a zen story for marie

When is it okay to re-gift? I feel a little guilty passing along a book I’ve already read, but Courage Doesn’t Always Roar (by Maryanne Radmacher) was in a basket of “hope” given me by friends when I was in the middle of chemotherapy in 2010. Though it is technically “used,” its message is as valid  as when I first received it “brand new.” Procrastinator that I am, I’ve had it ready to mail to a friend in Las Vegas ever since we visited her in mid-March when we were there.  If there’s ever a time she’s needed courage, it’s now. So, re-gift guilt set aside, I’m mailing to her today.

Earlier this year Marie was diagnosed with cancer. When we visited her, she was in a good bit of pain, but had just undergone her first treatment. Having gone through that very difficult  period myself in 2010, I had a pretty good idea of all the uncertainty  she was going through. And yes, those other words that go along with it–fear and doubt–probably creeping in. I like to think it helped her a little to see me–a living example that  you can survive the treatment, and God willing cancer. Still, words are never adequate at times like these, so we all sat there together remembering old–and good–times. We were all relieved to see her wonderful wit and smile, and note that her giving loving nature was still quite intact. As we were leaving, we saw the old determined Marie rally enough to locate and tie two red-ribboned Feng Shui Good Luck Buddha Charms to my purse handles (which are still there)–one for me and one for Hubby.

On the long drive home, I made a pact with myself to keep in touch somehow, perhaps in the same ways she’s done over the years–cards on every occasion, with photographs and personal messages tucked inside–because I knew how much those things meant to me, those weekly phone calls, cards, and emails. Then the yard work began, the classes, the days helping out the grandchildren. Time zipped by. None of those reasons were ever good enough to excuse my procrastination, but those reasons plus my unwillingness to pick up the telephone (some sort of weird phone phobia I guess) got in the way. One problem too was the thing that grips any of us when we don’t know quite what to say, or how to say it. I grew up with that axiom the road to hell is paved with good intentions but there it is.

There’s a long road ahead for Marie and all of us who have had to face that long valley of shadows. After two years of followup scans if nothing bad shows up, it’s statistically less likely you’re going to develop a “crossover” cancer influenced by the toxic cancer drugs themselves.  No guarantees, but the doctors breathe a little easier, and the odds are more favorably stacked on your side. So the closer you get to five years, the better. Recently we heard through a mutual friend that Marie has been doing well. But the book about courage still lies on my desk inside a padded manilla envelope, ready for mailing.

So today I had an idea. Suppose I write about it in a blogpost. Sometimes, when I have trouble saying what I’m feeling, it’s easier to tell it in a story. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll send her a story that I like to remember, a ZEN story that I always think about when I’m facing one of those six-month followup scans, when the doubt begins to creep in and I’m afraid my luck–if that’s what it is–may be running out.

A long time ago, there was a Monk being chased by a tiger. He is so frightened and tired, but he can’t stop running or the tiger will surely catch up with him. Soon he sees the edge of a cliff coming up. Just as the tiger is about to close in on him, he  notices a vine trailing over the edge. He quickly crawls over the edge and begins to carefully let himself down the vine, little by little. Just as he’s beginning to feel safe again, he looks down to see how far is left, and sees another tiger waiting for him below. As he looks up again, he notices a mouse gnawing away at the vine. At first he feels such despair, what point is there in going on? Then he spots a luscious looking red strawberry just within arm’s length. It looks so delicious he reaches out,  grabs it and eats it.

I hope this story I pass along to her through this blogpost will remind her that–while there may be terrible things behind and before us, complicated by vexing everyday annoyances like that little mouse, we all need to keep our eyes open for that strawberry. I hope Marie knows that we think of her every day, even though we’re not very good at day to day correspondence.

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7 thoughts on “a zen story for marie

  1. That’s not regifting. That’s passing it on – your hope, your faith, your good wishes. My very best wishes for your friend, Marie.

  2. I love the story, too. And I particularly love the ambiguity. Too often we are left there, left with the need for resolution, and never see the strawberry.

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