Increasingly, each time I prepare to see Annie after some time away – be it a night or a minute – I never know in what condition I will find her. Each unit of time shares the same unpredictable rhythm, the same complex DNA. In that respect the last year is a projection of the last hour and the last hour a compression of the last year. Sometimes, life is so painfully and wonderfully, upsetting and uplifting.
Neither Annie or I had slept very well last night (a string of text messages through the early hours traced our insomnia). But as I arrived in the car park this morning, my feelings reflected the weather; the sun pierced through a thick blanket of fog as I drove to the hospital. For the first time this week I arrived to find an Annie whose radiance inside the ward outshone the conditions outside of the hospital. Her face was rich with colour; eyes and mouth full of smile and betraying any signs of sleeplessness.
As we talked, almost as an asides, she commented on the fact that the hospice doctor had been to visit her to give an update on yesterday’s chest x-ray following the almost completed draining procedure. With less fluid they hoped to get a clearer image. She continued “The doctor told me that there were a number of small shady areas scattered over my lungs which they suspect are small tumours…they can’t be sure and there’s nothing that they can really do about it…but you know how it is…either way they want to get me back to the hospice soon so that they can start to help with my breathing if those are small tumours.” There was no change in her tone or cadence of speech; not even her smile retreated. She could just as well have been telling me an interesting anecdote about the dear old lady in the neighbouring bed. I reached over and hugged her, “You are full of peace, my dear Annie.”
I’ve encountered (and embodied) countless people who have reacted to and reported far less serious personal circumstances with enough fear and panic and turmoil and trauma to put an entire nation on red alert. Only moments before I walked into Annie’s ward yesterday morning, I was attempting to park in the overcrowded hospital car park, on my second orbit, when a complete (and competing) stranger – who for want of no better description I will call ‘Angry lady in a Land Rover’ – unleashed verbal fury on me for a simple misunderstanding which – even while I sought to act peaceably by providing her with the space that she had missed – she continued with relentlessly in the gravity of a Greek tragedy and the vernacular of a Quentin Tarantino movie (I am thankful that the presence of the young boy sat in the front seat of the Land Rover subdued any accompanying Tarantino-esque violence!)
Yes, it’s only natural to make mountains out of molehills; but it’s supernatural to make molehills out of mountains.
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. – Isaiah 26:3
In the life of this blog you’ll often hear me refer to the ‘peace’ we have experienced during these difficult times. Such a small and simple word. Yet so unfathomably deep. It’s no ordinary peace. It’s a peace that really does transcend all understanding. That means, it cannot even be successfully lowered, contained and communicated with words. Sometimes the inner peace we experience as vessels of the Spirit of God, is so remarkable it’s…well…just unremarkable. We are not always consciously processing and quantifying the peace we have; it’s just there. Trying to communicate it is like trying to catch and contain a beautiful butterfly in order to display it. The moment you attempt to grab it, you’re in danger of losing it, spoiling it or both.
But we can proclaim its source boldly. The source of our peace is the presence of Jesus Christ. There’s no touching of wood; clutching of straws; crossing of fingers or any other superstitious nonsense on which to peg our peace. Just Christ. Pure Christ. Our Majestic, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End; our First and our Last; our Creator and Sustainer of all things; our Great High Priest; our Good and Great Shepherd; our Lord and King; our Strong Tower; our light; our hope: Our Christ and Our Christ alone. Our Prince of Peace.
The way in which Annie shared that news about those x-ray results this morning, is my best shot at capturing the moment in which that beautiful butterfly settles.
In our previous blog entry I journalled what I believed was the full ‘Pleurodesis’ procedure. Mistakenly I had assumed that the talc had also been administered into the lung cavity – I was sure that this was not right but must have misheard the nurse. Over the last day and a half the drain has continued to draw out the 2.5 litres of fluid on Annie’s left side. The right side – which at present they estimate has a further litre of fluid – remains untapped until they consider it a problem. Today they finally were ready to insert the talc solution into the left lung cavity.
Before the procedure I prayed over Annie’s side with a now familiar prayer for the Lord to hold and guide the doctor’s hands with His skill and tenderness. Thankfully it required no injections because they were able to pipe in the anaesthetic directly into the existing tube that was already embedded in her side. As the doctor did this I joked that we ought to have those tubes embedded within us at birth so that we never had to have injections. Not even a smile. Bad medical science and awful comedic timing aside, she was concentrating and I am glad for that. Although the procedure was without need of injections we were forewarned that there would probably be painful parts of it – especially as the talc solution went it. It was over in minutes and without a single second of pain. I was surprised, the doctor seemed surprised but nobody was more surprised than Annie!
So, now we wait.
Another night in the hospital and then hopefully tomorrow morning, Annie will be discharged and immediately readmitted to the hospice!