The great thing about belief is the journey. That’s what I’m in it for. Who am I to deny someone else his or her faith? By the same token, who is anyone to deny me my beliefs in return? Seems fair enough: tolerance for others but also for myself
A conversation began today about hashish. I know a thing or two about the subject so I mentioned that the plant and its best product have a long history in Southeast Asia, with a sect in India that reveres the plant through their holy men. One of our North American participants went on about “false prophets.” “With all due respect”, I replied, “might that be contempt I’m hearing? Contempt for a 5000 year old culture of worship in a far off land, from a practitioner of a modern religion barely into its second century?”
Hashish is just a drug, and drugs don’t cause addiction.
Early this morning, a friend called me from Montreal while I was on my way to the Toronto Liver Centre for treatment. He was once a client in an addiction centre where I worked in the late 80s. We hit if off immediately, having since remained close despite sometimes not seeing each other for many years. Kindred spirits you could say.
He was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 1993. The inflammation from that eventually gave him cirrhosis, then cancer of the bile duct between the liver and the intestine. It’s a tricky place to get it, with only so many surgeons specializing in the delicate operation required to remove that type of tumor from what will surely be an inflamed area of the abdomen.
He had highly successful surgery early in the spring of this year.
Coincidentally, it was about the same time a 40-year friend of mine from Ottawa lay dying of the exact same condition. He was diagnosed with stage four bile duct liver cancer in October. By spring he was gone. I spoke at his funeral.
As far as I knew, my friend from Montreal was never a believer; however, I now notice he’s mentioning the angel Gabriel in our recent messages. A beautiful but somewhat tortured soul; his early life was been spent abusing one drug after another. He’s also a workaholic who every few months will lock his doors and drink round the clock for a weekend straight.
My friend from Ottawa took much better care of himself, perhaps benefitting from living in a household with a good woman. He lived his later life generally within the law, harmlessly dabbling in the cannabis trade here and there. He could just as well have had a deep belief of some kind, befitting his Italian-Canadian culture, though he never mentioned it to me.
My deceased friend left behind a beautiful wife and three pretty well grown sons. The youngest, the last of them still in his teens, fell off the rails during his father’s decline. I noticed he’s reached out to me recently, for support I’m glad to provide however I can. It’s a way for me to honour my friend. The boys will be alright.
My friend from Montreal is long divorced, but has a grown daughter in University. He also takes care of an old woman he’s been friends with for 40 years. They are inseparable. She’s part mother, part aunt and part business partner, with him doting on her like she’s the most important person in the world, which to him she is. It’s a wonderful relationship, as unusual as it is.
Both of my friends discovered their illness decades ago. Montreal never had treatment and continued to drink. Ottawa remained sober, even trying to take the harsher medicines available in the 1990s, the side effects cutting his treatment short.
Here’s the kicker: Montreal went to begin the newly available but very expensive cure for Hepatitis C this morning. However, the lab discovered that it has vanished from his body. The virus, documented as worsening over the years as it damaged his liver and caused his cancer, is now undetectable. Yet, he has never received treatment. It’s a case the doctors are calling “spontaneous resolution.”
Figuring if he’s invested this much and stayed alive, perhaps he’d be interested taking advantage of the extraordinary chance he’s been given to live another few days, maybe even years. I devoted most of the commute to giving him my alcohol intervention. He says it filled him with insight and clarity.
He never knew why he drank, or what he was searching for when he did. Now he does.
Two people contracted what was an unknown virus before 1990 or so. Both of them developed cirrhosis and eventually liver cancer. One had the worst possible outcome; the other has so far had the best imaginable.
These two combined, having never met in their respective lives, probably smoked a ton of hashish over the decades.
Do we have to assign one result or the other to the work of a greater power, to a heavenly deity of your choosing? Does every mystery need to be resolved one way or another? Or can we carry on without knowing and leave it at that? We can simply choose to accept that there are some things in this world that cannot be explained by words alone.
Surprisingly, I’m absolutely fine with that.
There is room in life for miracles. That is enough.
copyright 2014 (all rights reserved)