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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Lesson of One Minute

Photo by D Goska

At some point after we were first told that my sister Antoinette had glioblastoma multiforme, a terminal illness giving her very little time to live, her daughter Amanda and I had a conversation one day about symmetrical numbers. I don't remember what prompted this conversation or its substance.

After that, I vowed to pray for Antoinette every time that I noticed symmetrical numbers on a clock, that is, if I looked up and saw that the time was 2:22, or 11:11, etc, I'd stop and pray for Antoinette until the clock changed to the next minute. I vowed not to look at the clock again until I felt I had prayed for a full minute.

I engaged in other prayer: (almost) daily rosary, for example.

I noticed something about these one-minute prayers.

Stopping what I was doing, closing my eyes and beginning to pray felt like I had punched the clock to exit profane time to find myself suspended in sacred eternity.

Sometimes, I would surely feel that a minute had passed, and look at the clock again, and see 11:11 still on the clock.

I'd close my eyes, pray, look at the clock again – and it would still be 11:11.

And again!

I would often feel, during these one minutes that seemed to stretch for a long time, that God was inviting me to experience time differently.

When the one-minute seemed to last longer than I thought, I felt as if I were hearing – yes, your sister has very little time. But she has now, as do you. Time is the gift; you can make what you want of it. Time is the cage. It is that which sets limits past which you cannot go. Time stretches; it shrinks. Behind time is eternity. I Am That I Am. I Will Be What I Will Be. Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.

***

I went to mass at Our Lady of the Valley Church in Wayne on Sunday, April 12. It was my first time in a large group of people after my sister died on the previous Friday.

Church was packed. It was the usual diverse crowd typical of Catholic churches. The man to my left looked Arabic. The girl to my right looked like an American teenager of Scandinavian descent. In front of me was a weightlifter in a tight t-shirt, a crewcut, and a heavy gold chain.

I reminded myself. "You have spent the past three days all wrapped up in your sister's illness and death. You are now in a crowd of people who are not in mourning. You can't start crying in the middle of mass. You need to start moving on. You need to be aware that not everyone is obsessed with what is obsessing you."

Father began to deliver his sermon. "Last Friday," he said, "I did something that, as a priest, I abhor. I had to bury a six-year-old girl who died of cancer." Father went on to mention that the parish had raised a five-figure donation to pay for her funeral and some of her medical expenses.

The burly man in front of me began to cry, as did the teenager to my right.

We are all in this together, though we choose to forget it so we can compete with each other. We all face the same enemy: death. We all are hiding wounds that are invisible to the naked eye. When we act on God's love and faith, we serve ourselves by serving each other.

***

A woman I don't know posted this story I had never heard before on Amanda's Facebook page. Antoinette was a nurse, an RN.

My sister Antoinette "went to her mailbox one afternoon and there was an envelope in her mailbox with 1000.00 cash in the envelope and a note that read 'Thank you for the exceptional care you gave my wife. You went above and beyond to make her comfortable.' No signature just a note of gratitude to a woman who makes us all pale by comparison."

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