JOHN 3:16

JOHN 3:16

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I drove to the hospital alone the morning of my husband’s open heart surgery. Our son and daughter, Cameron and Lauren, left their jobs to meet me later at the hospital when the surgery was taking place.

I gazed ahead as I drove with a strange detachment, some invisible veil of primal survival masking the potential reality of the situation. Driving became surreal. Scenery passed by like the painted sets of a off Broadway theatre production as Gordon and I are living out the script of our own destiny play through some culminating initiation thresholds of our lives. At such times our modern materialistic life, with all its bizarre advertising on every available surface where the gaze of the eye can fall, surrounds us like a strange absurdity and mockery of existence. Where is our truth? If this were a classical myth, there would be hoary monsters to face, an abyss to traverse, a barren icy mountain to climb.

But this is 2015. In today’s world, we are made oddly comfortable while the high tension of our drama unfolds on the stage set of our own mystery play dramas. The apex of the play, the transformation turning point, lies in the struggle within. My husband had crossed his point of no return with a decision for heart surgery and was lying in a modern hospital bed capably attended by sympathetic nurses, yet besieged by his own thoughts of what lies ahead and challenged to show up with the courage to face them. I was rolling along encased in a bright red moving vehicle, look for signs of hope, like the license plate on the car in front of me, a tree in stunning spring blossom… a compelling figure at a cross walk.

This morning my husband could die.. not likely…but not impossible. That would have many implications. Yet I know that this is the way forward, the choice for surgery. I pulled up to an intersection.. I was several cars back. I look up at the ubiquitous NO STOPPING AT ANYTIME sign at the roadside, my countenance dull and immobile, yet thoughts were careening chaotically around within. Seeing this sign took me immediately to the memory of the story from our dear Japanese ‘daughter’ Chie. When her young and only child, Yasuhiro, was dying from his incurable disease she spent many lonely anguished hours around hospitals. Once she was walking along the city street on an oppressive overcast day she stepped on a piece of metal that had fallen in the strong winds and rain of a recent storm. She was impelled to go back and look at it.. For her the ‘SIGN was a ‘sign” that had fallen down in her path with the admonition.. “No Stopping At Anytime.” Oh, yes. The great theologian Tielhard de Chardin writes words to the effect that our lives are a series of husks of the stages of life in which we might have wished to remain, but life pulls us relentlessly on.

I glanced upward. A large, lone black crow flapped across the line of traffic in front of me with floppy almost ludicrously clumsy strokes of his wings. “There’s the sign of death to overcome,” I thought. Last night when we had left Gordon it was raw, painful and unfinished. He had had a hard day. Understandably. As he awoke that day, his doctor had shown up briefly at the door and announced with clipped efficiency… “Tomorrow morning. Be ready at 6:30”. Gordon experienced the finality of the decision as it first came down hard and then irreversibly. He was still recovering from a painful and blurred week of an intestinal blockage but now it was happening. For sure. That day grandson Nathan came and played the violin for him with the sweet clear tones. It helped. But Gordon was restless, apprehensive, and resigned all at once. The die of this life changing decision had been cast.

A beloved daughter-in- law, Carolyn, had been there in the morning and I was there for the rest of the day. That evening our daughter Lauren came but by that point in the day, Gordon had had it. Even son Cameron who usually chippers his Dad up just by appearing, could not make a difference. ‘Get on with it’ was the only thing that counted now. Impatient with anything less than action, Gordon cut off all the small talk. He was beyond ready and began to shoo us all out and settle down for the night with his nurses.

I had been waiting to close our preparation time together hoping to sing, or read some bible verses and asked to do so. But by the time that came he was done. As we got up to go, he called out. “ Where’s the bible?” I handed it across the bed for Cameron to possibly read. Gordon reached up and intercepted the Holy book. He opened it as he lay there and prepared to read. “What verse?” he demanded of us with authority. Lauren replied without hesitation, “John, 3:16” Gordon turned the thin, gilt edged pages and began. His voice was strong, defying his own mortality and the sounding the words out like a soldier facing the storm of battle. Timeless truths lay behind the words,”For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believed in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He looked up eyes intense, jaw strong. We held hands all around for the “Lord’s Prayer” a quick kiss.. and we left. Lauren dared me to give him a last tag. I returned with a teary smile and did so.

Now it was the next morning and soon his chest would be cleaved, his heart opened up to the world. As the crow flapped and I took it in with sober eyes, the traffic light turned green and I moved up to the intersection. There on the corner by the gas station, nearly obscured behind his large plywood billboard was a man, waving his message to the stream of cars passing by. His bright, paint splashed homemade sign was being exuberantly displayed for all to see. The message was brief… John: 3:16.

I was to travel by that same corner many times again that week but I never saw him again. But how could I doubt I was there at just the moment I needed to be? There was the ‘sign’ the message of the ever present help of the spiritual world. I smiled and drove on to accompany my husband to the final surgery waiting room to meet his anesthesiologist and warm faced surgical nurse, Blanca. In my hand I carried a bouquet of bright red tulips and heavenly scented lilac blossoms from our home, White Feather Ranch, to accompany our quick kiss of good luck and good bye for now.

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WEDDING BANDS, WEDDING BONDS

Earth Day, April 22, 2015

wedding bands, wedding bonds

Wedding bands are taken off for surgeries. So, too, this was the case with Gordon’s open heart surgery just after Easter. So I placed his ring on my hand, securing it with tape lest it would slip off during these intense days. The gold of both our rings is smooth and thinner now than 62 years ago when, young and tremulous with wonder and hope about what lay ahead for us, we placed them on each others fingers as symbols of love and the bond of marriage.

We celebrate today, for he did not slip away during those long hours of pain and waiting,of hoping and not knowing. With the committed care of many doctors and nurses he is returned to us. I place my hand, wrinkled and worn with work and age, on his, our rings together. His hand still large. square, and strong but seasoned and bent with time.

We shall have a little ceremony when he comes home today and I will slip it on his finger once again… another marriage commitment… for the last part of the journey.. The old familiar words are now sculpted, shaped and honed, made rich and potent and ripe by years of shared living… … for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health…. till death do us part….as long as we both shall live.

OUR HEARTS IN HIS HANDS

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Gordon has come through his heart surgery today!  The hands of this skilled surgeon has now held both our hearts to replace the aortic valves. He is a senior doctor at Sutter Memorial non profit hospital in Sacramento..  Before my surgery I asked if he had a spiritual practice and he, a bit surprised, said with resolution “I was raised Greek Orthodox.”   That gave me confidence that he looked to a higher power to guide his gifted work and we would not only be in his hands, but the hands of higher powers of God we would all be looking to for the right guidance and true destiny…. We felt as we waited,

sonCameron,daughter Lauren and I that we were held by sparkles of the light of prayers and loving thoughts… Three babies were born during the process as they play Brahm’s  lullaby throughout the hospital. Thank you all for loving support!

Waiting for Open Heart Surgery

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Dear Friends,
We want you to know how much it means to us to have us in your thoughts while Gordon is going through his surgery. It is quite complex but everyone involved feels pretty confident he will come through it. Both Gordon and I had some hard moments today of the pre op melt down moments but that it pretty much what one would expect! Our wonderful family is here and friends afar… We’ll get through whatever comes.

The cross I have been wearing for over forty years was made for me by Gordon. He cast it on a Christmas Eve those many years ago.. It is our marriage talisman and treasure. So here it is for the next phase…. Gordon and our son Cameron, also a pilot as well as an aircraft mechanic, share many things in life from being committed Dads, to building a plane together, clowning it up, and general obsteperousness when so inclined. As my father once proclaimed in his old age, “If you can’t laugh, don’t get in line.”

Love to all,
Nancy, Gordon and family

EVER PRESENT HELP

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April 15, 2015

It has been nearly a week since our sudden and unexpected dramatic event of Gordon being rushed to the hospital with acute intestinal blockages and on the verge of a heart attack from a densely calcifying aortic valve and jammed coronary artery. The days have been filled with his excruciating pain, nausea, anxiety, calls to family and friends, and decisions. If the intestinal blockage will resolve, they will try the open heart surgery very soon. He had hoped for a quick exit after a good long life, but going on like this is a bleak and untenable choice.

After five days being there to support him, holding his hand as he so steadfastly did mine when I nearly died in this same hospital eighteen months ago, I am wrung out too, wincing and resonating as he bears his cross, while rejoicing together in small victories. I know I desperately need a day of recovery before the surgery while he is relatively stable. I drive home.

The tall wild oats (Grandpa flowers we call them) by the freeway flow gracefully in the wind. They’ve turned golden in the few days I have been gone. Our White Feather ranch is beautiful, green grass splashed white, gold and purple with new wild flowers. Such a wonderful healing place! I am so grateful to live here and for our 30 years of work to make it such a place. I drink in the fragrance of the last of the lilacs and new roses, and water some flowers, fill the bird feeders as Gordon so faithfully does, before I crash in exhausted sleep.

It has been hard on all of us. I am bone tired. Quite a metaphor ‘bone tired’. Bones, after all, are not fraught with nerve cells… but, boy, do we all know what that phrase means…. bone tired, aching to the bone. In such times this dear old frame that holds us upright hums and throbs, moaning its mortality like an old bull frog caught in calcifying mud. The mood, the outlook, can be drone gray too… how to go on, feeling alone, hopeless, depressed and despairing, hollow in the gut or knots in the stomach, reaching the ‘what’s the point’ point… The point of ‘what’s the point’… odd phrase.. So we fight through these thresholds of human life.. bone ache… heart ache. There is so much of it in the world. Oh, my dear, valiant, faithful partner of nearly sixty two years. Such a good man, so steadfast in his support of me, of his family, of his friends and work. I could have been a widow by now, perhaps I will be tomorrow… or not. Maybe his choice will give us a few more years to grow, endure, appreciate life..

This morning in a gray head fog with a body drained of energy, I commanded myself to do my morning eurythmy and prayers.. I was staying at our daughter Lauren’s home, to be nearby the hospital… As I summoned strength to center myself,I noticed the morning sun light streaming from behind a shaded window and reflecting onto the white living room wall. There were deep grooves in the plaster raying out from the corner of the fireplace mantle. The house had been built in the 1930’s.. I looked at the etched grooves musing that the hand of the one who created them was long dead. But then I realized they were placed so they appeared to ray out from a small statue of the Holy one, the Mother, the Virgin standing there. Quietly shining rays, like the subtle un-noticed illumination of her ever present Holy light as we bear our sorrows in life.

The official final finish of the white wall was a mottled plaster design. The ‘rays’ lay underneath it. … underneath, but right there, if one only looked. No mistaking that. I examined the wall in other places. There were no fanned grooves just like this any where else. These were etched there, perhaps by a young novice workman, so long ago. Now decades later, they appeared to to be rays of light shining from the Virgin and lit with the rosy glow reflected from a piece of quartz beside her.

The gentle hidden presence of our Holy helpers. They do not come with fanfare, yet they can announce their presence in reflected light, in a lift in mood, always close by with quiet every present hope and help.. As under the finish of this wall, behind all the designs of life’s facades, behind all our mortal and limited strivings, they are there, quietly and eternally present to give us hope to go on.