November 12, 2023

The Healers

You can hear the silent healers amidst the chaos.

Who are the healers? Where can we find them? They are everywhere.

They are the woman in the “I just want to get rid of this now!” Facebook group, who requests, “In search of (ISO) unopened toiletries, gently used towels, jeans any size, and bakers.” Every Sunday, she drives around our town and picks up these donations for unhoused folks. For the bakers, she drops off flour, baking powder, and butter; in return, they bake biscuits or rolls. She brings these offerings to the fairgrounds. Fairgrounds. Fair. Grounds. I wonder where this word comes from? What grounds are fair? Can we move there?

They could be Emma Lazarus and her lines at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Give me your tired, your poor, the exiles. She drew from her experiences and her Jewish heritage. I trust her empathic intentions and her social justice concerns; she helped the Russian Jews who had fled the horrendous pogroms. She fought on their behalf. She envisioned this country as a melting pot with open, grandmotherly arms, welcoming everyone. What she did not know or consider was that this was not uninhabited open land.

The land had already been claimed, not in the way of ownership, but in the obligation to cherish and nurture this land borrowed from our future generations, this land on which indigenous peoples had lived for centuries. Some had fought over the land for resources–they were humans and relational, after all–interested in protecting their tribes and loved ones, ignorant and fearful like the rest of us.

We cannot see that we are all part of the same family of life force, stardust, blowing around and encircling each other, ingesting and impacting all living beings. Only able to draw circles around our individual selves, or families, or tribes, or countries, and always creating others–us and not us. Creating stories to create identities to create meaning to find purpose, is that it? Or perhaps because there is no free will, as Robert Sapolsky argues. Who am I to say?

I’m floating away here. What I mean to say is that I remember sitting with Karyn and Beth and my father as they were each in different stages of dying. I wanted to be a helper. I remember massaging Karyn’s sore calves. Reading a goodbye letter to Beth. Feeding mushroom soup to my dad.

Now Mommy is getting closer herself; I also feed her sometimes. But she is not there yet. She has sat with so many of the dying, both as an anesthesiologist and as a Buddhist monastic. Chanting for days by the bedside of the ailing. Cradling my father’s head after his spirit had left his body. Her hand gently closing his open mouth, lips curled inward without his dentures. The beeping machines suddenly silent.

Listen to Thet read the piece here:


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