By Jake Hall
published in Family Matters eNewsletter August 15, 2018
Local poet, Anya Silver, died last week. No doubt many of you know of her long battle with inflammatory breast cancer. Diagnosed in her pregnancy, she began treatment at the age of 35. Her poetry often centered around her illness and her journey to raise her son. Like the Psalms and other wisdom literature from the Bible, Anya's work bears the whole range of human emotion from anger and anguish to peace. Her willingness to honestly bear witness to her own lived experience has been a source of strength and inspiration for many.
Three years ago she wrote about parenting and faith and holding holy space while living with cancer. Her work and words will inspire and console many. Take in this reflection, and go and find more of her work online.
"My first faith response to my experience was intense anger at God. Of course, this is the old question of theodicy. Why would God allow me to become pregnant and then a mother only to curse me with a terminal disease. Or, as poet Jacqueline Osherow writes in her poem “Villanelle: Tikkun Olam: “Should I ask the obvious? Why would God/create a world requiring repair?/And what was He thinking when He called it good?”
I had not been attending church in the few years before my pregnancy, but I now found the need for answers to existential questions that religion brings. The first service that I attended was a baptism. I watched as joyful mothers carried their babies up and down the aisles of the church. Meanwhile, I stood there, bald and afraid for my life. The triumphant tone of the service left me bitter and lonely, and I ran out of the sanctuary and into the bathroom. There, praying for God’s presence, I felt a warm presence enfolding and comforting me. And so, rather than in the pews, I felt God’s healing on the floor of the church bathroom. And really, that’s not surprising, because that’s probably where Jesus would be, wandering the halls of the church, looking for those who, for whatever reason, exclude themselves from the ritual, and lovingly bring them back in.
My experience with mothering, therefore, has always been closely linked to the knowledge that I will die. What will happen to my son when I die? Will he be happy again? Will he believe?
Here’s what I’ve learned: God is with me. God is not just watching from above. God will not decide whether I live or die by how often I pray. God is with me the most when I am at my most lonely and afraid. God will be there for my son. When I call for help, I feel God’s presence in calm and peace. As God tells the reader in Isaiah 45: 7 (KJV): “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” I interpret these enigmatic words not to mean that God literally created and gave me my cancer, but that God is in all things, both the light and darkness, the peace and the evil. Where evil exists, God does not absent God-self."
Three simple words: God is there. Amazing.