Once one has seen God, what is the remedy? ~Sylvia Plath
Yes, I know this is not my normal type of blog posting, but I felt it was important to elaborate a recent experience, because I’m not quite sure what it means, or where it will go.
A friend of mine is very ill with lung cancer and emphysema. His lung capacity is very low, and it is a struggle for him to even walk across the room without gasping for air. Recently, he had been in the hospital with a collapsed lung that miraculously was able to be fixed, though it has not restored is lung capacity. As it happens, I was not alerted when he was in the hospital, so when I finally found out that he was home, I asked if I could come visit. After several tries at scheduling, we finally decided on having dinner this week. But rather than me going to him, he decided he wanted to drive to my home, despite his oxygen tank and the general weakness he experiences from his constant struggle to breathe. But being the person he is, he wasn’t going to let anything keep him down. He’d spent so much time in his home, it was the first time he’d been out of the hospital, which was over three months ago.
I cannot explain why I had such an urgency to see him, because I had not seen him in some time, as life tends to keep us all running around an infinite maze of chores. However, the day I was supposed to see him, I had a particularly busy day, and as it grew close to quitting time, I was beset with an unnatural weariness. It was strange, because I usually have a great deal of energy, especially as it gets closer to going home for the day, but this particular day I just felt world-weary. So, I considered rescheduling the evening until I felt more festive. But as I thought about rescheduling, something inside me said, “Don’t cancel.” It wasn’t some booming voice from an unearthly source, nor was it some sort of schizophrenic phantasm. It was a subtle voice, perhaps my own, telling me it was important for me to see my friend. And I decided to listen to it, and I am glad I did.
As I mentioned, I had not seen him in a while, and the last I remember seeing him he was in great health, having successfully beat throat cancer. He is much older than me, more of an uncle than a friend, someone I’ve always enjoyed being around. Seeing him weighed heavy on me; he had changed so much in such a short period of time. He’d been cooped up in his home for such a long time, as well as his extended stay in the hospital, that he was very pale and frail. But despite all of that, he was the same funny, insightful person I’d befriended so many years ago.
So he and I sat at my kitchen table, sipping a glass of wine, while he talked and I listened. It was obvious that he needed someone to just see him as a friend, and not as someone with a debilitating disease. He didn’t want, nor accept sympathy. He wanted to be a friend. It was an amazing conversation, where he was able to share his experiences in life; fun-times, sad-times, stressful-times. All of which put a perspective on my own life, that I tend to forget, or take for granted. It’s amazing how quickly one’s life can change course in the blink of an eye. It reminds me that I have to stop worrying about tomorrow and just live today.
After he left, he was visibly better, at least in spirit, that he and I had time to talk and reminisce about his life. And it was apparent to me that I also felt better, the world-weariness had left me, and I ended up staying up very late that night, contemplating what it all means. I have spent a great deal of my life examining the existence of God, either through theology or through science — because as I’ve stated before the must co-exist. This experience, though seemingly innocuous, had a much greater impact on my own personal explorations than I would have possibly imagined. I did not know if I was helping him, or if he was helping me, or if it was meant to help us both, which I think it did. It leaves me wondering how many times have I ignored this little voice in my head trying to lead me to a better place in my own life, or to help those around me who truly deserve it. My friend deserved as much of time as I could give, because he has sacrificed his own life for so many people. Few people have as big a heart as he does, always has a smile and a joke for those around him. He doesn’t blame anyone else but himself for his current condition, especially not God.
Today I feel much better, better than I have in quite sometime about the world around me, and the people I interact with. In a world full of such horrible things, seemingly on a downward spiral into the abyss, it is amazing to me that light always finds a way to reveal a path. And this experience has.
So what is god or my conscience? Are they one and the same? Does it really matter? All I know is that it is a memory I will keep with me the rest of my days, and probably wonder about it when days seem particularly hard. Perhaps I’ll remember that night and know that things could be a lot worse.
If you would, take a moment and think about my friend, because he could use all the positive thoughts we can give. Get well, Frank!