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NOTE: Our dear friend, Murshid Kiran Rana, Sufi teacher, musician, adventurer, warm heart, was admitted to the hospital last week with a serious recurrence of the cancer he had successfully evaded nearly a decade ago. Prognosis is uncertain at this point. From the hospital Kiran wrote me this letter — its honesty and tenderness so touched me that I wanted to share it with you in place of my usual essay. May we all send him our healing blessings and our gratitude for his beautiful spirit.
by Murshid Kiran Rana
I'm crying a lot today.
It started when I got upset that the arrangements I'd made to have Jeanne be met downstairs at the hospital didn't work right. And I got mad at the young nurse I'd never met before who came in to give me chemo round #3. She left the room and went to talk to the manager and didn't return. So I got off the bed and grabbed the rolling drip towers on wheels and walked out into the ward.
The lady at the big reception desk said, "You need a mask to be out here!" Of course, I do... Thank you, I said, got it and babbled something about needing to find out who would go down to the main reception area to relieve Jeanne of the package she brought me and nobody was getting back to me and I already started asking about this yesterday, and....
She picked up her keys, asked for a name and description and went down. Like that, it was solved... and I dissolved. I don't know why, I sniffled and wheezed a bit, then I cried. But I managed to wrap it up handily.
Back in my room, the male nurse, Paul, came in to do chemo #3. I asked him to tell the younger nurse, Ahn, sorry from me. Then we settled in. After 30 minutes when he was gone, a lady knocked and waited to be invited in.
"Did you get a pick line yesterday?" she asked. I did, I said. "I go around once a week and check on those," she said. Check away, I said, and while you're at it will you check my lifeline? "I'm sure it's a good one," she replied.
"These look good" she said, checking the pick line and the drip lines. We both said a few more words I forget. As she was walking out, she turned and said, "I'll pray for you."
I wanted to reach out and take hold of her hand for a moment, to acknowledge what she'd done there, but my eyes flooded, and I couldn't look up. She left as respectfully as she came.
I sat for a while pushing back tears, then thought how ungrateful that was, and let them flow. But what am I crying for? my heart kept asking. It’s not just about me, or my life, or that this could be the beginning of a more definable end. I was crying for something more, for the greater hurt, the hurt we all feel and live and inflict — me in my anger at blameless Ahn — I was crying for all the nameless, perhaps blameless, pain there is.
And then it dropped deeper, and I knew I cried for all the caring that continually tried to do something about the pain that was just there. I cried for people taking the chance to care, to move pain into relief, into some kind of healing. I cried for that conscious and unconscious movement so many make every day to care for and share love with others, that action of the generous heart. That’s why I'm crying.
But then why cry? I asked again. And immediately I knew. It was the beauty of that movement to love that shattered me. Broke it open, painfully open. And quickly, quickly, I knew it was the pain of the beauty, how generous it is, so human and true. And that hurt so much, that feeling of the beautiful human heart that cares helplessly and embraces pain, and I had to stop with the half-crying and just burst open, crying piteously, helplessly.
And then, something arose. My heart was asking, Are you capable of being there? Being that caring? That quick, loving, human, and true? And I knew that question would hurt me again and again, for how often have I not been worthy of what it asked? And then at that moment I realized I can simply start to redeem myself at any and every moment, at any and every time.
For that promise, too, I am crying today.