The Emet of It

Imbolc and the Waiting to Cross Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: The emet of cancer for me. Kep, better today. Hoar Frost. 18 degrees. Good sleeping. Tara. Breakfast. Tom, the birthday boy. Saturday. Alan, Uncle Moishe. The Purim spiel. Ukraine. U.S. resolve. George Floyd. Black Lives Matter. Conservatives. Liberals. Politics. Yes, politics. Great workout yesterday. Rockfish. Cooking. Kale, potato, and chorizo soup.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Friends


Watched the Purim spiel on Zoom last night. Two nights out are too much for me in the winter. MVP Wednesday night. Alan had flowing robes and a headset microphone. He interviewed Mordecai, Queen Esther, the savior of the Jews, and Haman’s executioner. The house band played shofars off key. This spiel was a bit shorter and had less energy than others I’ve seen, but everybody had a good time. Attendance was way down. The pandemic influencing us still. Me, too. And, I got to bed in good time.


This last month my mussar practice has been to seek the emet, the comprehensive truth, about cancer for me. Though it ravages the body when left unchecked. Though it can cloud the mind and darken the spirit. Though it affects so many. It does not, cannot change the trajectory of a human life. Including mine. We are born. We live. We die. The emet of cancer. In part.

In another sense cancer presents itself to me often. When I get my blood drawn to check my prostate specific antigens (PSA). When I visit my oncologist. When I get imaging work done. When I get radiation for metastases. Most of the time it is background noise, usually not even that. My life goes on.

Cancer cannot change the trajectory of my life but it can cloud my mind, darken my spirit. And it does from time to time. When I heard Dr. Eigner say you have cancer. 2015. After my prostatectomy. Every day of my 35 sessions of radiation. When I discovered the radiation had not worked. Last month as I realized a deep sadness about its presence.

Yet. In the main I feel healthy, up beat, happy with my life. This may seem odd. Or, not. Depending I think on how much work you may have done on accepting death.

I’ve mentioned Yamantaka before here though you may not recall him. He’s a Tibetan Buddhist deity who helps us confront the reality of our own death. From him, from reading about him, I found a practice that involved meditating on your own corpse. You visualize yourself dead and hold that image in a meditative state as long as you can. At least that was what I understood it to be.

I did that for quite a while. Over a matter of months. I came to peace with my own death. As inevitable. As necessary. As a part, the final part of life. I believe the same meditation helped me with Kate’s death, too. Though I cannot reconcile this with my horror at seeing her corpse. Still a conundrum. Perhaps I’ll understand it some day. Perhaps not.

I do know I was in agreement with her choosing to die. I do know our love transcends, continues on beyond her death. That my grief for her has transformed her memory into a blessing in my life.

The emet of cancer for me. It speaks to me of my corpse. Which I have seen, many times. And accepted. That is the most cancer can do to me. Kill me. And I’m at peace with that. As a result, it lives within me as an intimate assassin. Ready. Waiting. Yet I do not fear it. Nor do I “fight” it. I do what’s necessary to preserve my life now because I love life. And that’s the emet of it.