Saturday, August 28, 2010

Part of the Plan?

Maybe the Azande had it right.

A water tower collapsed, killing two tribespeople, while anthropologists studied the north central African tribe. The Azande blamed witchcraft. The social scientists surveyed the water tower and concluded that termites had eaten through the wooden posts and weakened the entire structure, causing it to fall on the men. The Azande thanked them for their explanation, but asked, "Why did it happen to those two men at that particular time?"

Whether life is a series of random coincidences or is fated one way at the most profound times, as the Azande clearly believed, has occupied my thoughts since Wednesday.

Shortly after Verna was first diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2006, she commissioned a photographer (thanks to our dear friend Christa), who specialized in mothers and their newborns to take a picture of her and Maya before Verna had her double mastectomy. In the photo, Verna reclined on our bed, virtually bald, naked from the waist up, her full breasts supporting the back of Maya.

A year later she had the same photographer shoot Maya and herself in similar poses. Maya the toddler smiled at Verna, sans breasts, and her full head of black hair.

The framed dual photos adorned the wall above our bed for nearly four years until Wednesday. I'd noticed a slight gap in the frame about a week ago but thought it could easily be repaired once I made the time. But when I went into the room Wednesday morning, two sides of the frame were dangling off the photo.

Again, I don't believe much in signs or messages from beyond, but I did pause to wonder why the frame ripped apart at this time? As Verna battled between a state of hallucinations and semi-lucidity, was what happened to the frame some cosmic communique or an explainable coincidence that was bound to happen at some point given the weight of the photographs and the cheap frame?

I know what Verna's answer would be if she could offer me anything. She believed in signs and portents with utmost conviction. She suspected she might have had something wrong with her before her original diagnosis after a series of dreams in which a poisonous spider lowered itself onto her chest.

But she cannot look me in the eyes right now and shout, "Aha! I told you so. The breaking of the frame clearly represents or is a message from the universe." Or tell me that it symbolized the damage we are witnessing to our beloved Verna and to our lives. Or that I am no longer supposed to have the framed pictures in the house.

She cannot speak because since last night, about 24 hours earlier, Verna has been asleep and, I fervently hope and pray, comfortable beyond measure after hospice upped her pain medications yet again.

I don't have the answer to the dilemma of the dangling frame and wires. And I don't believe the Azande's superstitious notions of the world make them primitive versus the rationality of trained scientists. I just don't know how to explain what happened here. Maybe the Azande were right.

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