where the writers are
Thursday: January 19, 2012

Thursday has become the day my buddy Mike and I have lunch. Mike is a fellow reporter and the host of a popular morning news show on public radio here in Cleveland. Without exception, shrimp spring rolls and pho is our menu of choice at the best Vietnamese restaurant in the city.

Mike and I are good friends. We're quite alike in many ways yet far different in others. I have come to rely on him quite heavily in recent days.

As we waited for our noodles, I told him how I had my life seems to be subsumed by grace.  Mike’s childhood was as strongly steeped in Catholicism as mine. Our friendship meant that I did not have to explain what that meant.

His adult life also is buttressed by a strong belief system, that I envy and an indomitable but nonetheless rebellious spirit. We mulled the sense of power and wonderment that grace provides. And we reached the same conclusion at the same time:

As brightly as the flame might burn, you must be able to let it recede, like the pilot light of a furnace.

“People whose flame always burns that bright are usually crazy,” Mike said.

That would be me. Manic and a bit crazy. It feels as if I’ve become someone else. My head spins with creative energy and what feels like startling clarity of thought.

All of this manic energy is no doubt serving as a shield of some sort, keeping the fear at bay. And it has largely worked. Mary Lou believes I’ve been “touched by God.” Perhaps she is right.

Yet there have been several occasions since my diagnosis when, deep in the night, abject fear descended upon me. Death’s dark, grim prospect felt too real to be imagined. I peered into a future that no longer belonged to me. 

My manic energy has enervated and sustained me. But those other unspeakable moments won’t allow themselves to be ignored.