Doing an Oma
We found out last week that my mother has pancreatic cancer.
The maxim holds: the thing that you love most about someone is also the thing that makes you insanely berserk about that same beloved.
For my mother, it’s her determination.
My mother is nothing if not determined. Determined to be her own person, determined to love her family with every fiber of her being, determined to make that love tangible by acts of presence and kindness and cookies.
Her determination, however, mutates when something material is in her way.
If something is stuck, is hooked, is just visible but some unlucky object is in its way, she’ll pull, yank, flip, push, and smash with astonishing determination in order to dislodge, free, or reach it.
It never occurs to her that some gentle repositioning might accomplish the same thing without all the collateral, not to mention primary, destruction.
It makes me crazy.
And when I see my daughter doing it, it about puts me around the bend.
So not too long ago, I found myself screeching, “AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGG! You’re Doing An Oma! Please Quit Doing An Oma!”
Mom, of course, happened to be there, and heard me.
She’s decided that the phrase pisses her off.
Cancer pisses me off.
Pancreatic cancer is the biggest bully on the block.
Just googling it, or googling the only credible cure available, the Whipple, does nothing for emotional well-being.
Not just the cancer needs to be taken down and taken out, but most anything in the near vicinity. She’ll lose a decent chuck of her pancreas, duodenum, and stomach.
That said, we are one of the few who appear to have a fighting chance. Mom and I share a PA with uncanny instinct. Her hunch led us to catch it at a very early Stage One. We are told that this daunting procedure might just do the trick.
I need the docs to Do An Oma.
For that matter, I need Oma to Do An Oma.
And I wouldn’t mind God Doing an Oma too.
We’ve been led to have uncomfortable thoughts and conversations.
She is 75, after all. You get to a certain age (or even experience certain experiences) and realize that nobody gets out of here alive. At some point, we will all close our eyes for the last time.
You can rail against death all you want, but it still will close in, and sometimes with nary a neener.
It just Is.
Walt Bouman shaped me with his words, “Now that you know that you’re going to die, there’s more to do with your life than preserve it.”
It’s all true.
And yet, one doesn’t need to concede one to death before it’s time. I’m sure Walt would agree.
As crotchety Ecclesiastes says in a moment less crotchety than quietly reflective:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
And I am of the mind that it’s not yet my mother’s time to die.
She might be 75, but she’s a damn spritely, damn determined 75.
Instead, it’s a time to heal.
(Though Ecclesiastes might be right that it’s my time to break down, and to weep, in the name of righteous indignation, and against this insidious disease).
I do believe that there’s a time when inevitable death comes as Peaceful Grace and not Triumphant and Taunting Finality.
I’m not interested in preserving my mother into infinity and beyond.
I am interested, however, in protesting death when it enters uninvited and before its time.
Some might say that it’s about God’s timing.
I get that.
I get that there are a whole lot of things in the Grand Scheme that I don’t and won’t ever know.
But I also get that I’ve got some things to work with, some knowledge that I have to trust.
I know that God is in the business of life and health and healing, and so where there is that, I want to work harder on its behalf.
I know that saying “It’s in God’s hands” leads awfully quickly to passivity, to quietism. That is not how I tend to operate, and it sure isn’t how my mother operates either.
I know that death comes in many forms, and resignation to it is but one of its starkest and sneakiest guises.
Death, in the form of pancreatic cancer and all of its implications –for that matter, death in any untimely form–is not welcome here, in this family of mine.
In the name of my beloved mother Marge, then, where there is untimely death, I invite you all to Do An Oma.
Do An Oma against death which arrives outside of its season.
Do An Oma against that which surrenders before premature death.
Do An Oma against forces which work against soteria, that is, salvation: health, healing, and wholeness.
Determined Protest. That’s what it means.
Do an Oma.