I have two reasons for being here tonight.
Firstly to honour devotion to Padre Pio,who reminds us all that God looks after us. Secondly to show my gratitude to you for the felt support I got from so many over the last year.
You all know my story. Diagnosed with oesophageal cancer last February, chemotherapy and radiation concurrently in March/April, weeks while the treatment took effect, an eight hour operation in mid-June, am in recovery since with low energy and low immune system.
How has my faith helped me?
Last February when a scope showed a large tumour, Kathleen and Anne were with me in a four bedded ward in Cork. An hour after the diagnosis, a man walked into the ward with a relic of Padre Pio. A friend through a prayer group had asked him to call. As soon as I held the relic I cried. I had hardly cried at my mothers funeral the previous September. I also felt held, I will be able for whatever is ahead.
The next day the consultant told me, if the PET scan shows its nowhere else, if I can take the treatment, if the operation is a success then “I have a mountain to climb “.
I felt a wall of prayer and good wishes around me. I allowed that into me, I laid back into it.
I was lucky, I felt no depression. I connected with God every way i could; in prayer, nature, people, reading. One day while waiting for treatment in Cork, I opened a secular magazine and there was a quote from Padre Pio “there is a path for you.” I allowed that to be true for me. Accept what is, it’s bringing me to a new space.
If you are sick yourself or a sickness is in family or friends, a few practical things.
- Never go into a doctor/consultant alone. The others will hear things you won’t.
- Hygiene and heat are so important when you are in treatment and recovery.
- Doctors/Nurses deal with your medical condition. Sickness brings up all kinds of stuff inside your head. I needed someone professional to walk me through that. At a deep level lots of stuff comes up and that has to be dealt with. Get some one reliable and sound to listen to you.
- Sickness feels like something to be ashamed of. It’s not always helpful to hide and be ashamed. Know what you are comfortable with and control access to yourself. I used Caringbridge.org so that everyone had the same information and distance too. There is no shame with being sick.
While I was on the flat of my back in Cork, I heard that I was remembered here at Mass by Fr. Mossie. It brought me to tears and I felt something move inside me. The prayer sent out from here has a healing power, uniting the suffering of people with the saving suffering of Jesus of Nazareth. That’s what the late Donal Enright, who lived with Padre Pio for years, told me when we met in Cork.
I thought last February that I would put my life on hold till I started living again. Now I realise that I have been on the greatest learning curve of my life. I lost so much control of my body: for times I couldn’t eat, taste, sleep, do normal bodily functions. But life includes suffering, if we don’t accept it, and everyone gets a nailing, I will live my life in fear and not in faith.
Being held in whatever situation I’m in is what we are all after. And we senses that here tonight, being held. That’s why we bring our worries here, lay them down for a while and we needn’t feel alone. Surrender. “Come into the presence of Jesus… give him free run of your heart.” I pray for people on the Bus-link to Cork, darkening the doors of hospitals daily. “Don’t allow any sadness to dwell in their soul, for sadness prevents the Holy Spirit acting freely.”
Nothing is forever