Last January in Ecuador, I had heard the news that one of the seniors in the village had developed cancer. I decided that I would go and visit him. He played the guitar a lot, and I decided, hey, I’ll bring my charango instrument and maybe he can teach me some songs.
So I brought the charango over and we would get the guitar off the wall for him, and he would light up again and play some songs. I learned a total of one song. And he never changed his mind. Or rather, by then it was too late.
What I mean by that is this. About a year earlier, he had experienced a dark splotch in th eskin of his big toe on his right foot. He waited on it, and a growth started to form. Then it grew, and it started to bluge. He finally went to the doctor. By the time they did the testing and all the waiting, it had really gotten bad and spread in his foot. So the doctors came back with only one option for his foot:
Cut it off.
But he wouldn’t. He didn’t want to lose his foot. Of course, he had been attached to it all his life.
After visiting each week for a while, I went away to Peru for 2 weeks. When I came back, he wasn’t in the mood to play the guitar anymore. The cancer had spread to other parts of his body and he was in pain. It was a quick downward spiral, and he spent about 3 weeks bedridden, before on Easter Sunday, he died.
I will never forget the experience of accompanyingt the family in those months, and in the last moments of his life. I won’t forget accompanying them through the grieving in the month afterwards. There were blessings in the midst of it all.
But I couldn’t help but reflect: what if he had cut it off?
OK, he’d be without a foot. But would he have spared the shock of his 16-year-old daughter screaming in tears over his dead body? The resentment of his wife who wonders what to do with herself and feels abandoned? What about all the times he would be present for, seeing new milestones in life for all his 10 sons and daughters? He would still be with his family now, making new moments in the flesh with them.
Was it all worth one foot?
Anyone can get a cancer in their heart, in their soul, and those cancers spread. And if it’s let go, it can spread into our lives so bad that the only option that we can face is to cut the sick part off. That’s what happens with people with addictions. They have to cut something off for good. They will lose something for good that they’ve been attached to for a long time, and they will never be the same. But what they’ll gain is much, much more valuable: a new life.
If you get that sickness in your life, and you don’t want to cut if off because you’re afraid of losing a part of you and never being the same again, I’ll say this: don’t forget the consequences. Don’t forget my friend and his family, and don’t forget the gifts that wait if you say goodbye to your attachment, don’t forget new opportunities for gratitutde and appreciation, new and deeper relationships. Yeah, you might lose even a foot, you might come out of it disabled, but you’ll get something much, much better: a new life.
So when it gets that bad, and you’re faced with that option, here is some advice from a first-hand witness:
Cut if off.
“And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.” (Mt 18:8)