Monday, May 5, 2008

Pondering the ward
A guest post by ATHOS

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Athos wrote this in response to my request for a spiritual post about his recent surgery, during which Dawn Patrol readers answered his request for prayers. I'm honored to publish it. - Dawn]

As a fan of our latter-day Joan of Arc, Dawn Eden, it was a special joy to have her carve time out of her busy schedule to pay me a visit after my surgery. I was saddled with the diagnosis of a "transitional cell carcinoma of the renal pelvis" which in plain English means a kind of cancer in my left kidney.

This my capable surgeon removed along with my left kidney and ureter. I am now teaching my remaining kidney to do all the heavy lifting, drinking plenty of water, and engaging in what is called "pain management" these days with a wonderful little pill, Percocet, one every four hours.

But what medical science cannot "manage" is a deeper, existential, even I would almost say animal fear—except animals aren't aware of their mortality (or none have been asked and said so). It still has happened to me, usually around two in the morning and before my wonderful life partner, wife, and best friend ceases her rhythmic sonorous breathing and gets up to start her day. It is a gut-wrenching fear; a fear of airless, tight, blackened cave-like aloneness in which I cannot breathe and there is no help. In short, it is the moment before life leaves and the bodily, biological existence ends.

"What good is this to God's Kingdom?" crosses my mind, even as I "offer up" the whole experience.

But today in the Gospel, Our Lord says this: "...I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

The fear I have of airless, breathless places is the fear of all living beings. Actual non-being, unconsciousness is easy. It's the dying part that is not. This is what Our Lord experienced! You, O Lord, have been in that airless, struggling, horrible place. And You, Lord, forgave all who put put You there, including me. I see Your holy face in the image of the Shroud of Turin, and I know I am not alone; we are not alone. "Take courage," you tell us, "I have conquered the world."

And, for good measure, if You have forgiven all the crucifiers who pinned You to that terrible place of airless torment, who and what can I forgive?

Deo gratias. +

Athos blogs at Four Mass'keteers and Chronicles of Atlantis.