Life goes on

I am vaguely aware of the news. There is a whole world of people and events and politics and sports and local events and much more that is occurring outside of the walls of the hospital. Even inside the hospital there are many dramas playing out from which I have isolated and insulated myself. Babies are being born, other patients are facing critical events in their illnesses and recoveries. People have died while our life has been going on and our own drama has been playing out.

Before I go farther, our news is mostly good. Susan is out of the intensive care unit and I slept at home for the first time since last Sunday night. Her sister spent the night with her in the hospital and things have been calm and stable, which is just the way we want them to be.

A major health crisis is something about which we have known for all of our professional lives. I’ve been summoned to the hospital at all hours of the day and night to comfort family members and pray with those who are ill. I’ve been the one to carry medical news to family members and try to answer their questions. I’ve witnessed emergency room and operating theater procedures. For a few years, early in my career, I drove ambulance as part of our community’s volunteer services. I know how suddenly things can change. I know how much lives can be upended. The first funeral that I performed as a pastor was for a woman whose husband was himself ill. He never imagined that she would be the first to die. His shock over her death was compounded by his belief that this was something that he would never have to face.

I know how suddenly a life story can change.

Still, this is the first major health crisis that we have faced in our immediate family. We have been blessed with very good health. But no one is exempt. The truth is that life is extremely precious and extremely fragile. We have the gift of life for only a little while.

So this week, I dropped everything - and I do mean everything - to simply sit at the hospital with my wife as the drama played out. So far our results have been good and we’ve traveled a long way since Monday morning. We are beginning to see a path to return to our usual levels of activity.

While we were immersed in our own private drama the baseball playoffs began. These games are incredibly important to fans. I’m not sure I can even name the teams involved. (OK I do know that the Washington Nationals are playing the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’m pretty close to some pretty big fans.) I usually pay attention to sports if for no other reason that I want to be able to engage in intelligent conversation with the people I serve in the church and others I encounter in the community.

While our story was playing out, protests in Hong Kong have risen to the level of anger. A protestor was shot. New rules have been imposed. No end is in sight. People are crying out for democracy and leaders of the territory are resisting the demands of the protestors.

Canada is in the midst of an election campaign.

The US House of Representatives is focused on an impeachment inquiry and the President is defending him self with tweets and advertisements in major media outlets.

The British Brexit debate is bringing down leaders and altering political careers.

Climate change has been at the top of the agenda of the United Nations and worldwide demonstrations have ben organized to educate more people and encourage more serious changes in consumption of fossil fuels and other lifestyle modifications.

A man with a history of psychotic illness killed four colleagues with a knife in Paris.

A major search was organized for a missing hunter in the Black Hills.

A police and fire chaplain at Fort Doge, Iowa died as the result of injuries sustained in an apparent attack outside of his church.

There are thousands of life-altering drams playing out all around the world. I, however, have just not been paying attention. I scan the headlines from time to time. I have, for the most part, kept up with my emails, balancing a laptop computer on my lap - a position that I rarely assume, being a person who prefers to work at a desk. I am not unaware that there is a whole world outside of my area of focus.

But these stories, important as they are, are not the arenas where I normally focus my attention. Most of the time I live my life focused on the small dramas of my congregation and community. In a normal week, I would have spent a lot of time comforting grieving people, planning worship services, taking coffee to officers and communion to the nursing home. In a normal week, I would have helped produce a church newsletter and plan a retreat. In a normal week I would have heard the stories of the people I serve and responded with prayers.

Much of this week I’ve been surrounded by people who are praying for Susan and for me. There have been times when I couldn’t have formulated coherent words to say a public prayer. At one point I was reduced to a sobbing mess on the floor while a saint of a nurse’s aid ministered to me in ways she may never know.

I’m pretty good at being a caregiver. I haven’t a clue how to be the recipient of care. A couple of my colleagues have had to gently lecture me a bit about allowing myself to receive care. I know they are right. I’ve said the lecture to others over and over.

So returning to normal for me involves reading at least the headlines and reminding myself of the world outside of my circle. I am not the center of the universe. Other stories are as important as my own. Life goes on.

As I start this new day I am grateful for a million acts of kindness and caring that have been directed towards us this week. We have been blessed. Blessings will continue. We are a community. We are family. We take care of one another.

And sometimes, I need to receive care. It is a new lesson for a new day. I’m still on a steep learning curve, but I think I am learning.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!