You Just Have To Take The Needle
“There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it. Otherwise, you’ll never understand what it’s saying.” ― Sarah Dessen
This might come as a shock to some of you but I hate going to doctors and dentists. Strange eh? Especially for someone who took such comfort in being a hospital Chaplain! My resistance to seeing any of these professionals has much to do with a terrible experience I had as a child. What should have been a routine vaccination turned out to be the ‘prick’ that made me afraid of needles. Until my mid-40’s, I reacted violently to a medical professional with a needle. Once, needing to be injected, my question to the doctor was could he give me the stuff to drink instead!
Now, 52 years old, the running days are over. Back in 2005, when this article was first written, the time came to grow up. It was the moment of my first mammogram. The idea was not a thrilling one. If there was a way to drink or eat something instead, believe me, I would have.
A Time For Everything
But there is a season for everything. That came to me quietly yet forcibly one day in 2005 as I sat in the hospital’s chapel.
It came again yesterday as I danced like no one was watching with my granddaughter on the balcony. I was reminded that at every stage we have to face what life brings in that moment, including sickness and death.
Whenever the reminder comes, Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 8 is never far behind. “For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… .”
One Day At A Funeral
Saturdays are either relaxing or hectic with all the errands. For some though it can be in between. While many were at work or had the pleasure to be out shopping or simply relaxing, I spent one Saturday morning in 2005 at a memorial service.
Attendance was not mandatory neither did I get a mark for being a ‘good student’. Nevertheless, once my Teaching Supervisor told us about these quarterly services that she conducted to remember those who made their transition at the hospital – I knew I would be there. She asked me to do a reading. However, being busy as she was and I guess confident that I would not botch it, she did not tell me until just prior which passage. It was not until I actually stood at the podium and started to read that the personal significance of the words hit me.
For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die.
Later, my then partner who strangely enough decided to attend the service with me asked, “You teared up, I thought you wouldn’t make it through. What happened?”
See, the chapel was full with the families of those who had made their transition in the recent months. As I made eye contact with one particular woman my heart melted. We spoke for quite some time the day I called to extend the invitation to the service. Though I was a simply a voice on the phone, she felt comfortable telling me how painful life had been since her loved one passed.
Time Often Does Not Heal
“People don’t understand how hard it is for me when they say such things like ‘you poor woman, you lost your husband’,” she told me.
Feeling the depth of her wounds, I tried to soothe her by offering that people were not intentionally being unkind. “They are simply at a loss for words and expressing concern for how they think you might be feeling.” We talked for a while longer and before we rang off, she said she would try to come to the service.
Fast-forward several weeks. As we made the final preparation before the start of the service, a woman quietly slipped into the chapel and sat to the rear. I passed by several times and noticed her sitting there but when I saw her shoulders softly shuddering, somehow I knew she was the woman on the telephone.
I slipped into the seat beside her and she looked up at me. To me, it seemed that she recognised who I was without my having to say anything. We held hands as she continued to cry. “It has been so hard for me,” she said tearfully. “Yesterday would have been our fifty-fifth anniversary and it was so hard.”
How Will You Remember
Her words were on loop in my head as I read the passage. It was hard not to think about my own life and how will I be remembered. My ‘concern’ was not whether there would be tears for me or if people would say kind things. My thoughts centred on whether those who may sit in a similar service remembering my life could say; “She lived life to the fullest right to the end.”
Back then, being so close to sickness, death and the suffering of those left behind, caused me to question my own attitude to life. “Am I living in such a way that enhances the lives of others?” is one of the questions that I asked myself. Another was “Am I living in such a way that when I die my loved ones will remember me with joy?”
Absolutely love what Terry Cole-Whittaker, in her book “What You Think of Me is None of My Business,” has to say about relationships and their endings. According to her:
- if our relationships are not complete
- if they are what she describes as dangling relationships
saying good-bye at the time of death, for example, becomes extremely difficult.
To say ‘good-bye’ to a relationship,” she writes, “You must first have said ‘hello’ . . . You must have loved that other person, released him [or her], allowed him to be who he was and who he was not.”
You Have To Say More Hello’s
That thought gave me some comfort. Enough to make me happy about the first and subsequent appointment to have mammograms done. Although still tempted to ask for a pill or something to drink instead, I am thankful the technology exists. Since then, the technology has advanced, something that I found out on my last mammogram.
Yes, I believe in the power of prayer. However, I am also convinced that the Divine, God/Source whatever name you chose, did not give humanity the capacity to develop such medical technology to treat and even cure diseases for it not to be used. Therefore, with my heart in my mouth whenever a procedure is needed, I am also thankful that there might be another chance to say more hellos.
Never had the chance to tell her, but through that dear lady in 2005, I learned this powerful lesson. There comes a time when we all have to say good-bye to someone, something or even a wish. How we said “hello,” however, helps to determine if the parting will be bitter or surrendered with understanding and love.
Wherever she is today, may she somehow know how grateful I have been. Her challenge with saying goodbye taught that my relationships needed to completed with first saying a proper hello. My most favourite hello right now is to my granddaughter who made this past Saturday that more interesting and delightful.
Namaste, until next week,