The Virgin called out, “Come, George,” and St. George appeared.
“Examine this woman,” she told him, but the great martyr refused.
“You know,” he said, “that her case is closed.”
Thus goes the story of Tamav Irini’s mother and her healing after she was found fatally ill. The story is close to my heart because, once upon a time, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.
Cancer is an ugly word. I was on the couch when she called me. She had called me before and had used the word “tumor.” She had said “lump” and “surgery”, and I had nodded and replied with “prayer” and “I love you” and “this sucks.”
Now she called me and said “chemotherapy.” Now she said “cancer.” I nodded continuously as she spoke, though she could not see me. I drew spirals on what was my homework, filling the page of problem sets with black swirls–a problem of a different kind.
And when she hung up, I cried.
There is a stabbing pain a daughter experiences when she watches her mother face a disease like cancer. A disease that robs her mother of too many smiles and leaves her with too much suffering. Accusations are thrown at the great I AM, terrible accusations–You don’t love her the way I do. If You loved her enough, You would not be able to bear watching her suffer like this.
Underneath that, If You loved ME, You would not want me to suffer emotional disasters like this.
At college, I felt far too far away. Too far away to support. Too far away to be supported. I would be okay, almost forget for a moment, and then the reality would crash down again. Midway through a benign conversation, all my emotional support beams would crack and fail, and suddenly I was Not Alright.
Because I share not only an apartment, but also a room, I found refuge on bathroom floors, or in the field behind our apartment complex. I was a wreck, and so was my relationship with God.
I was acting like her case was closed. But even–maybe especially–in the dark pits of despair, there is a something to hope in: the power of prayer. God was patient with me. Through a quiet, desperate prayer, the storm clouds began to separate. I found a new role model, one I had always overlooked despite the fact that we share a name. She was too perfect to be like me. She was too Full of Grace to ever understand someone graceless.
I was wrong. She is a woman. She is a mother, and she was a daughter, and she understands perfectly.
Here’s to her. Here’s to the one kind enough to give us one of the shortest fasts of the liturgical year. Here’s to the one who didn’t so much as flinch when an angel showed up in her bedroom. The one who said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.” The one who held the Messiah, first in her womb, then in her arms. The one who asked her Son to perform a miracle before it was miracle-making time.
And when St. George told her this case is closed, she said, “This woman asked for my intercession, and I have asked my beloved Son for her. He has delayed her case. Are we then going to leave her suffering?”
Nope. Definitely not.