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Posts Tagged "‘Death and the Maiden’":

The Things People Do And Say!

Today our vicar led the intercessions at Morning Prayer. As you might expect, they resonated with the congregation and we felt our prayers soar collectively heavenward. Normally, as in most churches, the congregation take it in turns to lead intercessionary prayer: some are more gifted in this area than others, to put it as kindly as I can.

Why is it that some people have the gift of finding exactly the right thing to say, while others seem unable to open their mouths without inserting their feet?
This question has been uppermost in my mind in the last few months as I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January and I have just finished a course of radiotherapy.* This has given me ample time and opportunity to note the reactions of my friends and neighbours, as well as the medical staff.

Things not to do

The medical team have been both patient and kind at all times. Two anomalies, however, stand out. At my first counselling session after diagnosis, I was handed a plastic ring-binder full of information. Very thoughtful, but it was covered all over in white daisies, which took my breath away as I associated it immediately with the expression ‘you’ll be pushing up daisies’, meaning you will be toast, dead, six feet under.
During the radiography, they sensed my need to crack weak jokes, which they gleefully joined in. Ghastly muzak was playing in the background, which I complained was worse than the treatment.    I was quickly offered classical music instead, which I gratefully accepted. The piece on offer? Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ quartet!

Things not to say

Two people who I know bear me no ill will said equally breath-taking things to me on learning of my diagnosis. One immediately told me about the symptoms, treatment and ultimate death from breast cancer of his cousin, who died last year. And the lovely lady in the church choir, on hearing I was having radiotherapy, said ‘Oh yes, people look really poorly after that. They look as if they have had the life completely sucked out of them!’

A little introspection

And what am I guilty of in all this? In last week’s episode of ‘Desperate Housewives’, Susan enlists sympathy for her  dialysis to escape a traffic fine, but fails to get to the top of the restaurant queue because, as the couple behind her point out, ‘everyone has something!’ I can certainly see the temptation…

Unmerited kindness

On the other hand, my misfortune has evoked extraordinary kindness from my neighbours. Many people offered to drive me to hospital an hour away for the radiotherapy (including one friend in her late eighties and one in her nineties!). Others come unbidden, bearing welcome casseroles.
One painted my favourite flowers on a get-well card. And my closest friend, whom I call my pelican, is always there.

Being prayed for

I now have the privilege of knowing it is a truly wonderful experience to be prayed for, to be on the receiving end of intercessionary prayer from our house group, congregation and my online friends at The Ship of Fools.
I believe several studies have been done which show that being prayed for makes no appreciable difference to the outcome of the disease. But that is not what I am talking about. From my reaction to the news of the cancer to the low point after radiotherapy, I have felt buoyed up, floating on an ocean of agape, or Christian love. Much of the time I have felt elated, and have had to restrain my normally conservative Anglican self from bursting into ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’.
So if you ever wonder whether your prayers are heard, please believe me when I say that I am lucky enough to know that they are.
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Notes
1.* In case you are wondering, the prognosis is very good and I am already feeling better!
2.The illustration is ‘The Sea’ by Bernard Atkinson, courtesy The Twelve Baskets. 
3. The carving is from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, whose symbol it is.
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