It's been three years since 2006. Epiphany 2006, and the cancer surgeon who had removed Penny's cancer in 2002, becoming alarmed at the delays in getting to see her, had ordered us to take Penny in to the hospital. The special handicapped-enabled-taxi driver - they only sent the one person nevermind our warning they needed two, and the man himself would've been hard-pressed to lift his own bodyweight - couldn't get her into her chair. We tried.
Finally we called 911 and they sent the competent crew to assist and she went in, and I followed, and two weeks after we knew in perfect hindsight that she should have been admitted to the hospital ... they finally did.
It took far too long to get her into a bed. It took far too long to get her seen. But they did, and then someone actually paid attention, saw past the exhausted, asthmatic fat woman with the sense of humor that put them off of thinking she was in pain, and the man who didn't think to realize that he should be demanding to see supervisors of supervisors, when they had twice been sent away from examinations where anyone paying attention to her symptoms would have said "Check in NOW." Someone stopped doing the superficial things that were all irrelevant, and started to find out what was happening with her RIGHT THEN.
She had been bleeding internally for nearly a month. She was profoundly anemic. Only the fact that she was also profoundly dehydrated had kept her from dying of it, the doctor said. The very first thing they did was to put four units of red cells and a great deal of fluid into her.
That night, she sent me home because she was finally being treated, finally something would be done and they would say what was really happening, because please God it couldn't be that damned cancer again, let them be wrong.
It was a chance for epiphany. Dictionary.com:
"3) a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience."
We wouldn't accept it, that essential meaning. We were forced to, over the next few days. Cancer, so far gone that no lower-case miracle of emotional resurgence and immune-system recovery would touch it. It was two days later, really, when she saw a doctor who was able to explain why there was no mistaking it even though the biopsies didn't find cancer cells - and asked if we wanted Hospice.
That was Epiphany, the day when we celebrate the tradition recorded in the gospel of Matthew. Three Magi, priests in an ancient religion that was once headed by Daniel the Prophet, saw in the stars (most likely a particular conjunction of Jupiter) that a great King was to be born, and in their prophecies (from Daniel) knew that he would be in Israel, and went to recognize him with gifts.
They brought gold, the symbol of worldly authority and power. They brought frankincense, a very sharp and pungent sap taken from a kind of tree that grows in utterly implacable desert; burned, the smoke is a symbol of life. Peculiarly, it suppresses the growth of some kinds of cancer.
They brought myrrh, another pungent sap from a different tree, used as a component of perfume, to sterilize the inside of wine jugs, and of course, wrapped into funerary wrappings and burned in incense to cover the odor of decaying flesh at funerals. The perfume associated with death.
Father-in-Heaven, thank You for the gift of death that frees us from the prison of a body that can neither serve us, nor You, and that through this one thing that only You can transcend, we are raised into Your presence. Amen.