Missing Malady

“He felt shame
to understand he would miss
the months of sickness and taking care.”
– Donald Hall, “Her Long Illness.” Without.

“In our first session, she asked me what it was like to live with Anne on a daily basis. I told her how I would watch Anne’s facial ticks because they sometimes indicated she was going into an episode. Joann responded, “You have certainly lost a job.” She was right. I had lost a job. And even though it was a job I would rather not have had, I missed it.” – Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir

Van Gogh, Vincent. Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Courtauld Institute of Art, 1889. Oil on canvas..jpg
Van Gogh, Vincent. Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Courtauld Institute of Art, 1889. Oil on canvas.

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When their minister,
Alice Ling, brought communion to the house
or the hospital bed,
or when they held hand as Alice prayed,
grace was evident
but not the comfort of mercy or reprieve.
The embodied figure
on the cross still twisted under the sun.
– Donald Hall, “Her Long Illness.” Without.

Grünewald,  Matthias, and Niclaus of Haguenau. Isenheim Altarpiece. Colmar, France. Unterlinden Museum, 1516. Oil on wood panel..jpg
Grünewald, Matthias, and Niclaus Haguenauer. Isenheim Altarpiece. Colmar, France. Unterlinden Museum, 1516. Oil on wood panel.

“Qui vive la pietà quando è ben morta.
Chi é più scellerato che colui
che al giudicio divin passion porta?”

“Here pity only lives when it is dead:
for who can be more impious than he
who links God’s judgment to passivity?”

Dante Alighieri. La Divina Commedia. BUR Rizzoli, 2016.
Dante Alighieri. The Divine Comedy. Translator Allen Mandelbaum.

Williams, Hugh William. View of Thebes. Benaki Museum, 1819. Watercolor..jpg
Williams, Hugh William. View of Thebes. Benaki Museum, 1819. Watercolor.

when I was seven and eight.
Unable to sleep
or unwilling, I would call
– waiting in the dark
to hear her footsteps –
. . . .
She nursed so well, I loved
being sick. Freud said
a man thrives his whole life
if he received as a child
“his mother’s entire devotion.”
– Donald Hall, “Song for Lucy.” Without

Barnet, Will. Midnight. 1985.
Barnet, Will. Midnight. 1985.

 

Daybreak until nightfall,
he sat by his wife at the hospital
while chemotherapy dripped,
through the catheter into her heart.
He drank coffee and read
the Globe. He paced; he worked
on poems; he rubbed her back
and read aloud. Overcome with dread,
they wept and affirmed
their love for each other, witlessly,
over and over again.
– Donald Hall, “Her Long Illness.” Without

Barnet, Will. Self-Portrait. 1981.
Barnet, Will. Self-Portrait. 1981.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
– Emma Lazarus, 1883

Moran, Edward. Statue of Liberty unveiled. 1886.
Moran, Edward. Statue of Liberty unveiled. 1886.

“The gods may love a man, but they can’t help him when cold death comes to lay him on his bier.” – Homer, The Odyssey

“In Greek mythology, for example, the Homeric gods cannot be conceived of apart from the world – they are ‘principalities and powers’ of the world (e.g., Poseidon is the power of the sea). If you take away the world, you take away the gods. In monotheistic thought, however, given creation out of nothing, when you take away the world, you still have God.” – Richard J. Plantinga, Thomas R. Thompson, and Matthew D. Lundberg, An Introduction to Christian Theology

Böcklin, Arnold. Odysseus and Polyphemus. Oil and tempera on panel. 1896..jpg
Böcklin, Arnold. Odysseus and Polyphemus. Oil and tempera on panel. 1896.