August 30, 2016
My dad is not what you would call progressive. He's a salt of the earth, steak and potatoes, black and white Midwesterner. Tailgates on Saturdays, church on Sundays. My dad thinks yoga, meditation and Facebook are for "those people in California who wear Birkenstocks" and is convinced the organic food movement is part of the liberal agenda. He's not exactly the kind of guy who is going to get his chakras cleansed. So keep this in mind.
My sister Heather has been battling brain cancer for over eight years now; six years past her expected expiration date. She has met every challenge, every setback and every unfair piece of news with humor, grace and the positivity of a trillion protons. Throughout her battle, she has been hopeful to the point of foolishness and stoic to the point of stubborn.
But six weeks ago, things started to change — for my dad, my sister and for the rest of my family.
We learned Heather's tumors were growing again. This time aggressively. And they were behaving like rabbits. Multiplying. They're not operable, she can't have any more radiation, her chemo was no longer working. Her neuro oncologist told us the news we always knew we'd one day hear, yet never really expected. "One or two more months," she said.
I flew back to Omaha to be with my family after that prognosis. Those days we could have been mistaken for five crying zombies. We all just walked around aimlessly handing each other tissues. At that time, Heather was still somewhat independent. She was living with my parents, but still going to work most days. She could carry on a conversation with purpose and, with the use of her cane, hobble around otherwise unassisted. But last week she had a stroke and things regressed considerably. I spent the weekend in Omaha again, utterly heartbroken.
We've all been struggling to process this new reality and balance it with the optimism Heather demands. We've all been looking for something to cling to. But when my dad announced he asked an "intuitive healer" to come to the house for Heather, to say I was shocked is the biggest understatement since the captain of the Titanic said, "Hey look, an ice cube." I had to know more about this man.
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"He lives off the land in a tent and uses crystals or chimes or something. And he has days he doesn't talk to anyone, just sits in silence. And he doesn't accept money. I think you can pay him in food though. Anyway, tonight, he's coming over to pray for Heather. It sounds like some New Age bullsh**, but he used to be Catholic," my dad explained.
"So a medicine man, a Buddhist monk and a priest walk into a house…" I started, but stopped when I noticed my dad was carefully appraising the vegetables from his garden, deciding which ones to present to this healer. My dad is not the kind of guy who takes the kind of guy who accepts cucumbers as currency seriously. But there he was, meticulously inspecting the produce he intended to give a stranger who he sought out in a moment of either utter desperation or absolute hopefulness. It doesn't really matter which.
The next thing I knew Travis the healer was in my parents' living room and we were all standing around Heather praying for the cancer cells to leave her body. After several minutes of asking the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to grant our requests, Travis asked Heather if she had any questions.
"Yes, I do," she replied. "I am wondering if you think Jesus is cool with Xanax?"
There was a long, confused pause before Travis said he didn't know what Xanax was. But, he thought God was cool with it if Heather needed it. Heather thought about that for a moment and said, "I have been taking one before I go to bed because I'm so worried lately. But you know what? Tonight, I don't think I'll need one. You've helped me find a peace I haven't had in a while."
I don't know if the prayers worked or how much longer Heather will be here. But I do know, putting my sister's mind at ease was a form of healing. And the tranquility we all felt after Travis left was worth every vegetable in that garden.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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