Carried

Bernie was in chemotherapy
for her breast cancer.
Our lives were laden
with anxiety and fear.
As her caregiver,
I often felt lonely.
Our children were away at school.
Friends were supportive, but in the end
this was our journey to make, not theirs.
Also, my young business was struggling,
compounding my disquiet.
I remember that spring evening well.
My wife was lying in our bed,
ill from that day’s treatment.
I could not leave her,
nor did I want to leave her,
but I was tired of being stuck inside.
So I opened wide the windows
to hear Bernie if she called
and stepped into our backyard.
I stood there alone, feeling sad—
sad for Bernie and for our lives,
sad also about needing to be a caregiver.
In honesty, I was feeling something in addition—
I was pitying myself.
I don’t like to admit that, but it’s true.
Head down, shoulders slumped,
I stood in our lawn
and felt sorry for myself.
Then two things happened.
I slowly lifted my head
and before me was the sky—
an amazing quilt of cottony clouds,
radiant with reds and pinks and blues.
In the next instant
a quotation I had recently memorized
came at me and pierced me at my core.
Sometimes I go about pitying myself
and all the time my soul is being carried
on great winds across the sky.

It’s from the Ojibway Indians,
known to us also as the Chippewas.
In the evening stillness
I was stabbed with that spiritual truth
in a way I have not forgotten.
True, life was not going as I wished,
but had I been left entirely alone,
entirely on my own?
No, I had not.
True, I held fears and anxieties,
but were those all I held?
No, for I still carried fervent hopes,
and equally fervent dreams.
I still carried love
and I felt carried by love.
In that deepening dusk
I could not see what lay ahead
but was such mystery so bad, so wrong?
For could it not also touch a larger mystery,
including the largest Mystery of all?
And while I was busy pitying myself,
was I not being held by something
much larger than myself,
whether or not I had accepted that
moments before,
whether or not I had the words
to describe it at all?
I spent many evenings that spring and summer
photographing the swirling clouds
from our backyard.
I still remember the message those vibrant skies
sent me again and again
as I lived my way into my new work
as Bernie’s caregiver.
I hope you are finding your messages too,
helping you know that your soul is always,
always being carried on great winds
across the even greater sky.

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