A few years ago, my husband and I were in downtown Montreal. The familiar, iconic detail of Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” appeared on a building as an advertisement for something or other. John remarked how lackadaisical Adam was. It was a comment-in-passing, the kind you make when you are walking down the street on your way to something else, when something makes you say, “hmm.”
John and I both survived cancer. We were both in our early 40’s, both training for a marathon upon diagnosis and both otherwise healthy. John was diagnosed in 2007, and I in 2010. We cried, begged, prayed and fought for our lives throughout treatment. We both lived, in spite of the odds cited for each of our harrowing diagnosis of rare cancers.
I attended mass every week since I was in the womb, with the exception of when I had mono in high school. I felt pretty well acquainted with my maker. I thought. It wasn’t until I thought I might lose my husband, and then when I was really sick with cancer and unsure if I would see my 44th birthday, and sure that I would lose my leg in some form, that God and I spoke every day. We became friends. Which was good – especially since I thought I might be meeting Him IRL (in real life) soon.
We were young-ish – not much older than Adam in the Fresco. In fact, I would say we were very much like Adam in the fresco (though only one of us has an actual penis). We were strong, agile, comfortable and we knew God. Maybe we were too much like Adam. Look at Adam’s face. There is a recognition of God – but it is so passive! Like seeing your parent in the hallway of your house – an “oh, hi” type of greeting. Adam is docile in his reaching out to the Almighty Himself. Adam’s wrist is limp, he is barely inspired to lift himself from his resting state, only sleepily raising his finger to meet God’s.
On the other hand, God appears to be moving in earnest toward Adam – his hair blowing with a forward, almost urgent movement toward Adam with a piercing focus on connecting with him. Not only that – God is bringing his squad! Historians believe that Michelangelo painted the Blessed Mother under God’s arm and has his finger on His son, Jesus. Yet, Adam is unimpressed by all of this urgency and back-up – barely responding to the outstretched arm of God’s hand to his.
I believe this was deliberate on the artist’s part. Michelangelo was a sculptor by trade – not a painter. He knew anatomy, musculature, motion and what an intensity of intention would look like in the human body. This fresco from the early 1500’s is relevant – perhaps more today than during the Renaissance.
Last Christmas, I went back to the pediatric cancer hospital I was treated in to deliver our annual iTunes Christmas Cards. I visited with my friend, an administrator. I remarked that the peds floor was the most sacred space I knew of. That more fervent prayers (including my own) are said here than in most places of worship. It is palpable. Parents and the kids themselves are outstretched in prayer. Stepping out of the hospital, into the NYC street, people are unaware of the life/death battle happening an elevator ride away, they have the luxury of Adam relaxing that tomorrow will come as it always has.
Like my Ice Cream Blog post, the sweet perfection of the cone is not truly realized until the last bites – when it is almost gone. “There is nothing as lovely and delightful as that first bite, is there? Yet, as the licks go on, one gets distracted. Before you know it, you only have a few bites left. (It is then that) you go back to savoring, appreciating and tasting every last bite, until it is gone.”
It has been seven years since my diagnosis and I realize I have mayyyyy have resumed my “Adam’s pose” (again, minus the penis-part). There are times I snap out of it – like every single time an MIB Agent child passes, or is very sick, or I am scared. I suppose it is to be expected in a way – it is difficult to live in the emotional intensity of a life/death prayer situation. You sometimes drift from friends you love. But I sometimes miss the comfort of the closeness. Like a friend you have coffee with every morning, that holds your hand in just the right way and imparts love just by their presence.
Let us be aware of our gifts today, mindful of the the whole ice cream cone and the people and body parts we are blessed with – ever mindful that they could be lost at any time. Most of all, let us be grateful for the life we have been given. I believe it was given to us to serve God by serving one another – be it our children, family or neighbor – even the cranky ones. Though God and I both know of my abundant imperfections, I ask that He use me to Make It Better, and pray that I can get up off my comfortable perch to do just that.