My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. It was the maximum aggressiveness and three inches in size. It was a big scary tumour that threatened to take her life did not look good. It was probably the bleakest, darkest days of our life up to that point.
When through mercy she at last survived, I wrote a song called Red Badge of Courage to celebrate her miraculous deliverance. When I performed the song at a festival in England, an angry man approached me saying, “How dare you sing a song of your wifes survival when so many die of this horrible illness?”
I simply said that in the twelve months after her diagnosis my mom, her mom and three other relatives had passed away from the same disease so if he didn’t mind, I therefore considered it right and appropriate to celebrate her life. The man walked silently away, no happier I’m sure but less willing to impart his misery to me.
And what was the blessing of her illness. Well, a twenty year marriage was refocused and re-infused with love. She left her job and began to travel the world with me. We moved to the USA and found great joy and adventure for three years driving from place to place in a bright yellow Beetle. We developed a baby language that we hadn’t ever shared before. It became our intimate form of communication. In many ways we found a life more abundant that ever before. The illness was the great liberator.
For in the ways of the ancient Hasidim it is said that God only bestows blessing and only blessing can come from Him. They say a curse is only a blessing we’ve misunderstood. For even in what appears to be painful there is blessing. It’s a hard idea to grasp and it’s entirely understandable that the first place our minds go is to the most horrendous of events or hideous cruelties and ask “Where is the blessing in that?” But it’s the posture of the heart that enables us to see beyond the pain and find the path of wisdom.
I’m told that John Donne upon his death bed discovered the very art or dying and only when he did not in fact have the terminal illness he had been diagnosed with, did he realise his weeks of waiting for death had been in fact a journey into dying. A journey he could not have otherwise benefitted from, this side of the grave.
Impossible as it may seem, the worst that can happen is a blessing if we die and go to be with our beloved Father. And if we survive the worst that life can throw, then we may discover a blessing of wisdom not by any other means imparted.
I heard of a man who was a racist. He hated black people. Hated them to the point where he told his very own grand daughter “If you ever bring a (insert n-word) back home, I’ll disown ye!” And sure didn’t one of his offspring give birth to a mixed race baby and the man………. had the privilege of learning to overcome his prejudice. His racist heart was dissolved by the laughter of a newborn. The worst thing he could imagine became the door to his hearts salvation.
I know of another man who’s son told him he was gay. And this went against everything the man believed in. And the man discovered the freedom from religion he’d sought his whole life and found a love for the marginalised like he’d never known. His hard heart melted and his spiritual softness emerged. The choice between judgement and love profoundly altered his relationship with both.
Beloved there is a beannacht in everything if you can only slow down long enough to find it.
Last night I wrote this song celebrating the blessing of wisdom. Beannacht is Irish for blessing and Slainte Mhaith good health to you
Oh listen, listen my beautiful one
Beannacht a blessing waits for thee
Sit down a while and catch your breath
And let thy soul catch up with thee
Oh take the time to rest a while
For in the resting wisdom comes
She softly lights upon your waiting
And teaches you, your way back home.
Beneath a tree of life awaits
The soft song of the king of kings
He wraps His love around your heart
Puts on your hand a wedding ring.
Beannacht beannacth the blessing comes
Slainte mhaith good health be yours
If you should wait, till wisdom dawns
You’ll know no suffering ever more.
For God is only good to me
And only blessing He bestows
There is no curse on me can fall
If in my heart this blessing flows.
There is no curse on me can fall
If my heart only blessing knows