an active role: to read or sing or speak or play an instrument; to offer up whatever gift we may possess to these battered, grieving families and to this battered city.

I'm gathering myself prior to heading out for the gathering. I'm planting my feet firmly so that I can feel my the soles become roots traveling down toward the center of the earth, the way they talk about in yoga class.

I learned after my husband died in 2000 that the true bedrock in life is beauty, because beauty has power even in the midst of futility.  And so this afternoon, then, unless somebody requests otherwise, I'm going to read two of my poems:  "Not Paprika" and "You Walk in Beauty" (which I could and probably should have titled "Ode to Feet").

I'm also going to take along the seven iris paintings I did last week.  I'll put them where ever they may fit to lend some green and some air to the healing and to remind myself that at any moment the wind can blow and everything can be different.

Can beauty prevent violence?

Can healers heal a city?

Here's what I think. I have a friend named Sue.  Eleven years ago, her husband, Tim, was dying of the same cancer that killed my husband in 2000.  Tim underwent an autologous stem cell transplant conducted by doctors inexperienced in treating multiple myeloma.  He had a second transplant, an allogeneic one in which he received stem cells from his sister, overseen by a world-class oncologist.  Tim had chemotherapies before, during, and after both transplants, with some useless radiation thrown in as well.

Tim and Sue had two small children, the younger of whom was a toddler when his father was diagnosed.  Tim was ill, and he was ill, and he was ill; and everything that stood a chance of helping him was attempted. Eventually, he ran out of things that might work.

And then what did he do? He kept on. He kept on taking the thalidomide. He kept on taking the steroids. He kept on allowing chemotherapies that had never been shown to combat his disease. He kept on forcing himself to drink a little, to eat a little, to speak a little  in spite of the intense pain he endured for three years.

How does a person find that kind of determination?

I learned the answer one day while on the phone with Sue.  She was telling me about the latest thing that hadn't worked, and about the equally useless thing the doctors wanted to try next.  And then she said, "What Tim told me yesterday is 'I can't do nothing.'"

I can't do nothing.

At first, I thought Tim had used a double negative. Then I thought he was lamenting the loss of physical ability. Then I understood.

When Tim said "I can't do nothing," he meant "I can't stand here, or sit here, or lie here and allow this to happen while I do nothing."

And that's why the healers are gathering today. Because we, like Tim, can't do nothing. We can't stand  by while the bullets fly and people die in the street, on the sidewalk, in their homes, and do nothing.  We are doing what we can do, trusting that from within the gathering of our bodies, voices, spirits, gifts, and offerings, some green might flourish, some air be stirred, and a fresh wind blow, making everything new and possible.

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