Chocolates, Flowers, Crutches

I had major surgery yesterday. It has been a long time coming, cancelled initially because of Covid-19 and other family illness, and finally after frantic messages to my surgeon about my pain level, I had a date.

With the date scheduled and all pre-appointments completed, at an early hour yesterday, my husband drove me to the hospital. I was registered, questioned, tested, given meds, and given an intravenous line with outstanding efficiency, and the next thing I know, I woke up. Surgery was finished, textbook like in its rapidity and lack of any complications. I have to remind myself that 12 hours of preop, surgery, and recovery time is actually efficient.

I arrived home evening of the same day – not a usual occurrence, but so welcome for me. As I sat in the house, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness. My mortality and dependence were right in front of me. It was both sad and beautiful. The chocolates from my neighbor Chase, who I joke roams the neighborhood looking for someone to bother, fresh lilacs from a neighbor who clipped them from her lilac bush that is in full bloom, and my crutches – my sure companion in the coming weeks of healing. They are reminders that right now, I need help for everything. My two hands are used on crutches and one of my legs is not in service. It is a humbling place to land, yet all of us at some point will be in similar positions.

It’s funny, isn’t it? The way we go through events that feel monumental to us, but others continue in their days, blissfully unaware of births and deaths, of surgeries and tragedies, of family shaking traumas and blinding insights. And of course, we are the same. When things are going at a “normal” pace with work and family, when pain is not ever present, when our lives have not been disrupted by any of the things above, we are the same with others. Though we may show empathy and compassion in the moment, none of us has the capacity to bear constant witness to the ongoing joys and pains of strangers.

As I think about my homecoming last night, I think that is what hit me. That it was a big thing for me, and I am too fortunate in being surrounded virtually and physically by people who care about me, but for others it is like any other day. My sadness came and tears flowed from a place of shared humanity, for the millions of us who had something momentous happen yesterday and are facing the aftermath today – whether others knew it or not.

I wish I could sit with others in this space, and we could swap stories of chocolates, flowers, and crutches, wish that I could know what physical signs they had that made them aware of their dependence, their need, their humanity. Yet even as I say this, I know that not being able to is a gift. These are the places where God dwells and speaks into the pain and into the healing. In creative ways, he urges people who surround those of us with needs to step up, to bear witness. Not to everyone, but to the people in our neighborhoods and churches, in our schools and in our work. The best thing I can do during this season of healing is to lean into this, the God of the universe who cares as much about individuals as he does about the nations.

My first step in leaning in is gratitude for chocolates, flowers, and crutches – all symbols of healing, friendship, and interdependence.

If you are in the place I am in today, for whatever reason, may you feel the abundance of these things and may we be surprised and delighted by the presence of God.