Archives for category: Suffering

The waiting is the tortuous part. One doctor waits on another. One order rests on another. One test result must arrive before another. And so we wait with baited breath and knotted stomach and tangy, singed hope.

The waiting feels to me like wasting. If there is a time bomb in my body, ticking wildly toward its destruction and mine, why is everyone taking so damn long to find it? One doctor suggests another theory and a few more possible tests and I want to knock their teeth in because if that was a viable theory and a helpful test, why wasn’t it run A WEEK AGO? And I know these surgeons have real lives and they cannot wait on me hand and foot… they have real lives, sure… but so do I. So did I. I had a life once and it was not wrapped in a green sheet gown or stabbed through with needles or diced and dissected into fragmentation. I had a life like they do. “You’ll have to wait to see her. She’s at a birthday…” I went to birthday parties too once, you know.

Will I go to any more?

Will I have one of my own?

I used to want a chance to die.

Now I want a chance to live.

How long does that take, doc?

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God is waiting too, I think. He has not shown up yet. Maybe like Dr C, he is crashing a birthday party. Maybe he’s waiting on… himself? Is he conflicted in his purpose here? Is he weighing out the risk of bending me further, stretching me farther, testing me harder? I’m a stubborn ass. I won’t break yet. Not today, anyway. Does he want to see how close I can get to that crucified place where even he knew forsakeness? I fear he is.

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What if it kills me?

I’m afraid that I will die before I have a chance to make myself immortal.

I’m afraid of living vicariously through Jake and never becoming my own self. That I will leave the earth and he will be all that is left of me, and then he will move on.

I’m afraid of shriveling up, or worse yet, I’m afraid that there never was a part of me that was alive enough to shrivel. I’m afraid that there is a part of me that was always dead and stifled, and somehow it is taking over more and more. It is the fecal decay… the undergrowth of my soul… that I’m afraid of. It has gotten hold of me. It is destroying me with a slow leak of poison into my gut, a cesspool of waste, and a myriad of unanswered questions and unlived possibilities.

I’m afraid I’ll die here waiting for an answer that was never there, waiting for a doctor who couldn’t know, and on a God that didn’t show up.

Waiting is the worst part.

“I did not go through pain and come out the other side; instead, I lived in it and found within that pain the grace to survive and eventually grow. I did not get over the loss… rather, I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am.”

– Jerry Sittser, in A Grace Disguised

I love the book of Ecclesiastes. It is one of my favorites and I return to it frequently. When life turns me on my head, Ecclesiastes reminds me that life has always been turning people on their heads, even the wisest, most knowledgeable, most secure of people.

The most recent “disaster” in my extensive history of medical disasters was the sudden loss of 25 lbs, for which the only explanation are my ongoing surgical complications. On a five foot tall frame, 25 lbs is a lot of weight. Before I knew what was happening, my body could not stave off infection and became ravaged with fever, nausea, and pain.

But I am a lucky one.

When I am starving – quite literally starving – for nutrients and medicine and care, I take a short drive to the hospital. I can spend as many days as I need, get all of the attention that I need, have IV bags full of nutrition custom-made for what I need.

Hunger is a term which has three meanings (Oxford English Dictionary 1971)

  • the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food; craving appetite. Also the exhausted condition caused by want of food
  • the want or scarcity of food in a country
  • a strong desire or craving

In round numbers there are 7 billion people in the world. According to the 2012 World Hunger Education Service, 13.1% of them are hungry. That is almost 1 in every 7 people.

The numbers… the statistics… we’ve heard them all. We’ve felt them, too. We’ve felt the sheer immensity of them. We’ve grieved the complexity of the world in which we live, where food prices soar, governments exploit agriculture, and systemic violence and class systems ensure that the poor will always be with us.

For me these days, hundreds of milliliters of completely accessible nutrients course through my veins for twelve hours each night. I am fed with food that is more than sufficient for me. I look at the homeless man on the corner of Division St and the disparity between us makes me queasy. I feel guilty. The dizzy, spinney, sick feeling sends me back to Ecclesiastes. “There is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.”

Ah. Ecclesiastes turns me back around. It is not wrong to enjoy. My guilt matures… if it is not wrong to enjoy food and drink, then the question becomes howhow to enjoyhow to enjoy and celebrate and still stand in solidarity with those who cannot join my feasting?

This is the Holy Frustration.

I want to dialogue in my community about this question of how. DL’s proposition is powerful… cooking theologically… inspiring.  It is incredible that we can turn even our eating and drinking into a holy experience and an act of solidarity: the kingdom of God coming like yeast in dough.

~Annie Bolger Quick, editor

And then comfort comes.

Sometimes it’s quiet and gentle. Other times it’s more loud and abrupt. Sometimes it’s with a cup of tea. A nap. A book. A few quiet hours. With words poured out on a blank page. With some reassuring advice. A hug. A long run. A road trip. With yelling in my car. A baby’s snuggles.

Comfort comes with the acceptance of what’s happened and the desire to move forward.Comfort doesn’t come by forcing organization upon chaos, but by making sense of it. Organizing and beautifying the chaos, disaster, and heartache would be a discredit to it. The goal is to find hope and peace at the end of it without degrading the pain, but easing it in the light of truth. God’s truth. The only truth.

And that’s when comfort comes. Seeing chaos through the pure light of God’s truth.

-andrea