Wednesday afternoon, January 27, 2010
I took an afternoon nap so I’d be ready to celebrate with our A and B honor roll students at a special banquet in the dining hall.
All the students who made A and B honor roll got to invite a favorite teacher, counselor or houseparent to the festive meal. The theme was “Superheroes,” and I smiled at the staff dressed like Superman, Zorro, Wonder Woman and the like. Really, our staff are the heroes who brighten the lives of the young people we’re entrusted to serve.
Besides a certificate, we had the T-shirt shop in town make a batch of colorful “SuperStudent” shirts for the honor roll students. A nice cultural tradition we started years ago is that each student who makes honor roll is also honored with a feather inscribed with their name and date. It’s our hope all the students will earn many feathers for honorable achievements throughout their lives.
As I walked to the office to put my things away and call it an early evening, I ran into our group of high school boys getting ready to start their “Sons of Tradition” class, which will help them learn more about their Lakota cultural heritage.
They asked me if I could spare a few minutes and join them in their opening prayer circle. We stepped outside onto patch of ground partially cleared of snow, and in the brisk night, a bundle of sage was lit.
Each of us purified ourselves and placed ourselves in a prayerful space. Each person offered prayers for their family and friends; the young men also offered prayers for me, that I will continue to heal and get well and beat this cancer.
I got a bit emotional, but in a good and healing way. It was overwhelming to feel their power and support. I want to be a strong witness and role model for each of them as they start to make important choices about their own lives.
Wednesday morning, January 27, 2010
We published the blog yesterday, and so many life-giving messages have already come streaming in.
I recognized names of friends I’ve met at our powwows, while dropping by for a campus visits or at donor appreciation luncheons. Yet, there are so many more folks I’ve never met personally who are such an important part of St. Joseph’s tiyospaye – extended family.
Some messages inspire; some offer hope, while others give advice and encouragement. Many of you have been caretakers for a loved one and others are survivors with great hope. Some messages are fun and bring a needed smile. Thank you for all your care!
One of the hidden blessings of being ill may be a greater awareness of the many people around us who suffer daily. It prompted me to call a friend who recently lost his mom and see how he’s doing.
There is so much love and good will around; yet, there are always people who suffer alone and would so appreciate the outstretched arm of friendship. I’ll try to be more aware of people that may be alone and not have the people and resources I’ve been blessed with.
As I have energy, I’m trying to do what I can around campus.
I stopped in with the first graders, who were playing a game of bingo using long and soft vowel sounds rather than numbers so they can learn their phonics. I sat to play a round myself, and Sasha wanted to share some of her prizes with me. I didn’t win but came home with two Tinkerbell stickers to put on my notebook. It’s heartwarming to be the recipient of a child’s generosity.
I also got to some overdue paperwork. One pile I was happy to sign was the pile of grants submitted for our winter college scholarship awards. We have 19 alumni in college right now in fields such as business, nursing, law enforcement, electronics and education. It’s satisfying to share their journey and encourage them to dream and achieve.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
I came home to Chamberlain from my first round of chemotherapy on Saturday, and return for another cycle in 3 weeks. The challenge now is to keep eating and not lose weight when I don’t feel all that hungry. I’m not in any pain, but I feel tired, and try to pay attention to when my body tells me to rest. On Sunday Fr. Anthony led the mass, and I was able to concelebrate. Just being with the students and staff during that time of prayer, and getting a big pile of homemade get well cards at the end of church was a great boost to my spirits.
We have very talented and committed staff at St. Joseph’s. I know that when I am not able to be here for periods of time, the important things always get done. And now that I’ve been with them for 5 years, we have a shared vision of where we’re trying to take the school. Beyond the meetings and paperwork, one of the best parts of my job is just walking around campus and offering encouragement, and checking on how plans and projects are going. Monday morning I spent about an hour at the office, visiting staff, and in the afternoon I made rounds at the school to see what the students have been up to. While the doctors can prescribe the drugs, the children’s’ hugs and greetings were even more therapeutic. As always, there are many activities on the schedule each day. As my energy allows, I’ll be involved with what I can.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Ever since I joined religious life 28 years ago I have been a faithful daily journaler. I reflect on the blessings each day brings, what I learn about life, God and myself, and also pay close attention to the struggles and difficulties I need to work through. When I finish one volume and open the pages of a new one, I pause and wonder what God will write in the next chapter of my life?
When I finish one volume and open the pages of a new one, I pause and wonder what God will write in the next chapter of my life?
Cancer! – Mxyoid Liposarcoma. Discovering I have cancer just a month ago marks one of those big life turning points. When illness strikes you wonder how that’s part of God’s plan, or where that difficult journey will take you. Yet it’s part of the human condition we all share in. I was very sad and scared when I first heard. I’m hopeful now because the doctors believe we’re headed toward a cure, but it will take several months of chemo, radiation, and eventually surgery to treat this right.
Here at St. Joseph’s, I get letters every day from people asking the children and I to pray for healing, comfort, patience, and hope that so many people need when faced with health concerns and personal problems. As I continually pray for those needs, I ask for your prayers in return. I know my recent illness has already deepened my sense of compassion and solidarity.
I won’t be able to answer everyone’s notes personally, but with this space, I, or staff, can give you updates, and also give you a chance to write anything you may wish to share.