Mitigating Damages

by NotDownOrOut

On January 20th I will resume teaching law students at DePaul. On the 18th of the month I attended a lunch for instructors at which we reviewed the upcoming schedule and assignments. No one said anything about my disappearance in the previous semester. Martha did not address any comments to me individually. We acted as if nothing had happened.

I was sad. It will be wonderful to return to teaching the class. I enjoy my law students. But our differences over whether it was appropriate to “reassign my fall class” or “terminate” me has injured a working relationship I once enjoyed.

When lunch ended I cabbed my way to Barb’s. Kathy was waiting there. I dozed on Barb’s couch while Kathy worked. At 5:30 I conducted an information session for the DePaul Paralegal Program. Twenty-five people came to hear more about becoming a paralegal. I answered questions. I held a similar session at Naperville on Monday evening for seven people.

There is a possibility that Roosevelt University will not need me in the spring. If that is the case, then I need three sections at DePaul Paralegal to maintain my income. I have already lost one class this semester. I have not been asked by the law school to teach Transactional Drafting since Spring 2011.

Kathy will head home on Saturday. I am grateful to her for her care these past few weeks. She has driven me to and from schools, picked me up at building entrances, made me meals, done grocery shopping, and screened calls. She has stroked my hair during bouts of severe pain. She has met my doctors and asked questions I am too tired to pursue. She sprang me from the hospital when my energy was flagging. She has prevented me from letting people down.

Barb has a big birthday this weekend. She leaves today for a spa weekend with her brother and his wife. Barb and her brother have birthdays a day apart but were not born in the same year. She will return on Sunday. I hope she gets some much needed R&R. She has been busy caring for others these past few months.

My brother Danny flew in this morning. He has two days to visit his wife Lisa. He and Kathy have not seen each other since they were in Chicago for my surgery in October. Kathy picked him up at the airport. We hope to get together tomorrow evening. It’s sad that Mom is not here so that we could all be together.

Mom is in Florida with Aunt Joan and Bernie. We hear the weather has been chilly. However, Mom has visited with Kim and her sister Julianne. They have been staunch members of the “prayer group” that has kept me going.

When Danny called a few nights ago to see how I was doing, he said, “You know, your having cancer has stirred everyone’s lives up, hasn’t it?”

“Yes, it has,” I answered.

“Well don’t go doing that again any time soon.”

I won’t.” I laughed and shuddered at the very idea.

We have been at this long enough that we can jest about the possibility of relapse or recurrence. Even a week ago the prospect might have sucked the starch out of me.

Bad things happen to good people. All of us hear this from time to time. When bad things happen it sometimes doesn’t even matter whether we have been such good people. It feels bad whether we are good or bad. We try to resolve our sense that these events are unfair. We carry on as though nothing has happened on the theory that nothing has. We cling to loved ones who will help us fare as best we can. We seek the company of loved ones who have also known sorrow and we commiserate. We get away and hope that, even for a couple of days, laying down our troubles will detach them from us. We face our woes and laugh at them because that which we can laugh about cannot defeat us.

The alternative is to curl up in a little ball and let what frightens us surround us. Isolated from loved ones, friends, escapes, and perspective, we can suffer quite a long time. I have done my share of that in my life, too.

When I see someone suffering I hope that I can remember to extend myself to prevent that isolation from trapping people I care about in their suffering.

I do not know whether God is the type of being that consciously visits suffering upon persons. I do not know if there is a message for me from Him in my current health woes. I do not like to think that tragedy is deserved even if I make the occasional comment about “karma.” My personal view is that, having created a world in which persons have free will, God exposed us to the consequences of events outside of our control and rarely interferes. That I am born with certain skills and features is the result of others’ choices. The fact that I suffer from cancer in my lifetime is the result of genetics, choices, and happenstance. I can pray to avoid certain events that are consequences of other’s choices, my own, or fate’s, but I will not be spared because God loves me more or because I am better. I am sometimes lucky enough to call his attention and win his help. When that is not the case, I am not lost or unloved. If God did visit suffering on only those who were bad, then why would He urge the rest of us to feed the hungry or clothe the naked? Wouldn’t He instead exhort us to leave undisturbed the punishments He had imposed on those not in His favor?

Let us all recognize that we live in a world that can protect or endanger us. Let us be kind to others when they need our help. Let us be worthy of that help by doing good when we can. Let us forgive those who we feel have wronged us because we are capable of wronging others, too, sometimes without meaning to cause harm.

In a world in which all have free will, we can choose to mitigate the damages imposed by others’ errors, our own errors, or fate. The grace that inheres in helping others is God’s grace, too.