Saturday, January 11, 2014

Reverence: Healing

The cat squirms in my lap for a few moments and then leaps, an elegant arc of orange and white fluff, four feet into the air and through the doorway into the next room.
The vet had told us that she would lie quietly, recovering for a couple of days, and not to permit her to run around.  Ah, but the cat is six months old, and I am sixty years.  There are some differences.
Yesterday, utterly discouraged, I huddled under my blanket in my space, the corner of our living room where my recliner and table scattered with meds and electronics are located.  I laughed briefly when I read another woman's account of her recovery from ankle surgery; she describes an identical geography.  But I wanted  to cry when I looked at the dates on her descriptions and realize how long a recovery this will be. 
Each trip to the bathroom, eighteen steps  through the same sunroom into which the cat flew with such ease, and eighteen steps back, hopping with my entire weight borne by my walker, hands aching, is an undertaking akin to hiking the Great Wall.   I have had to relinquish my teaching job, and to give up my long-anticipated retreat time.  Will my pastorate go as well?    There's so much to worry about, work-wise and money-wise.   
And yet, healing is taking place.  In some mysterious and miraculous way, the severed edges of bone are binding themselves back together, recreating blood flow and rebuilding marrow and spongy and hard bone.  Just as astonishingly, my body is accepting the presence of metal parts as the new normal. 

If all goes well, the result will be an ankle that will support walks on the beach some months from now.
Miscellaneous movements ripple through even this disrupted and limited life.  I hear from a lady twenty years my senior, a new widow, and I am able to write to her with the authority of experience about her days of freshly felt grief, the exhaustion and the disorientation.  I don't mention that the spirit often takes considerably longer to heal than the body. 
I ponder Ignatius, he of the 1521 cannonball injury, which resulted in months of bed-ridden recovery and the understanding of religious psychology that led to the Spiritual Exercises.   What would he think, I wonder, of my binge-watching of The Sopranos, which I have not seen before?  An extended meditation on spiritual desolation if ever there were one. 
And last night, or this morning, around 3:00 a.m., I turned to read a piece written by the Australian Jesuit poet Peter Steele S.J, to which my friend Michelle has linked.  When I first saw her post, I had saved it for later, thinking to pray with the poem as a form of lectio divina, but when I went to the link at 3:00 a.m.,  I discovered that, unbeknownst to me, Peter Steele died of cancer in the summer of 2012.
I am devastated. It was a stack of Peter Steele's poems that spiritual director emeritus had emailed to me in the first months after Josh died; the two men had developed a friendship while both were at Georgetown that year.  It was Peter Steele's poems that I sat reading, tears in my eyes, late one night in the computer lab at seminary, surrounded by other students pursuing their Greek or Hebrew, oblivious to anything beyond the linguistic challenges staring back at them from their screens. 
I never even met the man, and I'm sure he never knew of my existence, but I sat here, and sit here still, grieving the loss of someone who gave life to words in a way that touched me when it seemed that nothing could.
This poem to which Michelle linked, is an elegy of sorts, a litany of good-byes to places and sights the dying poet knows will not be his again.  And yet it is also a celebration, of the beauty of this life as recorded in one man's recollections.
It would seem that in his case, as in that of Ignatius, the body finally gave out, but the healed spirit continues to soar, with the lithe elegance of a small cat.


  1. I've never quite thought about the geography of illness, the way space can just collapse in an instant to what we can reach, or can't.

  2. I am reading this when I should be preparing an assignment but once I started reading I felt like I was in the room with you as you have an incredible ability as a writer. Thank you for sharing this with us in a way that draws us right into the scene. Prayers continue.

  3. I'm really sorry to hear of your situation. Prayers and blessings are with you, Robin.

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