My word for now

Today I am participating in Bonnie Gray’s “beloved brews” linkup with this post. beloved_brews_faithbarista_badge[1] I have seen this idea at a number of sites, the idea of picking a word for the year. My time frame doesn’t go that far, so I’ll pick a word that I think will work for the near future. ADJUST

On November 1, I posted a short piece called “little things I can still do”

I can sit.
I can lie down.
I can talk while sitting or lying.

Sitting, I can write letters to my nieces
Who lost their father this past summer.
Sitting, I can save a booth at the café for a friend
Who first takes her children to school.

Lying down, I can nap with my young granddaughter
So my wife can practice or get some exercise.
Lying down, I can pray, thinking of all those I know
With love in my heart.

Sitting or lying, I can make sure there are no unsaid words
To my daughters, after adolescence.
Sitting or lying down, I can express love for my wife
Who gives me all I could ever need.

And I can require nothing of others that isn’t necessary.

It sobering for me to read this now. Most of this is no longer true. My sitting is limited to extremely soft easy chairs, which is not conducive to writing letters. I no longer spend my mornings in the café so I can no longer save the booth for my friend, I will have to arrange a home visit if I ever want to see her again. And my lying down time is governed more by my needs than by my granddaughters.

And something I hadn’t anticipated, is that my mind is no longer my own. For most of my life, I spent a great deal of time in my head. I wrote music, operas, oratorios, concertos, etc. I am quite comfortable being alone with my thoughts. But now I am on an oxycodone patch to control the pain from metastasized prostate cancer. My mind goes off to various random places when I lie down. That is a big loss for me. ‘

But I can still express love for my wife and daughters, and I have found a way to have fun with my older granddaughter while lying down at her house.

And my wife found a comfortable chair where I can sit for a while with my computer, and do some writing, and some reading. So I came upon a web site that invited me to join in a conversation by writing about my faith journey, using the prompt for this week of picking a word for the year.

I have learned that the only word that will work for me is ADJUST. Every day, I have to assess who I am, what I am capable of, and how I can continue on in my life choices given my present physical state. Today that means writing this post. Yesterday it was different.

Last year I wrote a post that outlined my goals for 2014. One of the goals was to continue to invest in my church, to continue active involvement in committees and especially to continue singing in the choir. There was another goal which I barely mentioned, because it seemed pretty unrealistic. That goal was visit my church’s sister community in Nicaragua one more time – this time with members of my extended family.

On Friday, I will be going to Nicaragua with 16 other family members. Sunday was to be a commissioning for this trip. And I knew it might be the last time I cold sing in the choir.

When I woke up, I checked out the various painful parts of my body to see if I could still get out of bed, and ascertained that I could. But when I stood up, I was dizzy for about one minute before I could move. Putting on my clothes with my wife’s help was a bit more stressful than usual. By the time I got downstairs, I needed a bowl to receive the contents of my stomach. It was not stomach related, but stress – my body telling me I had exceeded my physical capacity.

So I had to slow down. I had to adjust. I took extra time to stand up after I had eaten – waited until I was stable, and took an extra minute to walk to the car of a neighbor choir member. At church, a friend who helps with the children came out with the slider chair the mothers use for nursing and told me to use that chair for the service. It was a real gift. I stayed put for the choir rehearsal – the choir arranged themselves around me. I realized I would not be able to move at any time during the service. The piano was moved, and chairs near me were moved, so that the commissioning could be done with me sitting where I was and not moving, and when the choir sang, I stayed put, and though I was a bit removed from the bass section, it went fine. I adjusted, and others adjusted.

After church I would ask someone near me to tell people with whom I wanted to talk, to come over. There were two seminarians who had just returned from a trip to the Arizona/Mexico border. I have friends who are very involved in this work. I had a wonderful talk with this couple. Another visiting couple came over who had just returned from Nicaragua. We found connections.

I asked to talk to my minister. He had taken a rather bold step in being understanding of the young people who had been arrested for stopping traffic during commuter hours on one of the main arteries in Boston. The press had been unmerciful on this group of “anarchists and occupiers.” I wanted to tell him that although I didn’t know of my daughters involvement in this activity, I knew that she certainly knew many who were involved, and that her involvement in this movement had come out of her education at this church. She had become much more aware of world politics after her trips to Nicaragua, and her Jr High church group had taken a civil rights pilgrimage to the south. It was a conversation of mutual support. I appreciated his stepping out on a limb, and he appreciated knowing that the limb was part of the tree of our church.

So I had a wonderful day at church – I sang in the choir, I was commissioned, I had wonderful conversations after church – even though I never got up. I ascertained that morning that I couldn’t stand up and do anything of importance, so I didn’t, and others adjusted.

I have other schemes. My oncologist used to go to Honduras before it became unsafe, so while I am in Nicaragua I want to make arrangements for my doctor and his group to be able to come to the region of my sister community in Nicaragua. That’s mainly what we talked about at my last check up. I don’t have any idea how I will do on the trip other than my plan to stay in a hammock and visit with those who come by. But in the past two years I have learned that I can continue faithfully living my life as a child of God, even though I don’t know what that will mean from day to day.


About Newell Hendricks

I have lived a good life. Maybe a counterculture life, maybe a normal life. I have written operas, built houses, been involved with cross-cultural education between Latin America and the U.S, and hardly ever had a job I have helped raise two wonderful children with my amazing wife. It's been a good ride. And I go to church. I've just finished a book of stories from my life, I am still connected to an organization in Nicaragua that promotes sister relationships between communities, faith communities, or schoold, and to the extent that my cancer doesn't pull me down, am attempting to share some of what I have learned, or at least tried out. Welcome, and let's share.
This entry was posted in Community, life style, Nicaragua, religion, word for the year. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to My word for now

  1. I loved reading your post…what an awesome word for the year…now i wished i’d chosen it! One thing we are assured of, and that is change…we are always adjusting, albeit it against our will. Your writing is underscored with determination and purposefulness. I hope to carry those qualities with me throughout 2015 as well. You are an amazing man of God, and I thank you for your honesty and your perseverance!


  2. Such courageous thoughts. I found you via Bonnie’s brews but I have so enjoyed reading you posts and I do like that poem too.

    Thank you


  3. Susan Deborah Schiller says:

    Dear Newell,

    I love this line: “I have learned that I can continue faithfully living my life as a child of God, even though I don’t know what that will mean from day to day.” This is where I am at, as well, although in different circumstances. It’s very meaningful to me.

    I am deeply saddened, although I know you would not like that, at the limitations you are learning to accept. We must learn to adjust along with you, and it’s not easy. I can only imagine how your grandchildren, daughters, and Barbara are facing this. I’m so glad you have so much love surrounding you and coming through you to them.

    I’m glad you have the medication you need to control the pain. I’m glad you have this trip to look forward to, and I will be praying as God leads me. What a blessing to have such a great team of family with you!


    • Thank you for your sympathy, I do appreciate it. I spoke with Anna last night and we both talked about how good it has been to have these last two years, knowing I was dying, but still alive and conversing. And when Bridget, age 2, calls, she asks if Grampa is lying down. And last Thursday I spent with Vita, age almost 6, and we had a wonderful time toghether. I lay on the sofa the whole time, we played cards, she got me whatever I needed without any hesitation, and I taught her some card tricks which she loved. I will have to schedule some time with Clara when I return from Nicaragua. But I did have a good conversation with Clara about Rob’s sermon in support of the “anarchist” protestors. She was really appreciative and shared this with her community on facebook. Clara and I talked about the roots of her involvement in justice issues being in her involvement in church, and she embraced that as a given. So family life is in many ways unaffected by my changes, and I am greatly supported by the family.


  4. Your testimony, Newell, is soooo valuable for our generation that is now passing, and for those who are remaining generations. The tussle with pain leads to that identity in Jesus–a shared passing–as much as we can bear. And I like the disavowal of hope that you make–not a complete expunging of Romans 15;13, because we know you are Glory-bound–but rather as an affirmation of life, and your God-given character of the way you lived your life the entire way through . . .

    Thank you for being true to you !

    I would never characterize your poetry as expedient, nor your words as graceless. The other-direction of your life is a complete and utter wonder. Not solely the builder in you, but also the relational aspects that sought throughout to bring people together–and have brought folks together. Praise God for that ! But that you have found the blessings around the edges for art and aesthetics, and that your creative streak takes on the more lively character of music : I pray that the ambient bent of your ending haze of pain will be taken up with the oratorio that you will experience, vividly now, but eternally in Heaven.

    We are indebted to you, too, Newell, for portraying the era of our own anarchy, such as it was, there in Isla Vista….and I gotta chuckle nowadays for how you made the bank-building into a much more spectacular thing to burn down than it actually was….. But it was the “ship that never sailed” really, that encapsulated the whole “Passing Phancy” of the missed opportunity in strategic hamlet and the phact that there were some of us who fancied themselves true destructors, and yet who merely found the more divergent ways to prolong their lives, but at the cost of a mere charade of the august Peace and Freedom we really sought.

    I rejoice with your family in the sustenance and continuation of serving the Nicaraguan People. The meme of contemplative prayer is expressed soooo well in the *times in the river*. The images abound for us, and will never leave us……

    I am reminded through poetic similarities with Emily Dickinson’s great line “I heard a fly buzz when I died…” that we have become that fly–or at least I have–buzzing around a calming flame, in search of the precise missional landing place wherein I shall deposit my alms for Him in this life.

    And you, dear Newell, buzzed quite directly unto you and yours, having built very well, and can attest to have spawned an entire missional wave of your very own, now, whilst you rest in your own calm flame. Whereas, I have yet to engender the “better portion” save through prayer and communion alone . . .
    And I have, alike, learned well from you . . . NOT to call it hope. . . .

    I pen this knowing that thou may not even read this… I also penned my last words to my own father, who passed in 2013, as my letter did truly drop into a *dead letter* pile ( as we did not have the advantage of cyber communication….Heh ! )

    But we sometimes forget . . . as we will surely know we have passed when the pain is no more . . .that we can read from heaven. I Peter 5:10


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