Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal: Journal Entry 233

Ah well, I’ve had to make the decision of my life, literally. My options for ocular melanoma that has metastasized to the liver and failed to respond to the test drug are: a risky treatment that injects chemo into my liver or let nature take its course.

I was convinced that I would opt for the latter and been preparing for three to six more months on this lovely earth.

People ask me how it is when you know for sure that your time here is limited. Most of the time I don’t think about it—I’m still working, playing golf (keep shining, sun), reading, visiting with friends and family, enjoying delicious food. I guess I’m surprised at what does bring on the tears: putting away my summer clothes and knowing I probably won’t reach for them next May; flipping through a catalogue and asking myself why I’m even thinking of buying a new golf club; taking a ride around our Lake Erie peninsula and realizing I’ll never see the still lagoons draped in October sunlight again. I look around at all the special pictures and mementoes and books in my study and wonder if I should start marking them as final gifts for friends and family. Every morning I wake up and the first thought that flashes through my mind is: Mary Lou, you are dying…then the storm-like churning of the stomach. It’s the finality of it all. Every instinct in me wants to reach out and say, “no, not yet.” Is it hard to let go? You can bet your life on it.

What’s there left to read, I wonder? But I purchase a new poetry anthology anyway and am blown away by the first poem which I copy into my commonplace book. (Why am I still copying beautiful and meaningful words?) Anyway, here’s the poem:

To be great, be whole….

To be great, be whole: don’t exaggerate
Or leave out any part of you.
Be complete in each thing. Put all you are
Into the least of your acts.
So too in each lake, with its lofty life,
The whole moon shines.
-Fernando Pessoa

Maybe, subconsciously it was that poem that changed my mind….”be complete in each thing. Put all you are into your acts.” All I know is that when I met with the surgeon at Hillman Cancer Center, I was given a surprise. He was so kind and open and relaxed, and self-confident that he left me with no other choice than to say, “let’s try the chemo in the liver thing, come what may.”

If all goes well, he tells me, I could be around for a couple more rounds of golf.

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A blog by Mary Lou Kownacki
A personal journal captures what’s in the heart. Most of my adult life I’ve recorded my notes, brief reflections, poems, reactions to daily events in a journal. It is an ongoing source of monastic formation; the rich and raw material of life that helps shape my Monastery of the Heart. About a year ago, Old Monk began to appear on my journal’s pages. Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, is the Monasteries of the Heart coordinator.

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