Ithaka

As you may know, I have been living with cancer for almost three years now. Recently I decided to embark upon hospice. This morning I found myself writing the following to a young person who had written me, and then I thought that this much of what I wrote is perhaps worth sharing with you:

Yes, I’ve prayerfully moved into hospice, and it has been just the right decision.  It was the fruit of a real discernment, one that has left me with an overall and fairly deep peace.  I do hope that some of my beloved friends who are understandably torn up over this could experience the peace that I have known since making the decision.  It hasn’t been pain free; of course not.  The cancer advances and where it will take me I do not know.  But I do know that I am in good and loving and caring hands, and that they are God’s hands reaching into my life, carrying me into unimaginable Love.  

I leave you with my hope that the road on which you’ve embarked will lead you to many good things, captured, I think, so well in this poem by Kavafy, which I attach here.  

love, Paul

Ithaka

BY C. P. CAVAFY

TRANSLATED BY EDMUND KEELEY

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

2 thoughts on “Ithaka”

  1. Dear Paul,
    I am not ashamed of my selfish sorrow knowing you will leave and I will not be able to see you and talk with you. I am also in awe of you and I do understand at least a bit, the feeling of peace you experience having made your decision. Freeing yourself and allowing G-d to take you where It will, is peace. I can relate in only a small way from my own experience with cancer.

    And, as in the poem, I do hope this road is a long one. . .without pain. . .and that the love so many people have for you, offers you ‘stops’ along the way where you experience great joy and your heart is made happy.

    Like

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