Saturday, August 18, 2012

Recovery under construction; drive slowly

Yesterday was day 12 since Bill's accident, and the road to recovery has not been nearly as bumpy as the ride he took through the corn or bean field where he ended up when the car went off Route 47. (The car, by the way, is still on the critical list; I haven't even seen it.) So I decided to take the wheel yesterday, since he has not been cleared for driving. It was a tiring day as Bill progressed to more mobility and I hovered anxiously (the hospital said you're a fall risk! I'll have to call 911 if you fall because I can't pick you up!) around his remarkable advances to everyday living activities.

He thinks my sense of humor quit. I think it went to take a shower, a daily living activity I hadn't yet gotten to yesterday. He said, she said. So some harsh words came out at the end of the day, despite my best intentions to be a sainted caregiver, chief household financial officer in charge of doctor bills (they're here already), the religion reviews editor of Publishers Weekly (my day job), and bottle washer  (a urinal is really just a well-designed bottle). He has a doctor's excuse. Me, I guess I was more tired than I thought.

Our daughter arrived to help with care and household responsibilities. Wunderbar, I have someone else I can order around now. He went to sleep, I went to sleep. Sleep heals, and joy comes in the morning.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dark night of the body and soul

Yesterday I learned that just because you are medically stable doesn't mean you can't have bad days, or nights. Bill came home because he is medically stable, hallelujah, but he wasn't his usual articulate self. I have in a way relied on him to understand what he needs medically -- he's a nurse, right? -- but when his illness or lack of sleep or pain medications cause him to be confused, I don't know what he needs.  It's like dealing with a baby, who can't tell you what's wrong. I called doctors twice, the hospital once, and got some information, but it still came down to, as one doctor said, trusting my instinct. My instinct wasn't as confused as Bill's, but it was certainly anxious.

At 3 a.m. he got out of bed, which he wasn't supposed to do, groggy. (I was a little groggy myself.) When he lay back down, he groaned for a while in pain. Someone groaning in pain is a hard sound; my loved one groaning in pain was worse. I thought, after a while, when he settled into silence and sleep, of the biblical psalms of lament, with their expression of rending pain and sorrow. He has the pain, certainly; I guess I am carrying the sorrow.

The light is here. All is not well, but it is better with my soul, and both of us have slept healing sleep. I cannot wait to get to the psalms of thanksgiving.

Blessed be the Lord, who has heard the sound of my pleading
The Lord is my strength and my shield, in whom my heart trusted and found help. (Psalm 28:8-9) 

(The image is of John of the Cross, the mystic who wrote about the dark night of the soul.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Surgeon's Hands

Yesterday Bill was in the surgeon's hands, literally. The neurosurgeon,  Dr. Dmitry Ruban, was very reassuring and had a wonderful bedside manner. How he is in the OR I can't say, but I see the results. Bill feels better, and    the surgery may well be a key to assuring that he can resume the life he used to be leading until it crashed not to a halt, but a pain filled detour.

And so when the gospel tells us that Jesus broke the rules and healed on the sabbath (Bill had surgery on Monday; possibly insurance forbids sabbath healing as well as going out of network), telling the lame man, "'Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.'" (John 5:8, CEB), is this a story about healing hands, told in another language and time and through different imagination?

The first thing I thought of, since I was just introduced to this at seminary last week, on a day when my husband was in the hospital, was Christ Has No Body , a prayer attributed to St. Teresa of Avila. (Thanks, my new friend Cindy, for bringing this benediction to our last class meeting.) I paused the most at "Yours are the hands." So, whose hands? Dunno, but I gotta get up and get over to the hospital. I am up early; maybe Somebody gave me a shake.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Nurse Named Angel

So here's my joke. My husband Bill had a nurse named Angel, and an angel named Nurse. (Those who know my husband is a nurse will laugh -- I hope.) I get a call from Angel, and since I had met the surgical nurse, I assumed it was he, and not some other entity, calling to tell me that surgery was over and my husband did well.

The operating room, and indeed the hospital, looks like a model of interdependent community: two anesthesiologists (one short, one tall); someone monitoring neurological signs; surgeon; angel nurse;  and assorted technicians. I met a number of them, and Bill saw a number more, maybe even some he missed because he was asleep. It's a complex system, and I found myself thinking of Thich Nhat Hanh's idea of interbeing (the image is by artist Alex Grey). Somebody made these monitors hanging on Bill's IV pole (There are three boxes). Someone gave these platelets (they look like peach juice) that are dripping, drip by drop, to become Bill. Platelets aren't artificial; someone has to donate them. Thank you, whoever did.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Practicing the Presence of God

The last time my husband Bill almost died, I got a pretty good but unpublished essay out of the experience. Times have changed, bringing blogging along as a medium. But writing to think things through remains a motivating factor for any writer. So I guess I'll blog my way through this crisis, since I am a late adopter of new media. 

Another new thing in my life is that I am a seminary student. I was at the Earlham School of Religion doing an intensive course in spiritual formation. When Bill had his car accident, I was literally in the middle of the two-week course, miles away in another state, and without a phone signal (TMobile has heard from me about this). So I was in good spiritual shape to make the trip. Good student that I am, I learned a lot on the way. 

how to drive safely at 80 miles an hour;
how to imagine that Jesus was my navigator (I was hoping to get reacquainted with Jesus at seminary, and suddenly there he was in my car, like a handsome stranger had sat down next to me and said, "I'm here to help: take I-465, not I-865");
how to have real honest-to-God faith that God would get me through;

"God doesn't give you more than you can handle" has always struck me two ways. At times it strikes me as a meaningless and insensitive platitude that can annoy a grieving or shocked person. At other times it strikes me as true spiritual folk wisdom. It's true, even if not terribly original.

My husband and this accident help me understand the Bible and biblical history. I think of him as Paul, knocked off his horsepower on his way to Champaign-Urbana (you should see the horse), with God saying, "Bill, Bill, pay attention." It may not seem that way to Bill. But he doesn't mind being prayed for and he is spiritually open, even if uncommitted. And I think the story of the Road to Damascus is a memorable metaphor for abrupt change, catastrophe that is transient -- Paul is blinded only temporarily -- and course correction. 

So I am trying to make God a drinking buddy (I hear his son has a line on good wine) or become more aware of the presence of God in order to get through this crisis. Please continue praying and thinking healing thoughts; Bill has surgery scheduled tomorrow. 

Feedback welcome, especially theological feedback.