Three long, painful years have passed since Yom Kippur approached and the diagnosis was real and the understanding that I was going to have to watch my baby sister die sunk in.
She texted us on the way to the hospital.
“Guys, I’m going to the hospital…I think I’m really sick.”
We responded with a lightness I’ve never really regained. Almost dismissively.
Then Rosh Hashanah was over, and she reached out again.
“Guys, I have cancer.”
Almost like she expected it. At 16.
And then it was Yom Kippur, and I stood in fear, knowing that it didn’t really matter what I said. Nothing was going to make Stage IV colon cancer in a 16-year-old seem like anything other than cruel and unfair.
I wrote to the god I thought I knew. I put my heresy to the page, and I challenged the one who could not be tested.
I wonder where you are now.
Or maybe I don’t really care.
I don’t know.
You are on everyone else’s minds…as they prepare to stand before you…
You fill their hearts with trepidation…love…and I guess a healthy fear.
My heart doesn’t really let you in that much.
When it does, it is in anger.
I don’t think I care to ask you to forgive me.
I am outside the camp now.
Before…I was on the line…trying to figure out where I fit.
Now I’m out.
You sort of pushed me out, you know.
Because I tried to see you…to feel you…
But you kept this great wall around you and wouldn’t let me in.
I don’t know where I’ll go after this.
I don’t know what I’ll do.
But I can offer you one last chance.
There’s this wonderful little book I read.
About Good and Evil…
About a Day of Atonement…
and two lists…
Here are mine.
This year, I challenged you.
I was ungrateful and needed more.
I asked you to change people’s hearts.
I didn’t try to get too close to you.
I spent a lot of time thinking of you negatively.
I wasn’t as kind as I should have been.
I was impatient.
I was petty.
I was hurtful.
This year, you challenged me.
You turned away when I cried out.
You wouldn’t change the things I wanted to be changed.
You made me live in my past.
You strangled me.
You didn’t answer me.
You hurt me.
You hurt the ones I love.
I now stand before you with these two lists.
I have stated the sins I have committed against you.
I have stated the sins you have committed against me.
“I have been unjust towards you, and you have been unjust towards me. However, since today is the Day of Atonement, you will forget my faults and I will forget yours, and we can carry on together for another year.”
~ Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym
How about it, God?
Can we move on?
Three painful years later, I am no longer challenging anyone.
I carried on for another cancer-filled year and then another, then grief took its place.
Now I stand alone in shattered disbelief and bow my head to the emptiness around me.