[Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of posts we’ll be featuring by the Rev. Deborah Dean-Ware, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last May.]
I ordered this book, not so much for its wisdom (though there is plenty of wisdom in it), but for its title. I laughed out loud when I saw it, and I knew that I needed to get it for my little guy. It seemed the perfect way to break the ice when telling Josiah that I have cancer. Oh, you wouldn’t believe the inside jokes that have come from this little book and it has been so healing to laugh with one another. I think Josiah and I can make Robert blush at times, but it is all in good humor and with deep love. Laughter is the world’s best medicine.
Josiah has taken to calling me his “breast cancer” mommy. Sometimes when we are in public, he will whisper, “Mommy, are your boobies broken?” I wonder if he is trying to make it more real, or if he is trying to process what this means. Of course, he might just be stating the obvious. And it is true. My boobies are broken.
A couple of Sundays ago during my children’s sermon, I was explaining to the children that I was sick with cancer and that I wouldn’t be around for a while so that I could get better. It wasn’t easy to talk to the children and the youth on that Sunday. Somehow, this made my cancer seem more real, and I was lucky to make it through that moment without breaking down completely. The children seemed to know this too. They were still, attentive and quiet. Actually, the whole sanctuary was still. Now, for those who may not know, the Church of the Good Shepherd is anything but still and quiet. We are a boisterous, lively crowd with lots of movement and energy, but in that moment, we were all still. We were still because of my diagnosis and we were still for everyone we know and love who has been affected by cancer. We were very still, indeed.
I was trying to reinforce for the children that the church will always be here and that the church’s most important job is loving one another, especially our young people. In that effort, I said something like, “See all these people. These people will be here next Sunday. They will be here in a month. In a year. In ten years. Twenty-five years. Fifty years.” (I am prone to exaggeration when making a point). It was then that my little guy said with the most perfect timing, “Well, not everyone.”
And the still moment was broken. You know what? It needed to be broken. Everyone burst into laughter, and that laughter brought release and relief. Our laughter was not an act of denial or discomfort, but an act of community, of solidarity. Stillness is sacred, but so is humor. We all needed to laugh in that moment. While people were laughing, Josiah leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Mommy, are your boobies broken?” He was quite discreet about it. I think it was his way of showing his love and his support. I whispered back, “Yes, indeed, my boobies are broken.” We shared a quick hug.
Yes, my boobies are broken. Yes, I am scared and angry and really, really crabby. Yes, I wish this wasn’t my journey, or my family’s, or my church’s. But I am not broken. My family is not broken. My church is not broken. We are whole because we are God’s people.
PS: Many thanks to Catherine F. Lutz. When I ordered this book from her, she signed it and sent me a lovely note. She is courageous and kind. Here is an interview with Catherine…