I am the vine; you are the branches…I am the vine; you are the branches….I am the vine; you are the branches (John 15:5).
I wasn’t planning to meditate or focus on any symbolism when I was getting my treatment today. It was Reiki treatment – a form of relaxation therapy offered through the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center for people who are dealing /have dealt with cancer. Yes, I belong in that category. A non-Hodgkins lymphoma made itself known two years ago- no make that three or four years ago. My body knew something was out of whack and kept telling my mind, which was determined to keep going doing the things I felt compelled to do. Finally in 2016 I was diagnosed and received some chemotherapy and am still doing what they call maintenance therapy that’s not as evil as chemo, every three months. And yes, I still have cancer cells. Actually everyone carries cancer cells in their bodies. It’s just when they are not balanced out by healthy cells that we call it cancer. I’m working to keeping those cancer cells in check.
The vine. The branches. Suddenly during the Reiki treatment I realized this: the vine is vulnerable, dependent on the branches to bear fruit. It is merely a conduit from the source of minerals and water to the branches that do all the happy work of growing leaves, forming flowers, and nurturing the growth of the fruit.
Now I’ve become more dependent in a sense. I can’t make the money I used to, or be as much of a help to others, as I was wont to do. I’m not totally dependent. I can move my body and drive. I can garden; I can cook. I can do brief stints of childcare. I can speak and type fast, for God’s sake…so much more than Todd was able to do when he was disabled. However, I get sick with pneumonia quite often, or some related sickness. I am noticing my body tiring more quickly. I need much more time to rest and recover – to keep those cancer cells at bay.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Do the branches grow enough to sprout other branches and then become the vine themselves? Am I a conduit for those around me who care for me? And if the cancer cells cannot be kept under check and I become even more vulnerable and dependent on physical care, does this mean I become more vine than branch?
I actually came to tomorrow’s doctor/medical treatment appointment today by mis-remembering and ended up in Reiki treatment. But tomorrow, and every time I get maintenance treatment, I am reminded that yes, my life is as fickle and predictable as the Cleveland weather this spring. That full feeling in my ear – is it lymph nodes hardening or is it just ear wax? The slight cough and phlegm when I swallow – is that a cancer re-growth or simply allergies? I will one day – who can predict when – become much more vulnerable, much more dependent.
Branches to vine. From the vine grow the roots as deep and full as the branches grow high and wide. With my (relatively) newly discovered disability, I have been offered the chance to stop and become the vine. My life has become deeper and fuller because of this. I reach down, down, into the depths of goodness- my Source, my Strength.
We are the vine; we are the branches. Sometimes we get the chance to be the vine, sometimes branches. I kept thinking, long after Reiki was over, that this is the point of both having disability and caring for another with disability – to focus on our connection. We do the role of vine and branch – none easy, but essential to bearing the fruit for a delicious harvest, and seeds to grow new vines, new branches.
This is a collage I created in art therapy at the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Center. It will be displayed in the Julia and Larry Polluck Gallery in “The Third Hand” exhibit May 11 through June 22. The gallery is located in the main Cleveland Clinic Building (by the Au Bon Pain and Joseph Beth Books.) More information about this at firstname.lastname@example.org.