Unitarian Universalist Hysterical Society
Inherent mirth and dignity

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For the long, hard fight...

Happy Terry Fox Day! (Canadian UU Liturgical Calendar and Civic Holiday)... In honour of that… from the archives…

“I am so tired from the Terry Fox Run cancer run today,” my eleven year old says, collapsing on the couch

I remember doing that same thing at his age.

“You are tired,” my youngest child tells his brother, “because you did it wrong. I did it the right way.”

“What is the right way?” I ask.

“You run for a little bit,” comes the confident reply, “and then you hide under a picnic table to rest.”

In my household, it is not just on Terry Fox days that we fight cancer. Never our own cancer, yet—always the cancer of someone else, through my partner's job. It creeps up on us. Halfway through the kids’ pageant, my husband’s phone will ring, embedding itself in his ear like a fisherman’s hook. He is pulled silently out of the warm glow of our family. We never tug back, because we know what is at the other end of the line. Someone is fighting to live. I never know if it will be an easy one—an easily digested complication that is no more than a hiccup in the evening—or if he will leave for hours and then return slightly hollow. If he will read bedtime stories to the children with a half frozen face that tells me there are images of an operation playing invisibly on the pages.

Most days, though, it’s actually beautiful. The thing about cancer these days is that we usually win. Some days he comes home flying, bubbling over with stories I can’t understand, sprinkling unintelligible words around the kitchen like rose pedals. There is a flow and ebb to it. They fill and empty him like a tide pool.

Most days, we share him. We love him, and let him go, in turns.

It is from him that I learned how to help someone without orbiting them. How to close the laptop, how to limit the number of painful stories so that I don’t sink into hopelessness. How to connect without merging. When to follow the fishing line out into a fight, and when to let it go and sink back into the soft silt of a night at home with the kids.

We organize. We write letters, we gather to sing outside offices of politicians. We give it our all—and then we rest.

Something about that, when done right, makes the simple act of a quiet evening breaking bread into a treasure.

You run for a little bit.

Then you rest under a picnic table.

And then you run again.

Author: Liz James. Feel free to use for whatever you like, ideally with attribution back to UUHS or Liz. Also, feel free to modify as suits you for your context..

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