The Healer’s Struggle, Part 1
Petra is dying. Why, she asked herself? WHY???
Other patients had responded to the loving power of her hands. Other patients had been resuscitated, brought back from the edge of death, cured from illnesses that no one else could understand, or conquer.
There was Lila, the woman from Pennsylvania, who had seen her mother ravaged by cancer, then finished off by chemotherapy. Struck, herself, by the same deadly affliction, right in the middle of the sunshine of her prime, as though haunted by a terrible family curse, a rolling black shadow that would not let the women of the family be, or escape from being thrown down from the hill of their happiness, she’d come to the healer, dreading to go through all that she’d seen her mother go through: the loss of appetite; the nausea; the wigs (pathetic memories of glorious hair, "what gorgeous hair you have," they used to say; later kindly yet obviously pretending that they could not tell the difference); the fear of people coughing, because of the low white cell count; the prolongation of her tragic departure from the earth as a lifeless ghost, someone like a concentration camp prisoner in the last days. "I won’t go out that way," she’d told the healer, her beautiful mother’s memory haunting her, from the middle of her own pain. "If I poison and destroy my body with the chemo, I’ll have nothing left to fight with. I’m coming to you, because I believe that the Universe has given us our own bodies to heal us, and what I need, now, is to strengthen and awaken that power which the Universe has placed into my body, not trash it with all sorts of toxins and drugs…"
Till that time, the healer had never dealt with anything as serious, as deadly. She’d begun by curing friends of headaches in the school, and alleviating the discomfort of their menstrual symptoms. According to what her mother had told her when she was maybe five or six, her grandmother was a folk healer, who claimed to cure people by the laying on of hands, after reading select portions of The Bible. The girl had originally taken some distance from this, adopting something of her mother’s skeptical attitude, which was really a form of filial resentment. "People are scared to tell your grandma that they didn’t get better, so that’s how she’s ‘cured’ so many people." And her grandmother really had been a little bit frightening: severe, often dressed in black, a Bible always in her hands; once, when she was visiting them in the city (something she rarely did), waking up wild-eyed, speaking in tongues.
But then, the girl and a sister had spent a summer down south with grandma, when mother had run into a crisis, or maybe just needed some time away from the burden of raising such a large family. And that’s when the power had come to her. Grandma took them, one Sunday, to a little white house, a kind of temple, that you could only reach by driving down a long dirt road, hidden behind the woods, guarded by fierce dogs that the minister let run loose, like demons meant to test the devotion of those who came to hear him.
The girl couldn’t believe it when she saw the minister drag an angry rattlesnake out of a cage with a long stick, especially made for the purpose, that let him grasp it around the head with some kind of clamp. For a minute, he let the snake twist and writhe at the end of the stick, its rattles sounding off a frightening warning to any and all who would approach. Then, her grandma had come up to the snake, amazingly unafraid, and taken it behind the head with her hand, as the minister let go of it with the stick. She’d begun to talk to it, then rolled it over on its back, and begun to rub its belly. "God’s chosen you to help raise the faith of the world to a higher level," she’d told the snake. "It’s a great gift he’s given you. Just like your poison is a great gift he’s give to us."
And then she’d taken up the snake in her hands, as the minister began to recite from the Bible: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me… And the wolf shall also dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid…and the lion shall eat straw like the ox…And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp… They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain…"
And grandma would shout out, "Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! No harm can come to me, for I am with Thee!" And she would seem to go into another world as the snake moved about in her hands, and she let it crawl all over her, her eyes losing focus, but filling up with a strange, almost frightening light of joy.
One day, during that strange, hot summer, grandma passed the snake to her. "Take it, child," she’d told her granddaughter, the one destined to be a healer, as the other one shrunk away in fear. "Let it take you to Jesus." And she’d taken the snake from her grandma’s hands, having watched this ritual for several Sundays straight and grown used to it, by now, and at that moment, she felt as though the deadly power of the rattlesnake was a million miles away, on the other side of an amazing shield of love that had suddenly appeared to protect her, from within her own heart, and tears began to roll down her cheeks. She felt, at that moment, a sense of power and invulnerability, a bond with God, with Jesus, with the whole Universe, that was completely beyond the reach of words. Drowning in that love, she could feel all her pain dissolving, and the concept of impossible fading away. Her anger, her fear, were also swept aside, and she felt an overwhelming desire to embrace the whole world, to be its mother, and to nurse it with the feeling that was in her heart. "Hallelujah!" she cried out. "Hallelujah!"
"You’ve got the power, now," grandma told her, passing the snake on to someone else. When, later in the day, someone else was bitten by another snake, a cottonmouth that was also a part of the minister’s menagerie, her grandma asked her to help heal the victim, and together, they had both put their hands on the crying woman, after grandma had first cut the wound, bled it, and sucked as much of the poison as she could out of it. "You don’t need no antivenom," she told the woman, "you’ve got God Almighty’s love, and I’m going to help you feel it!" To conclude that amazing day, the girl had suddenly, impulsively, asked to handle the cottonmouth that had bitten the woman.
"Take it back out of its cage," grandma had told the minister, who had his doubts. "She’ll do it."
And the girl had handled the moccasin like it was nothing, talking to it all the while, with a wisdom that seemed to come from beyond her, for she was at an age when girls love to jump rope, play hopscotch, and dress up dolls, not preach. "Feel the love, Snake. You don’t have to bite anyone - for what? This is something much better. We can be like brother and sister. Feel the spirit! Hallelujah! Nations war; robbers steal; everywhere, there’s people fighting, killing, hurting, because they don’t believe there’s any other way. But here we are. We can show them! We can be the lantern that lights the way to peace, for everyone! Behold us! Hallelujah! And the wolf shall dwell with the sheep! And the lion shall eat straw! And the child shall play on the hole of the cobra! Hallelujah! If we can do it, snake, the whole world can do it! Hallelujah! And no more crying mothers! And no more useless dying! Hallelujah! And love shall erase hate! And healing shall take the place of killing! And everyone shall love his neighbor as himself! Hallelujah! Jerusalem is come back to life!"
And grandma, moved by the girl’s ability to receive spirit, like a deep pitcher into which a great amount of water could be poured in, then given back to the thirsty, cried out: "Take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you!"
Before releasing her to go back north, to live with her mamma again, the grandmother, who rightly sensed that the mother would never again let her daughter go back south to receive the "bad influence" of the "crazy old woman", told the girl about the power of hands, once one’s heart had let in God. "With these hands, you can make the lame walk, and the blind see," she’d told the girl. And she’d had her girl put her hands on an old man who’d been bitten by a spider and was suffering from fever, and a terrible pain in his joints. "Look, I feel god-awful lousy to be some guinea pig for your grandkid to train on," he’d told the grandmother, but she’d told him, "Sit down and be quiet, Jake, the girl’s got the power. You want this knowledge to die with us?" Later, she’d begun to tell the girl about some herbs out in the forest, but then the phone call had come, that the mother had gotten her life organized once again, and wanted the daughters back.
"Now don’t tell your ma about the snakes," grandma had told the girl as she put her onto the train, headed back north. "She won’t understand." But the other sister had told their mother, who, naturally, flew into a rage and said she’d never let the old woman near them again. "I swear, if anything had happened to them, I’d have you in court, in one second! What’s wrong with you!? Have you lost your mind?"
Anyway, this is how the healer knew that she had power. From those hot, summer days, long ago, when she’d held the poison snakes in her hands, and her grandmother had told her, "Child, you’re blessed."
The minor cures she’d performed on her friends at school kept the idea alive, even as her mother, and the big northern city where they lived, seemed to make it all seem so peculiar, distant, and unreal. This was crucial, because the forceful, god-fearing grandma, so impressive in her secret woods, was an image that you just couldn’t imitate or manage to follow too closely in a giant cosmopolitan city filled with so much excitement, desire, opportunity, knowledge, science, skepticism, stimulation - so many options, alternatives, and possible roads to travel. And so, the healer had begun to widen her eyes, and to explore the many and varied roads of spirit, experimenting with different approaches to God in almost the same way that a young person experiments with different drugs, to see which one gives the best high, and to be able to share parts of her friends’ lives. In this way, she learned something of Buddhism, and Sufism, and even ancient Egyptian rituals, since her best friend in high school was a somewhat eccentric follower of Isis. In the end, she did not end up converted to other faiths, but deeply enriched by them, respectful of them, and aware that the power of spirit could be found by traveling on many different paths, and that what mattered most was not traveling on any given road, but reaching the essence of spiritual truth by whatever road one traveled.
During all this process of exploring, which required her to pull back from her grandmother’s strident Biblical convictions, just enough to allow her to view the rest of the world’s spiritual paths with an open mind, she risked losing touch with the powerful legacy of "dancing with the snakes" and using her hands to heal. That is how the little healings she did with her high school friends helped her. For their little pains and hurts motivated her not to lose touch, completely; and prevented the loosening of her spiritual ties with her grandmother from resulting in them breaking, altogether. She loved her friends, and that love kept her using her hands, even during that period of time in which she was not sure about the spiritual context in which it was all taking place, or the metaphysical implications of it. Until she finally realized that that feeling of love was what mattered, not the doctrines that enclosed it. One of her strange friends from school gave her a poem by Rumi, who seemed to be what Kahlil Gibran had been to another generation: "The love-religion has no code or doctrine," it said. "Only God. So the ruby has nothing engraved on it! It doesn’t need markings." And that’s when the healer knew she was on the right track. That she could carry on her grandmother’s tradition without wearing black, or frightening away modern city-dwellers, or people of different faiths, (who might also be afflicted and in need), by projecting the rather frightening self-righteousness of a backwoods holy woman, who was powerful and loving, but able only to save those who submitted to her worldview.
From school friends with little problems, the healer had moved on to some more difficult cases. Recurring migraines, bursitis, asthma, and arthritis. Those who she worked on told her that they had never felt so loved as when they were under her hands, never felt so much peace, and hope. Pain that they seemed destined to live with forever was lifted from them, and sometimes, after but a few sessions, utterly banished from their lives.
The way that Lila came to hear of her was through a friend, who had been suffering from excruciating abdominal pains that the best doctors, after numerous expensive examinations utilizing the best diagnostic technology available, could not account for. The pains were accompanied by insomnia, depression, and severe weight loss. Feeling that she had nothing to lose by trying something so absurd, Lila’s friend had gone to a clinic sponsored by an alternative healing center, where the healer happened to be taking classes that she really did not need, but felt she did, since her grandmother was no longer alive to guide her (though, if she was alive, the healer could no longer have accepted her guidance, since healing was only one aspect of that guidance, and one had to accept the whole package - including black dress, hellfire, and ‘believe or burn’ mentality - in order to receive the life-saving knowledge of the herbs and how to cure others with your hands). The healer’s teacher was, in fact, humbled by the talent of his student, which made him feel very self-conscious about all of his theories, his diagrams of chakras and energy fields, his lectures about chi, yin and yang, and the balancing of opposites. She already had a system that worked - or, perhaps, no system, which worked even better - and, in fact, he was afraid that what he was teaching her might just get in the way. Anyway, it was through the free clinic that his school provided in order to give its students a chance to practice their skills on real subjects, that Lila’s friend encountered the healer.
"The girl’s got magic hands," she told Lila over the phone, one month later. "I’m eating, again. My weight’s back up to 120. I’m sleeping eight hours a night. The pains are gone, and I feel great about life! I’m taking walks, reading, enjoying myself. There’s so many good books to read! So many amazing ideas and dreams our human race has come up with!"
"How did she do it?" Lila asked her.
"She just put her hands on me. She talked to me. She cared. She told me that maybe the sickness was telling me something, and that when I found out what it was, I wouldn’t need it any more. It would release me. She caressed me, like I was a little baby, and that’s when I realized that I was just tired of the rat race, that I felt trapped by the world I’d built for myself, and by the things I thought I needed. And my sickness was just a secret way of trying to get away from it all, of trying to end the pain and stress."
"So then what?"
"I decided - why do I need to be sick to let go of all that crap that’s destroying me? Why can’t I just let go of it of my own free will? I don’t need the excuse or justification of being sick to slow down, to back off, to pull out of it all. I can just make the decision to do it, and remain healthy at the same time. That way, I can enjoy the extra time I open up for myself, as a result of simplifying my life, instead of wasting it, just moping around, depressed and wracked by pain."
"So - what did she do then? Anything? It seems like you’re the one who figured it all out."
"Yeah, Lila, in one way you’re right. But I know that it was more than that. I think, before, I could only respect myself if I had all the things, if I struggled to gain all the things - the material things and the accolades - that made me feel that I had worth. I couldn’t give it up, without despising myself, without feeling empty, non-existent. Little like a bug. It was her hands that did something - that put me in touch with so much love, through her love; that made me realize that I could love myself, and cherish myself, and treasure myself, no matter what I had, or did, or whether I shone in the world, or not - and that’s what allowed me to give up all the things I was killing myself to try to get, in order to make me shine in my own eyes. It was her love that did that, Lila. Her love. I can’t tell you what it was like - the relaxation - the beautiful, beautiful sweet feeling - that began to fill me up when her hands touched me. First, before we began, she asked me if I believed in God, and when I said I did, she told me that God loved me, and Lila, I swear I felt His love when her hands were on me, I felt it coming into me, and just washing through me, and cleaning out all of the crap that was inside of me, killing me. God, it was like being born again; like seeing your whole life from up high, on the top of some mountain in your soul that allows you to see every wrong turn you have made; and then getting a chance to start all over, and get it right, this time."
"And if you had told her that you didn’t believe in God?"
"Then, Lila, she would have ended up making me believe. That’s how good her hands were."
Lila, who was the hardest case the healer had had to deal with yet, was considered to have no chance of survival without a rigorous program of chemotherapy and radiation, which would still leave her with a life expectancy of less than five years. She was such an unpromising case, in fact, that the healer’s teacher would not let her come into his clinic, and strongly advised the healer to make Lila sign a paper before she began to work with her, if she insisted in working with her at all (which he opposed). "I have NOT been advised, by ________, to forsake conventional therapy for my condition, which includes chemotherapy and radiation… I have NOT been promised that I will be cured of my condition by this alternative treatment, which I have chosen to undergo of my own free will, fully knowing the opinions of medical doctors, and the risks involved, and releasing __________ of all potential claims for liability for whatever results may be incurred, including a serious deterioration of my condition, or death…"
The healer was horrified by this paper, which she said would damage the openness of the relationship she needed to establish with Lila if she was to have any chance of success with her, but the teacher insisted, and called Lila, himself, who agreed to sign it, at once.
"I’ve never attempted to help anyone heal from a condition like this one," the healer told Lila, up front.
"You’re so sweet, dear," Lila replied. "But, don’t you see, I have nothing to lose. The doctors have told me, in that peculiar language of theirs, which makes it all seem quite normal, that if I poison and destroy my own body and torture myself with chemo, I may live for five years more, as the ruined shell of the person you now see before you. I really have very little to lose, and since coming to you does seem rather cheaper than going to Lourdes, (and I do hate crowd scenes, anyway), why not give it a try? I promise, I won’t blame you if I die."
The healer had finally agreed, deciding, at least, to give the love of her hands to this poor woman who seemed like a magnificent color that had faded.
"Ooo, that feels good," Lila had said, at first, something almost sensual and perverse in her delight, which made the healer feel self-conscious, as though she were somehow engaged in a lesbian act. But then, she warded off the feeling of indecency, and continued to work, to love, no matter how that love might be interpreted by someone who had lived a very different life, until Lila, also, began to feel the purity, the greater depth of this new love.
Then, Lila’s little groans seemed to become more pathetic, and innocent, like that of a child whose mother had never carried her in the night, and tears began to stream out of her closed eyes, as she lay on the table where the healing was taking place. "Mother!" she wept once.
"What?" asked the healer, tenderly.
"She was always so beautiful. I wanted to be her, but never could. Can a candle live up to the sun? Her lovers were the great artists of the day. Mine were always second-rate. I couldn’t mesmerize the same quality of man. Whenever she looked at anything I did, she always smiled, and said, ‘How pretty!’, in a way that let me know how disappointed she was. How much I wanted to make her proud; even to make her feel threatened by my talent - jealous - upstaged! But I could never get anything more from her than that little smile, covering up her disappointment, before she ran away to some new lover, to some new adventure. ‘Daughter, I haven’t been a real mother to you,’ she told me at the very end. And she couldn’t say anymore. Her mouth opened, but nothing came out. It was the closest moment we ever shared…" And suddenly, Lila began to bawl like a tiny infant, as the healer held her, gently, tears streaming out of her eyes, also.
The sessions continued, and at first, no one noticed any change. A new test revealed that the cancer was still there. "It might have stabilized, for a while, at least," said Lila, trying to make the healer, who she had begun to like, feel better. "At least that’s something."
The healer nodded, agreeing, "Yes, that’s a good sign."
Is it? wondered Lila. Maybe it was, after all!
The healer, meanwhile, told herself, ‘think of the battering ram. It does not knock down the gates with one swing. You have to keep at it. If you keep working long enough, without giving up, sooner or later you will break through the gates.’ But not happy with the violence of that metaphor, she changed it to: ‘one sunny day is not enough to melt a giant snowfall that has covered the land. It may take several days of the sun’s warm shining in order to melt the ice, and allow the spring to come... ' Reminding herself that the severity of Lila’s condition signified a major problem, and that major problems are rarely solved in an instant, she struggled to keep herself motivated, in spite of her feeling that her hands were, somehow, not transmitting enough power to her patient. (It was as though 1000 volts were needed to power a machine, and she was only able to carry 500 volts to it.)
Then, one day, Lila, feeling down, told the healer that she was feeling quite sick, and said, "Well, at least you’re somebody who I can talk to. That’s more than snake oil can do for me…"
The healer was deeply wounded by that comment, but pressed on, determined to give love to her difficult patient, when, all of a sudden, the mention of "snake oil" brought back to her mind, some moments after Lila had said it, the image of a young girl dancing with a poisonous snake in her hands. And with that image, the power of being beyond fear, of being beyond danger, of being completely in God’s hands, came back to her, and suddenly, her hands began to feel weak and to vibrate, then, unexpectedly, became strong, once she allowed them to be taken away from her, by God. "Use them! Use them, dear God!" she prayed. And she could feel an incredible power coming through her, then, as tears flowed down her face, and suddenly she felt that Lila’s cancer was as harmless as a rattlesnake, as harmless as a water moccasin. "Hallelujah!" she said.
"What?" asked Lila.
"God’s here," the healer told her. "Do you want to live? Your ship is sinking. A new ship is pulling up alongside yours. Jump, now. Jump to the life ship. Jump from the death ship, to the life ship. It’s not far to go! Don’t look down at the water, Lila. Look at where you want your feet to land, and jump! Jump, now!"
"What?" asked Lila.
"Receive it! God’s energy is here!"
Lila didn’t know what was going on, but suddenly felt an indescribable wave of energy sweeping through her, like the end of one world, and the possible beginning of another.
"And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood."
"My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me."
"What?" Lila started to say, again, then stopped, because the words were only forms of a power whose meaning she was able to understand, as it swept through her body.
"And the stone was rolled aside, and lo and behold, Daniel was alive! For what is a lion, next to God’s might?"
And as the love kept flowing, the healer could suddenly see her stern grandmother standing beside her, with her Bible in her hands, and next to her grandmother, a strange woman with wild hair, and a long flowing gown, speaking in some strange tongue that seemed to come from another time, another land.
"Who is she?" the healer asked her grandmother.
"She is twenty times more old, than I am older than you, and she is the forebear of us both."
"And her Bible?"
"It had not reached her land, yet - but love had. Only now, have I come to realize, that when I spoke in tongues - it was in the words of her language, that I spoke!"
And suddenly, both her grandmother and the ancient healer/wise-woman were gone, there was only a beautiful light, the beautiful light of healing that they had both found through their own faiths - or in spite of them! And the healer felt herself glowing within this very same light, and Lila was glowing with it, too, like some amazing radioactive (yet life-giving) gem, or the first dawn on the dark side of a planet that had now begun to rotate for the first time. And Lila was suddenly every bit as brilliant as her mother, something which she could now see by looking for her own shining in another place; and at the same time, she was free of her mother, not needing, any longer, to follow in her footsteps, not needing, any longer, to chase after her glory, or her tragedy. "I’ve been reliving my mother’s drama, all along," she thought. "But a remake can never match the original, the classic. Perhaps it’s time to move on, now, and make a film of my own."
But, of course, it was not just these ideas that saved her. It was the overpowering feeling of love, and the power of safety and divine connection that the healer’s belief, and ability to transmit her belief, gave to her. Just like when one person, listening to a song on her own CD player, calls her friend over, and shares the headphones with her so that they can both listen to the same song at the same time, so the healer was able to share the power and love of the Universe when she "heard" it ringing in her soul’s ears, when she felt it rising up from her heart’s depths; and that "music" is what triggered Lila’s body to react, to begin its miraculous reaction against the cancer that was consuming it.
As the Tao Te Ching says (another path, another way to the same place): "He who understands the life that has been, for a time, entrusted to him, needs not fear tiger or rhinoceros. And he may enter among many enemies without fear of a sword. The rhinoceros finds no place in him into which it can thrust its horn; the tiger finds no place in which to imbed its claws; the sword finds no place to penetrate him. How is this so? In him, there is no place for death."
The healer took away the place of death that lay in Lila, attracting and feeding her cancer, which is what liberated her God-given body’s power to heal itself.
Later, Lila told her, "I was ruins when I came to you. You rebuilt me just enough so that I could begin to rebuild myself. With your hands, you pulled me out of the water into which I had fallen. You put me back on dry land, where I could walk. Your love showed me how to love myself again. Your energy helped to free the answers that I had locked up inside of me… But, perhaps, I’m taking too much credit!"
"No, not at all, you’re absolutely right," agreed the healer.
Within 6 months, Lila was pronounced to be in remission by her incredulous doctors, and one year later, they could find no trace of her cancer, at all. "I wish I’d treated you," one of the doctors told her. "I’d be famous!"
"If you’d treated me," she retorted, "I’d be dead."
And this was the beginning of the healer’s rapid rise. For Lila was a person who had no inhibitions about giving. Throughout her life, she had been excessively generous with anyone who could reward her, or manipulate her, with even a little smile, a faint trace of the adulation in which her mother had lived; from a faithless acquaintance who received her support only to strengthen his ability to harm her in the future, to a homeless person, whose eyes treated a five-dollar bill, or a sandwich she might buy him, as though it were a vision of a El Dorado, giving was her way of trying to matter to someone. How much more generous must she be now, to someone who had actually saved her life, while asking for nothing in return!
The healer, however, had ambivalent feelings about money. She somehow felt that it was impure, a form of contamination; that the money world and the world of spirit ought to be kept separate, ought not to touch, just like the doctor’s hands ought to be washed and contained within sterile gloves, separated from the rest of his life, before he performed an operation. It was as though the dirt of money might pollute the healing, might close the door to God’s power. When she thought of receiving money for the healings that she gave, she thought of the ancient Hebrews dancing around the Golden Calf, abandoning Moses on the mountaintop. "Darling, you’ve got to live," Lila had insisted, telling her, "you need money to pay your rent, to buy your groceries. There’s no religion that can survive without a material base. As long as our souls [she now believed in them] dwell inside of these material bodies of flesh and blood, vulnerable to hunger and to cold, they’ll need things of the material world; and it’s money that buys these things… All through history, spirit has required material support. Christian Churches have their collections, receive donations, engage in fundraising, get tax breaks. In some parts of the Orient, Buddhist monks may be seen going around, from door to door, with empty bowls, begging for rice. Think of the Hebrews during the Exodus," she added, trying to find a way to convince the healer to take her money. "They were starving, dying in the desert. They couldn’t have gone on with their dream, alone, with only their love of freedom and their religious convictions; which is why, according to the Bible, which you know much better than I do, God is supposed to have sent them ‘manna’, which was some kind of food, a material substance to nourish the bodies that they needed in order to continue seeking and serving God on this planet. Well," she concluded, "consider this money to be a form of ‘manna’, and my gratitude for you, my love for you, to come straight from God, who is only using me to express it. Just like you told me that you are only a conduit for bringing God’s love into the world, well, please accept me as a conduit also, bringing you this money. For God’s sakes!" she urged. "It’s not like you’re rich! Why should you spend all your time and energy working a ‘day job’ that doesn’t really help anybody, and being used by other people so that they can make money off of you to support their own blind, selfish lifestyle, when you can begin to work full-time as a healer, giving the greatest gift of all - LIFE - to so many desperate people?!"
Lila was certainly persuasive, but even more than that, the healer realized how much Lila wanted to continue feeling important, like she had felt when she was under the healer’s loving hands; how desperately she wished to avoid returning to the periphery of life, now that she was cured; how tormented she was by her money, when it was doing nothing, haunting her like some unforgiving spirit. "All right," the healer told her, at last, the two of them embracing, and kissing each other on the cheeks, then. "Thank you so much!"
"It’s the least that I can do," Lila told her, her eyes moist with emotion. "Thank you, for letting me do something worthwhile with my new life!"
Besides the money, Lila, who had some of the star quality of her mother, after all, succeeded in generating a wave of new patients for the healer, praising her everywhere she went, promoting her, calling friends on the telephone, meeting strangers at parties, gossiping endlessly about her new friend. In one gala party, which the healer heard about later, Lila had suddenly yelled out over the music, for everyone to stop dancing, and listen, and then she’d told them all, "Is anybody here sick? Know anybody who’s sick? With cancer? With AIDS? I know somebody who can help! I’m not lying. See me dancing? If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here, now, and all of this would be going on without me…", and suddenly, she’d broken down, and started weeping, in such a way that it made people realize this wasn’t a joke, after all. From that party, the healer got two new patients.
Within a year, she had either cured, or sent into remission, eight cases of advanced cancer, and twenty-five cases of AIDS. She very much liked working with AIDS victims, since many of them felt like social outcasts, and were being destroyed by loneliness, rejection, and a sense of guilt, as much as by HIV. With these, her loving, healing hands had a special power. And she would often recall the story of how Jesus went to be among the miscreants, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, and the fallen, to give his love without restraint to those that 'proper society' had rejected and condemned as ‘sinners’. "You are all beautiful to God," she told those she met. And although she was not in favor of homosexuality, the pain of the gay AIDS victims she met during this time elicited such a powerful feeling of love from her, that she could not refrain from allowing her compassion to erase her judgment, and she came to her own personal conviction that this was a society whose values were turned completely upside down, that it could condemn people for the way they loved, while enriching, and heaping praise, upon those who made and used cruel weapons of destruction. In the cases of these victims, especially, the love of the healer played an overwhelmingly important role, for through it, she taught them to love themselves again, and to feel, once more, that they deserved to live. She untied the dark cords of death that they had let the hate of others, and their own lack of commitment to the beauty of their existence, tie around them, enabling them to breathe, once more, the air of hope and possibility that surrounded them. She broke through the dark encirclement, with the power of her forgiveness, that was beyond forgiveness, since she had never really blamed them in the first place. And it was the same with those who had contracted AIDS through contaminated syringes: "You were seeking God, without knowing it. Now, I’m here to help you really find Him." And, of course, with those who had been infected through heterosexual relationships: "You wanted love. Now I’ll give you what you were looking for."
Besides these, there were some other spectacular cures. First, there was Miranda, the blind girl whose exact ailment doctors had never been able to pinpoint. When the healer heard, from Miranda’s own lips, the tale of how she had been born with sight, then lost it during childhood after a fever, then regained it once, for a period of two days, at the age of fifteen, before losing it again, she knew that the blindness was not the result of eyes that could not see. There was something else interfering with the girl’s vision, and she knew that love could heal it. Putting her hands around the girl’s eyes, and on various points of her head, and even neck and shoulders, she began to work on her. There was some acupressure involved, something which she had learned in her healing classes, but she used it in her own way, and the love and intention which she brought to it made what she was doing very different from what those who treated the pressure points like mere buttons in a machine, did. At first glance, an animal stuffed by a knowledgeable taxidermist, and placed inside a glass museum case, looks very much like the living animal, momentarily still, in the wilderness. But what a huge difference there is between them! In the same way, the healing modality that is only form is very different from that which has a living heart, beating from within that form.
Miranda began to relax, and to drift away with the healer’s loving hands. Back to a distant day and the memory of a drunken uncle grabbing her mother and throwing her down onto a bed, after hitting her in the mouth, ("Stop, you’re going to kill me!") and ripping her dress, ("All right, all right, just don’t hurt me any more"); and then this huge angry man shaking her, Miranda the child, saying, "You didn’t see nothing. Tell anybody about this [turning back to the sobbing mother] and your baby’s dead!" And other times, coming in, again, and this time her mother resisting less, resigned, like a slave who knows she must go to pick the cotton because the master says so. "Go out and play, Miranda, don’t come back till I call for you." Then the fever, and the blindness.
Tears began to pour out of Miranda’s blind eyes, whereupon an extra dose of love reached her from the healer. "Miranda, you can see again. There’s beautiful things in this world, too, it’s not just that little house, and your uncle, with a bottle in his hand. You’re safe now, Miranda. He’s gone. You’re out of his reach. It’s safe to see. God is with you. Your uncle already stole your childhood, Miranda. Don’t let him steal your sight."
Miranda’s hand reached up, and she felt the healer’s face completely wet with tears, the healer traveling side by side with her soul in her long journey back into the darkness of the night, which made her cry even more. "How can you love me so much?" she asked, incredulously. "Before today, you didn’t even know me."
"We’re all God’s children," the healer had replied. And she had added a brief story: "Once, they say, there were two sisters, given to an orphanage by their dying mother. But as her last act of motherhood, she gave each of her girls a necklace with a pendant, which contained half of the word ‘family’, the other half of the word being contained by the pendant of the other sister. On one of the pendants, ‘fam’ was engraved, and on the other ‘ily.’ ‘Make sure my girls are adopted by the same family,’ she told the mistress of the orphanage. But, as she’d guessed, after her death, the children were given away to different families. It was just too hard to get a single family to adopt two kids, at the same time. After the sisters grew up, reaching the age of 21, they finally discovered their true origins, and thereafter, spent many years of their lives hoping to run into their long-lost sister. Imagine their surprise then, when, one day on the street, both visiting a city in which neither of them lived, they each came upon a woman who seemed strangely familiar, and beheld a nearly identical pendant dangling from the other’s neck. Without speaking, they took off their pendants and put them together, and lo and behold, they fit together perfectly to make the word ‘family’, giving back, to each, the sister she had been searching for for so long!
"Well," the healer said. "That’s how it is. The pain you carry in your heart, and the pain I carry in mine - fit together in just the same way as the two pendants that let the long-lost sisters recognize each other. As you cried, Miranda, I realized that we were sisters. Not of the little families which exist on the earth, but of the greater family that God has made us all to be a part of. That’s how I can love you so much."
Miranda knew the love was real, and told the healer, "I want to see your face, sister", and that’s when, opening her eyes, she saw a room filled with light, and a big blurry shadow standing right in front of her. "I’m beginning to see!" she cried out, simultaneously euphoric and frightened.
"Slow down," the healer had said. "Close your eyes, again." And the healer had covered the eyes with her palms, and told her, "You’re going to see again, Miranda, but take it slow. Little by little. You’re going to see again, believe me. You’re going to see again. Nice and clear. Breathe with me. That’s right. Slow it down. Yes, you’re going to see again…" The healer’s hands worked her over again, gently relaxing her, calming down her first unstable rush towards vision. "Let me close the shades, Miranda. Let’s do it slowly, we’ll start from the darkness." And the healer had spent several more hours with her, talking, listening, having her open her eyes in the darkness until she could see the healer’s silhouette, and match the features with what she was feeling as she caressed the face, then opening a crack in the shade, and gradually, adjusting Miranda’s amazed eyes to more light, and more sight. "You’re beautiful," Miranda told her, once she could see her clearly.
The healer shrugged. "It’s beautiful to see," she agreed, believing that that was what Miranda must have meant
"No, you’re beautiful," Miranda insisted.
Whereupon, the healer smiled. It wasn’t like Miranda had seen that many people to be able to form a judgment like that! Or was it that the inner way of seeing forced upon her all these years by her blindness was still stronger than her physical sight? (Or maybe the healer was just trying too hard not to be vain.)
Miranda wanted to pay the healer most everything she had for this miraculous cure, but she was poor, and Lila’s generosity enabled the healer to do free work for those who lacked resources, without having to worry about her own bills. "To be able to look into your eyes, and see them follow me across the room - that’s payment enough," she said. "Believe me, money would only be anticlimactic. Anyway, I’m OK economically. Believe me! Miranda, hold onto your money, and use it to help build a new life. If I ever fall on hard times, and end up without a penny, or a roof above my head, just promise to open the door for me, and let me in to sleep on the floor. That’s all I ask from you."
"No way," Miranda said. "I’ll sleep on the floor!"
When Lila heard the story about Miranda, she exclaimed to the healer "My God, you’re like Jesus! Making the blind to see!"
"It wasn’t hard, only spectacular," the healer said, using the example of a running horse, that seems so potent and amazing as he gallops freely across the plains, yet is actually using far less energy than the slow-moving draft horse, as he pulls a heavy plow behind him through the fields. "You were hard, Lila. But Miranda - she was easy - her blindness was like an unstable stack of cards, all it needed to come tumbling down was a little puff of love - just like you give to birthday candles, after you make a wish."
Lila only shook her head, taking the healer’s understanding to be a saintly form of modesty.
And then it was on to Murlyn, the little girl who’d almost drowned. Her teary-eyed parents showed the healer the little ice skates she’d been wearing on the day when she fell through the ice of the frozen lake, that for a moment of fantasy, had been the child’s Olympic rink, the place where she was going to become another Oksana Baiul. A neighbor's heroic son, who happened to be a fireman, had responded to the mother’s frantic cries for help, and dove into the icy water, somehow managing to fish out the body after what seemed like an eternity; but ever since then, the little girl had been in a coma, and showed no signs of recovery.
The Healer's Struggle, Part 2
Short Fiction Contents
Creative Safehouse Contents