Initiatories and ICHP

Posted by on April 14, 2010 in faith, health, hope, Poetry, spirituality, suffering, temple, women | 16 comments

Initiatories and ICHP*

*Intra-Perioneal Hyperthermic Chemotherapy

photo by Linda Hoffman Kimball

I spend Friday mornings in the temple whispering in white, calling down the powers of Heaven to cleanse and prepare women for the bounty God has eternally in store for them. I am awed by the initiatory. Although I bristle with some phrases which seem like artifacts of another century, as a whole I am astounded by the intimacy, love, preparation, protection and embrace of that aspect of the temple. The thoroughness of that kind of cleansing is unlike any mortal life can offer.

Its closest competitor is something my husband endured in 2007. Almost exactly three years ago Chris was diagnosed with a rare abdominal cancer (Pseudomyxoma Peritonei or PMP: see http://www.surgicaloncology.com/pmp.htm). Doctors called my husband’s case “ultimate” in complexity and severity. The cancer began from a burst appendiceal tumor, possibly as many as 12 years before doctors detected it while scanning for diverticulitis (which he didn’t have.) The only hope for cure was a surgery as barbaric as it was (literally) cutting edge. The surgery involved slicing him down the middle, removing every trace of cancer from his gut, removing all damaged, strangled or redundant organs, then bathing his raw interior with heated poison (chemo) to kill any outlier cancer cells too small to detect. The surgery and heated chemo treatment took 17 hours total. The surgeon devoted one of those hours just to Chris’s stomach, holding it in his hands, peeling and prying the cancer off its surfaces.

Chris continues to be cancer free. In my reveries at the temple with its holy susurrations I remember what deep scouring requires. It adds a valuable perspective to my belief that the deepest cleansing comes from a Divine Healer, a cleansing even more thorough and ultimate than my husband endured in 2007.

Here’s a poem inspired by these thoughts:

ICHP & Isaiah

“Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hands, which he had taken with tongs from off the altar…” Isaiah 6:6

Cancer clamped
crusty and gelatinous
in my husband’s gut
- his vitals and bowels.
With slow, relentless onslaught
(a dozen years of dumb, deadly work)
it filled every vacant space;
gripped every surface;
gooey sludge
crushing, stressing,
pressuring,
suffocating him
from the inside out.

A scan,
looking for something mundane,
Spotted the scourge.
Quick as we could say
“Oncologist”
We were
Catapulted
Down the dark hall,
Into the no,
No, no, no,
No.

Our/His only hope:
Stretched in cruciform,
Deliberately split, slit
Sternum to stem,
Scooped, scraped,
Redundant entrails
And the shimmering
Destroyer
in steel bowls.

Then Isaiah’s hot coal:
poured,
Swathed, sloshed, scoured
into the raw vacuum,
“Lo, this hath touched thee;
and thine iniquity is taken away,
and thy sin purged.”

And will we yet have this second,
Greater cure?

And I cried with you, and we said,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts:
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

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16 Comments

  1. Beautiful, beautiful poem.

    Linda, I’m so happy that everything turned out well for you and your husband. You barely know me, but I followed every post you or your husband put up on that Caring Bridge site. I was sending you my best vibes the whole time. :)

    Your love for the initiatories gives me hope that someday I might be able to love them as well. I’ve only ever gone once — I was hurt and troubled by those archaic phrases from another century.

  2. Given my many physical traumas (and cancer, too), I embraced the initiatory experience wholeheartedly, particularly loving the moment when my artificial leg was blessed alongside my organic one. It, too, needed the blessing as it is as much a part of me as my other limbs. How fascinating it was to see the reactions on the part of the women administering the blessings to me, and the space that it opened up to share my story.

  3. Woops, that last comment was from Jana (logged in under a different identity, momentarily)

  4. Gorgeous!

  5. As bothersome as I find the endowment ceremony, I have always felt uplifted by the initiatory. It took on even more meaning for me last year when I was researching my female pioneer ancestors and discovered that a grandmother from one side of my family had performed the initiatory ceremony for an ancestor from the other side in the Nauvoo temple. To think that these women knew other and shared in this very intimate (even more so then) ceremony gave me a new connection to them both.

  6. Thanks for you comments and for sharing your amazing stories. Jana, I think that having your leg blessed is one of the most moving things I have heard. Caroline, thanks for all those good vibes sent our way via CaringBridge. You were one of our band of angels, that’s for sure. Thanks to you and mmiles for rooting for my poetry, too! CatherineWO, I LOVE the story of your ggrandmother and the Nauvoo proxy work. It’s a concept that I have strong (good) feelings about. Thanks so much for connecting, ladies.

  7. Linda,
    Thank you for sharing your story and your beautiful poem. I had no idea that you were so talented!

    I wish you and your husband the best in the future and am delighted that he is cancer-free.

    Like you, I’ve always felt a special connection to the initiatory. I was actually disappointed by the changes a few years ago. I remember feeling the ritual more deeply when there was more touching and gesturing during the blessing.

    Thank you for this heartfelt post.

  8. Thank you, dear Linda, for sharing your experience and thoughts with all of us in this way. I am so touched.

    The times I have participated in the initiatory have always been a fortifying experience for me. The intimacy and power I have felt as old hands have invigorated my feeble body in word and touch has been an important part of my spiritual life. I haven’t had the heart to go back since I heard about the changes but your poem and these insights have made me yearn for it again.

    Thank you.

  9. Um, this was a good post, as I said in a previous comment. I don’t understand why it disappeared…

  10. BenS: why what disappeared?

  11. Beautiful!

  12. Amazing, touching imagery, Linda. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  13. This was so beautiful. Thank you for writing it. I have always loved the initiatory as well, although the first time I went I was shocked by how intimate it was. The most recent time I went I was almost full-term pregnant and as the women blessed me, I put my hands on my belly and imagined those blessings flowing through me to my baby. It was an intense connection for us. For me, the initiatories are powerful and fortifying. They also reinforce to me how seriously Mormons take bodies. Instead of trying to rise above them to a higher realm, we try to sanctify ourselves to be worthy of them.

  14. Linda, that is a powerful, wonderful poem. Thank you so much for sharing.

  15. Linda, I absolutely love this poem. It made me tear up when I read it a week ago as it did again tonight.

  16. What an incredible story. And poem. Beautiful reflections on healing-in every sense of the word. I’m glad I found this.

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