I was in hospital for 15 days.
One day, in some loose adaptation of the examen, I counted how many people had offered kindness or care that day. It was 37. The woman who brought the chilled water jugs as the day began. The food services person who moved my trolley as she delivered my tray so that my meal was easier to reach. The attendant who adjusted the footrests of the wheelchair so I was more comfortable. The nurses and doctors and technicians. And friends. Friends who texted and visited and prayed and loved. (And I only counted the friends who’d been in contact that day in particular, not all the ones whose constancy goes without saying!).
Being seriously ill brought me a strange kind of present moment focus. I had one 90 minute bout of anxiety in the early morning before I got biopsy results (no tumour cells) but mostly I seemed to exist in a strange kind of present moment mindfulness. The exhaustion certainly dulled the quality of awareness, but there was sky and hills to see, medical ministrations to receive and the intense focus needed for everyday tasks like getting clean and eating meals. I remember resting between mouthfuls of breakfast!
One outcome of all this is that I’m going to be in New Zealand for quite a lot longer than I expected (my initial visit for something else entirely was supposed to be 12 days). Two weeks tomorrow I would have been back on a plane to Beijing. Now I need to stay for at least six weeks of outpatient treatment and monitoring, possibly twelve. We’ll see how it goes!
I don’t have much of anything to say yet about the spirituality of this all. The familiar themes are here: experiences of grace, the love of friends, questions about home… I do not quite have the energy yet for meaning-making. Not even really for much in the way of praying.
It has felt like Lent. Lent without much in the way of devotions and disciplines. But plenty of awareness of being human, of being made of the stuff of the earth. In the liturgical calendar we’re getting ready for Easter. I’m not sure exactly when or how that will be in these circumstances but I’m looking forward to the rising!