Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Dear Readers,

 

Today I bring you something a little different from my normal posts on medieval history, Scotland, music, and time travel.  Today, I would like to introduce my friend of more than twenty years, and fellow author at Gabriel’s Horn, Kathy Opie.  I met Kathy when our oldest children–her daughter and my son–were in pre-school together when they were only three.  At the time, she was pregnant with her second child, Patrick.  It has been a long and enduring friendship through raising our children and a great many life changes, a friendship that has lasted the eleven years since I moved quite far away.

 

Kathy, along with my friend Micki, stands as one of my role models and inspirations in life, as someone who takes the straw that life hands to each and every one of us at times, and spins it into gold, always being there to think of others and help others, living with grace and dignity when some people might use those same difficulties as excuses.

 

She recently released her first book, Little Red Wagon Full of Hope, a book for caregivers, that stems from one of the very severe crises she has faced: her son’s battle with cancer.

 

The book started as a memoir of her son Conner’s experience with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, diagnosed when he was just thirteen.  It evolved into a caregiver’s book, designed to help others in long term care situations, or those helping such people.

 

Today I bring you a short interview with Kathy.

 

Tell us about learning Conner’s diagnosis.

Well I speak about my reaction or rather our reaction in the first chapter of my book, but essentially we were in shock. Nobody ever imagines a cancer diagnosis, especially in a child. I spent the first several weeks waking up in the morning just thinking it was all a very bad dream and then reality would hit. There were lots of tears and asking myself “why my child?” Thankfully we had an amazing support system.


You have always been a giver, helping others. I remember my grandmother talking about how hard it was, in her last illness, to be the one to finally have to accept help from others. Can you talk a little about that adjustment, to having to accept help?

 

I remember one of my neighbors thanking me for allowing her to help me. Initially, I thought that was strange, but upon reflection it was very difficult for me to relinquish control and admit we needed help. When a life threatening illness takes over your family you are rendered nearly powerless in its wake. Past coping mechanisms of hard work, tenacity, and just getting it done won’t work in this situation, and it can be almost shaming to admit you can’t just do it yourself. Yet, finally reaching that point is extremely liberating. I think it allows you to become more understanding and compassionate of yourself and others. Looking back it helped me to understand that when I give to someone that that person isn’t merely in need or that I’m doing them a favor or being magnanimous but that they are accepting and relinquishing a part of themselves to you- it is a dear and tender relationship.

 

How did your faith help you through the year of chemotherapy?

 

I don’t know how we could’ve gotten through that year or the years following without it. There were times when I knew I couldn’t do it alone and thankfully I didn’t have to. I remember when Conner was first diagnosed, the lyrics to a popular Christian song by 10th Avenue North,  By Your Side, would play in my head:

 

‘Cause I’ll be by your side wherever you fall

In the dead of night whenever you call

And please don’t fight these hands that are holding you

My hands are holding you

 

 

I remember just weeping and feeling God’s presence, knowing that we were never alone. It was an incredible faith experience. The hospital had a chapel that I would go and visit during our chemo weeks, either to sit, pray or attend services. Those times were invaluable to me.

 

One of the things I learned from your book is that remission is seen as the happy ending…but in some ways, it’s really the beginning of rebuilding life. Can you talk a little about that? 

 

We call this in cancerland “a new normal” because you can never go back to your old way of life. There are things you can never unsee or unexperience. Plus, the cancer is in remission. It is now referred to as no evidence of disease or NED rather than “cancer free” because the cancer can always come back. You chose to move forward and live a life without fear and with that reality. It’s a way of coping because too many of our friends have lost their lives after the cancer has returned. That being said, there is hope and a beautiful fresh life of gratitude, new friends and renewed and stronger former relationships. You don’t take things for granted and each day is a blessing with the choice to make a difference, alleviate some pain and add joy whenever you can.

 

To learn more about Kathy, visit her websitetwitter, and facebook, and listen to her interview with Psychology in Seattle.

 



With Midsummer’s Day and the Midsummer blog hop on us, it seems a particularly good day to tell the story of St. Bee’s.
St. Bee’s is actually a church in northern England, but it was visited by James Douglas and his raiders in the years following Bannockburn, in the course of trying to force Edward II to accept a peace treaty. With this connection to the Scottish Wars of Independence, it makes an appearance in The Minstrel Boy, book two of The Blue Bells Trilogy. So as to avoid spoilers for those who have not read Blue Bells of Scotland, I won’t say who goes there or why. Or even in which century, for that matter. But somebody does visit it, and it has an interesting story.
Hundreds of years ago (and all the best stories seem to start with some variation of that line), there was a princess (oh, this is getting better and better, or more cliched, depending how you look at it!) No, really, there was a genuine, real-life princess from Ireland, named Bega. Now the thing about princesses is that, while it’s easy to think they must have had it made, they really did not. Arranged marriages were among the possibly less-pleasant aspects of the life of a princess. Bega was promised in marriage to a Viking prince, a son of the king of Norway, a medieval manuscript says.
I would guess that most pre-medieval princesses, unlike their modern fictional renditions, did what they were told. But in a story that would play well to twenty-first century movie-goers, this particular princess ran away, crossing the Irish sea to what is now northern England. Her desire was to start a convent.
Convents need land. So she asked a local landowner to grant her some, on which to build her convent. It is easy to imagine the landowner thinking he was quite funny, as he told Bega, who was most certainly a fairly young woman at most, that he would give her all the land covered by snow the next morning.
Late June. Snow. Right.
If I were writing the story, I would show the landowner, in the very next scene, chortling it up with his friends at the local tavern about his promise. I suspect the next scene of Bega would be that she spent the night praying.
When the landowner awoke the next morning, did he maybe think he’d drunk too much while bragging to his friends about his clever promise?
For three miles of his land was covered in snow.
On that land, Bega built her convent, and it is today the parish of St. Bee’s.
This is one version of the story. For some interesting reading, and a very different version, take a look at the official St. Bee’s site. For more information on St. Bega herself, they have this page.
Happy Midsummer’s Day, and may it not involve three miles of snow! Unless, of course, you’re an avid downhill skier!