Death and Joy

Imbolc and the Durango Moon

Peru, 2011

Friday gratefuls: Lab and scan tests. Well scrutinized body. Death. Not today. Life. Ruth in her suffering. Jon’s, too. Gabe in his caring. Kate, who may have spoken in my ear the other night. Kep. Joe. Seoah. Murdoch, the silly dog. Mussar. The sweetness of family life. Sally. Luke. Marilyn. Rich.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Assets


Read the scan results which showed up right away on the Centura patient portal. I mean, the same day. Short spiral. Here’s why.

The CT scan said: 1. New sclerotic lesions in the spine worrisome for osseous metastasis. (a scelortic lesion is “an unusual hardening or thickening of your bone.”)


The Nuclear Medicine scan said: 1. No convincing scintigraphic evidence for osseous metastatic disease.

I’m pretty sure the bone scan trumps the CT scan when it comes to bone related metastases. But pretty sure? Well, it can go to dark places.

So. I let it. What could it mean? That I’m gonna die. Oh, well, I already knew that. But, as my friend Judy Sherman who has ovarian cancer says, “This beast will kill me. But not today!”

Did not take long to calm myself down, listen to the inner voice. Death is certain. Yes. Birth takes us from the unknown to a life about which we initially know nothing. Death takes us from a life we know to the unknown. At least a return to the unknown. From whence we came.

Prostate cancer is slow. Unlike ovarian cancer. This beast may yet not kill me. Some other rough beast slouching toward my personal Jerusalem may carry me off first. End result? Dead.


The other night I heard, “Hi, Charlie.” I had begun to fall asleep but woke up immediately, as you do when an unfamiliar sound or voice intrudes on that moment. The voice was clear, friendly, even loving. Was it Kate? Hell, I don’t know. Probably not. But I said back, “I love you.” Just in case.


On a related but lighter note. Yesterday the question in mussar was, “Is it ok to experience pleasure when there is so much suffering in the world.” The Jewish answer is yes. Of course. As we talked about it, I had this idea. Pleasure can be a way of breaking out of inertia, as is travel which I suggested in Monday’s post.

If we pay close attention to the Mountains, to the Streams, to the grandchild, to our own heart, to the cotton candy machine, and the fine meal, we can experience joy and pleasure. Moments which lift us out of the threat of body scans and an Extreme Court. Which nourish us so we can return to concern for these things. Giving ourselves to the struggle because we can give ourselves to joy and pleasure.

We can become stuck in our anger, our despair. Doom scrolling says it all. Waking up sick with anxiety, stressed because life is hard? You need pleasure and joy. I believe the Jewish answer is the right one.

We can’t move forward with a shroud over our life. The concert, the ice cream, making love, being in an art museum, making art, the electric car, the new top, a day at the beach or in the forest, these things can move us out of the inertia of acedia, out of the jungle of despair.

If we let them. And don’t add them to the list of awful things. How could I do that? When there are… Fill in the blank.

Yes, pleasure and joy are not only all right. They are necessary to the full, the good life.


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