Friday, July 20, 2018
This week’s ‘This Week’, according to my computer files, is the first I’ve written since the 22nd of June. That seems rather surreal to put in print. The first 2 Fridays of July, of absence, of stepping away to be on Study Leave, were entirely planned and long awaited. I’m grateful to Michelle and then Andrew for writing in those first gaps. I’m not sure there are appropriate words to describe everything that followed since then – but I know I’m beyond grateful to this church family for holding me and my family through it all.
Perhaps telling you what you already know, in the early hours of July 5, while still at Five Oaks in a course, I took one of those dreaded calls from home… the kind where the phone goes off at a strange hour and the emotional brace sets in. By breakfast I was in Welland, accompanying my father, staying with my mother and brother, in the most horrible medical nightmare our family has known. We thought the last 16 years had given us some cardiac treatment experience, but Dad’s roster was new to us, quite unexpected and complicated, and remains an unimaginable journey for him. The care he has received all along the way has been extraordinary. From the first moments in Port Colborne, to the terrifying ride to Welland, his soon followed transfer to Hamilton, and the world renowned teams at Hamilton General, countless women and men have cared for Dad, and us by extension, with equal measure tenderness and strength. In the midst of mystery and indescribable ache, they have surrounded us with compassion and above all expertise that has done nothing short of bring Dad back to us.
Of course all of the above is rough summary, and does not/cannot properly begin to imagine what still lies ahead. The doctors are ‘cautiously optimistic’ that Dad has turned the corner to long-term recovery, even as he remains fragile and is now in day 10 of post-op ICU. It is most strange for me to use fragile in description of my father, as he has always been so strong, but it is this quality, mentally and physically, that seems to allow him to defy all reasonable expectations. The teams know now that there is no give up in my father, and while we may have lamented that in previous contexts, in these precarious days it is an extraordinary gift. And so we push on… or, more accurately, we continue to follow Dad’s lead. While I won’t be with you again this Sunday, and remain so very grateful for your gracious release and support, at my request I will be working to reintegrate into ‘regular’ life next week, longing to see you all again soon. It may be for selfish reasons. I’ll sort that out along the way. But I will try nonetheless and know already I am held fast by your embodiment of Love.
As you might imagine, through all of the above I have had to readjust my sense of time. I’ve often lost track of it; other times cursed its painful slow passage. I would give anything to go back in time and wave the non-existent magic wand to make this all disappear, but that won’t be happening either. So, I’m working hard to follow the only real and faithful option: to accept what is here right now; to celebrate every moment of improvement; and trust that God moves with us, absolutely and completely sharing every precious breath. I cling to Jesus’ promise that we are not alone, and I will proclaim with new fervor that we have experienced this great and holy truth, again and again.
That course at Five Oaks with John Philip Newell seems so long ago now. Once upon a time, I thought I’d come back and infuse you all with my learning and thriving in the roots of Celtic Christianity. That may come to fruition in part, in time, but what has happened in the meantime is that I have carried a Celtic psalter with me, for me, for me and my Dad, in and out of the hospital, through waiting rooms and quiet rooms. It has become evening ritual to read to my Dad, sharing poetry and memoir and wisdom from trees; and then to share evening prayers with him, for him. The nurses have bent the rules long enough to let me do so. I’d like to think sometimes they’re listening in. I’ve clung to the hope that Dad could hear, and last night for the first time he squeezed my hand and held my gaze long enough to say that he could. I don’t think I can describe that elation, but I know it carries us into today. And then we’ll think about tomorrow.
With such love to you all,
“At the ending of day,
in the darkness of night
we seek an inner assurance of your presence.
Our body is still
and our soul is silent
as we listen for the renewing springs of your Spirit
deep in the ground of our being
and in earth’s quietness all around us.
Guide us to the wellsprings of health
in the landscape of our soul
and to the hidden reservoirs of strength
in the people and places of our life
that we may be made well this night,
that we may be made well.”
(Tuesday Night Prayer by John Philip Newell in Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter)