Sin isn’t in the Pathology Reports

mindless, Anaïs Chartschenko

I don’t believe disease is a reflection of morality, which is what I said when my mother said sin explains why I’m sick. It isn’t sin. It didn’t show up in the pathology reports. These conversations leave me feeling sad and strange. I prefer my doctor, even when he says he doesn’t know.

Maybe especially then, because there is a flawed humanity to it, despite all his years of practice, his years of medical school. His research. He doesn’t know, and is humble and human enough to say he doesn’t. He hasn’t spread his hands to reveal a demon, directed at my cerebellum, pressing on my brain, squeezing the liquid down, down, down that spinal cord… It’s a mystery, a maybe some other time.

It’s not supernatural.

It’s blood and bone and tissue and meat gone wrong, just who knows how.

My grandmother was convinced she must have done something to cause her suffering, like Job. Like God and Satan were looking down, casting bets.

There was a lot of magical thinking growing up, woven through every calamity. One must bear the unbearable in a suitable manner or else an angel would record your doubts to be used against you later.

I recall another family in the church I went to refused chemotherapy for their child with cancer. They opted for prayer, and every so often I think of that child and the grave they surely found themselves in. What sins would that child have committed to earn cancer?

There is always a sneaky answer. It is the sins of the father. Some generation back, who knows how far, a solemn voice telling me perhaps even to Eve, a sin was committed that caused me to deteriorate. I should pray about it, but I’ve grown older, harder to control, force to my knees. They ache. I stand, limp, defiantly. I take a muscle relaxer instead.

I was encouraged to catalog my wrongs as a child. Be sure your sins will find you out. I had anxiety attacks about them. Full on, around campfires, while being told the whole world was about to end, and I was to be tortured. If I failed while being tortured I would go to Hell forever. I couldn’t breathe thinking about the horrible likelihood of getting into Heaven. It was said that only 144,000 righteous would go. Who did I think I was, that I would get in? I was a nobody, already imaginative, and imaginations are on par with lying and lying is a sin, and sin causes sickness and-

I banged my head against the wall over and over again as a child.

That weight balanced on top of the weight of illness cracks the mind at night. Don’t ask me how. It’s easy to be rational in the day. Harder when you realize the irrational thoughts are direct quotes from a parent that must be scrubbed out. But, like I said- Disease and disability are not a moral failing. It’s just life. Until it’s death. And I don’t believe in all that other junk.

Anaïs Chartschenko hails from the Canadian wilderness. She has come to enjoy such modern things as electric tea kettles.