Who would have thought? When the ramp fell on that hospital beach, there were no flying projectiles.
No hostile barriers.
No raking fire.
No mayhem, blood, and smoke. No scramble for survival.
No, the ramp fell into the midst of a party.
People were waiting for us at 6AM prior to surgery. I was soon called out and prepared, and by 8AM, a small crowd had filled a corner of the surgery waiting room, I’m told. Eating, laughing, praying, sharing stories. A kingdom party. What a concept.
After the ignomious strip down to nothing in exchange for the backless gown, I was prepared for surgery under pictures of green pine needles under a blue sky laced with white clouds. Took me back to the very time I had anticipated keeping before me – our family outing to Seattle, the ride across Puget Sound by ferry, the drive along 101 around to Forks. Trees. Green. Presence. Miqdash Me’at. A little sanctuary with my girls.
Two IVs were successfully started as my bride rubbed my feet and Tess, friend and chaplain, prayed.
My job simple: lay there. Passive. Receptive. Gurnies don’t come with steering wheels, clutches, or gear shifts. At least none controlled by me. I am wheeled out and led “where I don’t wish to go.” A white, antiseptic room where a knife awaits. General anesthesia is administered under a huge haloed light that bathes me.
They say I awoke singing hymns in recovery several hours later. Not sure of the song list or just how far off key I undoubtedly was. A minor pre-surgery prayer: Lord, please don’t let me make too big a fool of myself when I wake up. And he put songs on my lips. Mystery music man, they called me.
Wheels again move. Eight floors up, right corner, last room.
I would spend five days there. Beautiful view of the foothills to the left, of the eastern horizon to the right through the hall window. And a wall that would soon be plastered with prayer print-outs and well-wishes.
My last trip through major surgery thirty-four years ago was, in my memory, a lone pilgrimmage. An eighteen-year-old with no mother and a father and brother with other places to be, mostly, in an immobile journey through successive veils of pain and recovery.
Room 8205 by contrast was filled with faces. With touches.
Hospital staff move in and out, hither and thither. I still see their faces, their names on the board. Professional, healing touches.
But it’s the faces of family and friends and their many touches of love, of prayer, of grace, of tenderness that lingers still, drawing tears from deep wheels of gratitude.
Hands taking mine. Tender prayers. Tender eyes.
Tim, a “layman” he, clasps my hand with priestly prayer. In like manner, Kent. Rough hands. Great hearted.
When I can eat, Jessie spoons potato soup into my mouth. Heavenly midday breakfast, ladled with love. Pride, self-service, all pretense of self-sufficiency gone. A good death. Sweetest bowl of soup ever I did eat. I taste it still.
Susan leans close, prays and sings in Elven tongues for what seems like sweet eternity. Covered. Kept.
Jennifer, sister, fellow pilgrim, starts day three in morning contemplative prayer. Peace. Peace.
Dennis, Dan – the guitar duo – sit bedside singing and playing until fingers are played out. Basking. Enveloped.
Chad, my friend, my brother, spends two night watches with me – the hard ones. All pretense, any show, masking, masculine posturing gone. Pain, vulnerability. Laid bare. Naked. My brother watches with me.
Trevor, eyes glistening with tears from good news (cancer self-contained, all removed), prays, feels, from a deep pastor’s heart.
Rounding out my days in room 8205 my sister Angelia reads The BFG, transported back to childhood days of delight. Steven watches with me through daylight hours. A brother’s visage. And through it all, teenage daughters sit with me too, a trio of mischevious angels. My bride still rubs my feet. Sitting beside me, I caress her face.
And now, days after leaving room 8205 and a week after what now looks like a successful, cancer-removing surgery, I sit back here at the same laptop. And he puts a new song on my lips that encapsulates it all, the whole journey through cancer unseen, anemia uncovered, and those three bottles. The whole journey embracing darkness, nothingness, nakedness, fears in the dark; embracing grace and trust; a journey of many healing touches. Of glimpsing, touching the Glory.
Home, I hear the song first. Then I see it. I’ve heard it before, I know. But now I hear it. And then seeing it, I am left gobsmacked with wonder before Him. Again. Though a song originally inspired by Indian horizons, the artist’s words connect with the Galilean shores of my soul and the Rabbi whose face I have seen and whose touch I have felt multiplied times within the walls of room 8205, the title and chorus serving as a sign in large letters over the door: Thank You.
Watch the video link below with discretion. If you have issues with Eve in the Garden of Eden variety of nakedness found in most children’s Bible story books, you may just want to stop here. But to experience the place where for me the ashes of this pilgrimage are scattered, watch on with me. It’s my soul that’s naked and bare, my soul that has been touched by so many.
Thank you Yeshua.
thank you terror
thank you disillusionment
thank you frailty
thank you consequence
thank you thank you silence
the moment I let go of it was the moment
I got more than I could handle
the moment I jumped off of it
was the moment I touched down