Beth was relieved the wig came
(though it turned out not to matter)
for her hair fell out in clumps
the night before her chapel talk.
She limped in to greet students, colleagues
and leaned upon the podium to stand.
After her composed, yet most exposed
story of cancer’s ravenous tear,
the dean asked if faculty might pray.
Beth said why not let everybody come,
so the ordered room turned into
a huddled mass around her seated frame.
In my fine dress, I knelt to hold her hand
as prayers and tears began to flow.
Mid stream, with all eyes closed,
I peeked out and saw
an amputated arm stub resting on her knee,
as its partner hand grasped hers.
Make up ran down many colored cheeks
and in the back row a tall suited man’s
nose dripped to his chin.
Our hands were held too tight
to wipe away life’s mess.
That unmasked moment’s view of
mingled mucus, limbs, and salty prayers
has become my icon of communion.
Anne Grizzle is an author, spiritual director, social worker and retreat leader who lives in Washington, DC. She offers training seminars and consultation on family of origin, conflict resolution, communication skills, family spirituality, and contemplative spirituality. Anne serves on the boards of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Leighton Ford Ministries and Amistad Mission. She is co-founder of chapters of Women of Vision in Houston and DC.