It’s been a rough few weeks for me. A rumbling pain turned into an acute episode, which turned into a plan for surgery in several months. The thought of dealing with that pain even in the background was not a happy one. I prayed for the surgery to be brought forward – it was – but only after another acutely painful weekend in misery-ville. The new date was the end of October and once again I prayed that it might be brought forward, and once again, really didn’t think that through. God did what I asked, the surgery was brought forward to the following Monday! But it was brought forward because things went downhill rapidly. I got what I wanted – but it was not without cost!
However I don’t remember the pain anymore. What I do remember is the many, acts of kindness, humour and love that carried away fear and showed my atheist family members that the Church is not just a place for spiritual care or eye rollingly trite piety. There were many concrete acts of love hurled at us all and they were most gratefully received. Meals were delivered, children were cared for, cookies, gifts and cards were delivered – all solid (and delicious) demonstrations of love and community which cannot be ignored and which did not come from close friends but those who would be described as “extras” in the movie industry. They fill the frame to provide background and context to the “main event” and without them the scene would be lonely and sterile.
One thing that sticks in my mind was the experience of sitting in the waiting room in Emergency at Delta Hospital. I was in bad shape. A gallstone was blocking something or other and this caused jaundice and unbelievable pain, not helped by almost constant urm … evacuation of stomach contents. I was very scared. I had no idea what was going on and was wondering when I last updated my will and other cheerful matters when I saw a familiar face. A lady from All Saints who I didn’t know very well. My first thought was “don’t make eye contact” – sunk in my misery I really didn’t have the energy or desire to connect with anyone plus, in spite of the situation I was still proud enough to be embarrassed of my hair so greasy it was stuck to my head, filthy slept-in clothing spattered with all manner of effluvia and an all round fug that would draw vultures in a hopeful search for month old carrion. Thankfully, God – and this lovely lady – knew better. She came and asked me how I was doing. I mumbled something about gall stones through tears and breath that would stop traffic. Her response was to pull up her shirt and display an old scar saying “oh don’t worry about that … I’ve had that, it’s ok, it’ll soon be over and you’ll be all fixed up”. God bless her that was the absolute best thing anyone could have said and done at that time. Her total matter-of-fact attitude was beyond soothing. That moment stands out to me as a pivotal moment though I suspect she didn’t see it as such. It just goes to show – we seem to expect God to use us by imparting great wisdom through us, using us to make bold steps into places we fear or making us so wonderfully imbued with the spirit that we attract the lost like moths to a flame. But sometimes – all we need to do is lift our shirt at someone we barely know in a public place. Who knew??!!
*NB – I do not personally advocate wholesale removal of clothing in public. Just thought I’d make that clear.