(Post from Paul) Lead me on to the light

Dear Friends:

It’s a sound I’ve been hearing a lot lately.  Last night, while we were lying in bed together, I heard Pam crying.  She declined my suggestion to tell me what was bothering her, but she rolled over so we could hold each other.  It’s hard for me to know whether I was any comfort to her because her tears never let up and she wouldn’t tell me what was on her mind.

“Please don’t nag me, we can talk later.”

This morning, when I reminded her of it, she gave me a very direct explanation for her tears.  

“I don’t want to die, Paul, I just don’t want to die.”

Now, for someone like me, working as I do with folks who suffer from severe mental illness, I consider it a very positive sign when someone says, “I don’t want to die.”  I spend my professional life among those who find life a terrible burden — people who struggle, each day, to endure to the end of the day.  In my field, death is an ever-present companion.  To many of my clients, death is a passageway out of trouble, a powerful medicine promising relief from agony.  The words I hear, all to much, are “I don’t want to live.”  My work is to help those afflicted with mental illness to find a purpose to life, a reason to live, to find motivation to look forward to the days ahead.

What a change it is when I come home, each day, from work!  The woman I live with is a woman brimming with purpose.  If there were ever someone with too many reasons to live it would be Pamela.  Is there anyone in the world with more to look forward to than my wife?  This, of course, presents us all with a great puzzle.  Why should someone such as my sweetheart be wrestling with a life threatening illness while so many others wake up each morning to the heart-breaking realization that their lives are most likely going to continue on and on as they have; and the days– the painful, meaningless days — will only pile up until they form a monument of futility?

Pamela has been spending ever so much time, these days, working her way through the thicket of this philosophical puzzle.  I watch her become bewildered, and frustrated and ultimately enraged at her incapacity to make any sense of it.  She gets no help from me.  I’m determined to stay as far away from that thicket as I can.  I maintain an unshakeable conviction that there is no answer to be had, no solution to the puzzle, no satisfaction of any kind.

It may seem to you as if there’s a complete disconnect between those of us who don’t want to die and those of us who don’t want to live.  I’m not so sure.  I find myself struck by the thought (as I do a dozen times each day) that we’re not all that different, one from another.  What unites us all is the very human desire that we be in control of whether we live or we die.  The human condition is the condition of wanting to ‘run things’, of wanting to ‘call the shots’, of wanting to ‘be the decider’.  Our expression of preference, our prayer — whether it be to live or to die — is our offer to God to relieve Him of His authority.  We’re all held captive by our own illusions of control, and when those illusions are challenged our entire understanding of life is called into question.

To have control over life is to have ultimate control, and we’re enslaved by our craving to be in the power position.  Control is what we want, but it’s not what we need.  In fact, control is the opposite of what we need.

As I’m sure you’ll recall, I’ve given you my Captain’s promise not to go into attack mode with the scriptures before giving you fair warning so you can get out of the way.  So, consider this your warning.  Attack in three … two … one … fire!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one already: “He leadeth me beside the still waters.” (Ps 23, 2).  That’s the King James Version.  My rendering is this: “He leadeth me to the still waters — but only if I let Him.”  I’ve spent a lifetime cherishing the beliefs that 1) I know where the ‘still waters’ are and 2) I know just how to get there.  Truth of the matter is, I not only don’t know where the still waters are — I can’t even recognize them when I fall in face first!

I’m perfectly happy to do a bit of catechesis when called upon, but in my classroom the first item on the syllabus is always the same — repentance.  A student might have it in his head that ‘repentance’ means repentance from sin — and if that’s his thought, he’s absolutely correct.  Trouble is, most people who’ve knocked around this nutty world of ours for any length of time have some really odd ideas about what ‘sin’ is.  If I were to say, “Repent your sins!” There’s a pretty good chance that no one would have any idea what I was talking about.

I generally find it more useful to say, “Change your mind.”  Change your mind about who’s life “your” life is.  Take a moment to consider how absurd it is to try and be your own boy, or be your own girl.  No.  Don’t take a moment.  Meditate on that thought day and night.  After you do that for a while, you might start to get a notion about what repentance is actually about.

There was a time in my life when I was utterly convinced that life would be much better all around if everyone would simply do what I told them to do.  In those days I was constantly and relentlessly angry.  My wife is angry now; and she’s getting a lot of advice — advice from many of you who read the blog — to let that anger fly.  “You go girl!”, folks are telling her, “Give it to God with both barrels!”.  “He’s got strong shoulders,” you tell her, “He’s not going to crumble.”

I just shrug.  I can’t see the use in being angry with the Almighty.  If I get angry at God, which one of us is going to get hurt?  People are telling my wife to “get the anger out”.  I don’t know about that.  Anger, I think, isn’t something you can “get out”.  I’m of the opinion that you’ve got to “let it go.”  And the only way I know I to let anger go is to change my mind about who among us is the follower, and who is the leader.




About pamvbradford

I am a fifty seven year old banker specializing in government banking. I have a beautiful twenty-one year old daughter and a wonderful husband. My husband and I recently downsized, and purchased a beautiful condo in Watertown MA. We love our new home. I know I am a very fortunate person. I am surrounded by supportive family members, by supportive coworkers and by the marvelous support of our faith community at Sacred Heart Parish in Lexington MA. As the Psalm says, "There is nothing that I lack." My whole life changed on July 18, 2012 when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The news came from out of the blue. My tumor was removed by the marvelous Dr. Mark Johnson and his wonderful team of surgeons at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. The surgery truly was a miracle. I couldn't possibly have gotten better care. Now the 'easy' part is over. The tough part is to learn to walk with God in the midst of danger and surprise. My mood shifts from gratitude to fear and back again but I know God has a purpose for me. There's a reason I didn't die on the operating table. There's something that God wants me to do. This blog is my effort to share with others, with all of you, what it is that I am learning as I put one foot ahead of the other, live each day as it comes, and discover what it is that God has to teach me. Your prayers keep me going. Your love comforts me. Your knowledge and faith guide and teach me. God bless you all!
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3 Responses to (Post from Paul) Lead me on to the light

  1. Lisa Cimino says:

    Thanks Paul – for me it’s always been helpful to know who God is and who I am not. The more time we put in to getting to know Him the less I need to question my life and my circumstances. Lots of love and prayers to Pam, Liqa and you.

  2. Laurie I says:

    Paul, you are a lovely writer. I wish I was reading about your family joys since the time that I met you, rather than wait until now in this time of struggle, but I feel honored to share in the bad times as well. I am I awe of your strength and resilience through your and Pam’s battle.

  3. ronald lancaster says:

    Paul, You are so right, once again. Repentence does mean toturn around, or as you put it so well….change your mind.I literally start to shake when I read that Pam is so sad. My heart breaks when I realize how much she is crying. I know how wonderful you are to her, and Iknow you are encouraging her, day by day. I never prayed or wished so hard that she will get well. It sound like right now she needs to change her mind to …I AM GOING TO LIVE, I AM GOING TO LIVE. If only she believed that the Mayan calender is right, and we are all going on Dec 21!!!!! Then she could have peaceful and joyful days, one at a time. Because NONE OF US KNOW WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN!.

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