This seems like a good time to resurrect the blog. Lead Me, Guide Me, a memoir about Father Dan Begin, is tentatively planned for publication in June, and the vagaries of the coronavirus won’t, we hope, get in the way. The blog serves to remind everyone that the book is coming, and it can also share Father Dan’s words and example at this ominous time. Ominous, yes, but maybe in some ways also promising and meaningful.
The lines below have been recurring in my mind over the past couple weeks, and because they have helped me, I can only think they might help others. The situation at the time was this. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 just before Father Dan’s much more threatening esophageal cancer diagnosis. While he was dealing with portentous news, I was dealing with the dismaying suggestion that I might need chemo, after repeated reassurances that I wouldn’t. This suggestion threw me, scrambling my mental timeline. I wrote Father Dan a panicky email, sharing my fears. While dealing with his own dire diagnosis, he took the time to write this to me. Despite its specific references to breast cancer and my memoir about my mom’s mental illness, you might find something here that speaks to our current condition.
I think breast cancer for most today is more of a chronic illness that keeps demanding attention. Each person seems so different in the way their bodies react to the cancer and the treatment that they have to try to change strategies as they go. It is not a clear path and can change over and over. That leaves you filled with uncertainty about what they are doing today and what they plan to do tomorrow. Consequently, there is no sense of control over your life. Actually, I have come to believe the only control we have is an illusion anyhow. Learning to live in the now, with a wait-and-see attitude about tomorrow, becomes super emotional—maybe for you even more so, because that is a description of your childhood. Wait, see, wonder, adapt, make the best out of it. That was the way to survive.
Silly as it sounds, I think the only solution is to choose it and wonder how you can use it. Over and over again, claim the beauty of the present moment, believing that with God whatever is not right about the moment can be handled and maybe even used for something good . . . even just having the experience. Breathe into the problem . . . whether it is pain, worry or aggravation . . . breathe deeply the Holy Spirit and life into it and then breathe out the negative tension, pain, and grief.
I sure will be praying for you, as I have been, to use this time of life fully rather than just existing till the treatment is complete. The process of living with cancer or anything else, even aging, is not something you can do and be done with. It is a new decision every day that I have to make a part of my prayer. I can control how I react to what the world throws at me. Maybe that bit of control is what I find such joy in grabbing on to. Love you bunches.
If you ever received an email or letter from Father Dan, you’ll recognize those three closing words. As I say in the book, everyone who received a missive from him–attorneys, repairmen, disgruntled parishioners, and probably even recalcitrant bishops–were all loved bunches.