When a cousin became ill with a serious disease, I spent some time with him, and was surprised when he suggested going out to eat, then a movie, then a hike through the mountains! We talked for hours, reminiscing about the huge family get-togethers (our mothers had been siblings in a family of 19) and how we children, dozens and dozens of us, picked wild blackberries, discovered an old family graveyard, and dared one another to walk alone into the woods.
Towards the end of the day as I prepared to leave, my cousin and I embraced and I noticed that his eyes seemed to emanate light. I touched his face and said, "I think your illness has to be gone. I wish you could see the brightness in your eyes."
The next day we learned the illness wasn't only gone, it was worse.
I was truly baffled and struggled with this seeming paradox for months. And then it hit me. The light I saw bubbled up from his soul, not from his body. He had been pulling every imaginable good thing from his life on a daily basis, immersed himself in his family and friends, and - on the days he could manage - relished his favorite foods, a short walk, or moments sitting by a mountain stream. Every day had become a tremendous gift for him.
In a pastoral counseling class I took while in rabbinic school, we talked endlessly about healing. I came to understand that while we hope for a cure when someone we love is suffering from physical illness, we pray for and offer something that is always available: healing.
Healing takes place during the illness. Healing comes when we're flat on our backs, and yet we use those moments to feel the love surrounding us, to forgive those who have hurt us, and to embrace majestic moments that life offers all of us. Healing occurs when we savor a peaceful moment by a brook, laugh with a child, or get wrapped up in some sweet memory.
Each day, even as we wrestle with emotional or physical illness, we can embrace healing.
Loving what I see in your eyes,