It’s March. And as I completely missed February due to surgical complications, I’m just not ready for either the plants in bloom or the 80 degree temperatures. It feels as though I should still be snuggled in my sweaters, with a log on the fire, planning an amazing meal for Valentine’s Day, not hanging out with my boys as they enjoy their Spring Break. It’s strange to actually experience the fact that time passes, and the world continues, with or without you.
I went in for endoscopic repair of a Zenker’s diverticulum, a pocket which forms off the esophagus, making it difficult to swallow. During the repair procedure, an error occurred and my esophagus was punctured. Long story short, both two separate pockets of dangerous infection and, later, a second esophageal tear developed which, together, required three additional surgeries and a total of twenty-one days in the hospital. After I was discharged, I came home with a feeding tube and 2 drain tubes from my neck to external collection bulbs. Five weeks after the original surgery, the tubes were removed and I was able to resume a strict liquid diet.
As a foodie, five weeks without food, plus additional weeks on a liquid diet have been tough. I joked in the hospital that I worried that I was like Bruce Willis’ character in the movie “The Sixth Sense” – that I was dead and didn’t know it. After all, a five week fast must be Foodie Hell. Joking aside, I’m grateful: grateful that despite the complications, I received medical care that helped me to recover and grateful for a wonderfully caring husband, family and friends who advocated for me, visited me daily, held my hand, prayed and pitched in to make sure all ran smoothly at home while I was away.
I’m no stranger to medical crisis. It’s scary to realize that this is the third time that I’ve been hospitalized when my doctors feared that I might not survive. I value the multitude of prayers more than I can say. This time, the effect was almost palpable. I was past the point of serious danger before I had a chance to reflect on it. But throughout the ordeal, my mind and heart were largely at peace – enough so that the doctors and nurses commented repeatedly that I was handling the situation better than almost anyone they had ever seen.
My first reaction was to puff with pride – wow, I must be a special person. Then the truth of what I was experiencing came to me, with a force and clarity that are hard to explain. The reason that I felt that peace is that hundreds of people were praying for me and God was with me, providing spiritual food that nourished my very soul.
I’m still a foodie and I’m so enjoying my new repertoire of creamy soups, purees and over cooked starches. But I’m also intrigued by my experience of grace, which has diminished as I’ve returned to a more normal life. While I don’t think we’re meant to “live on the mountaintop” all the time, I do think living in God’s peace, a fruit of the spirit, is a sign of a healthy spiritual life. Am I feeling less at peace because what I experienced was an extra portion of grace, for a time in need? Is it a sign that I have strayed from the true path and need to realign my life? Or is it a sign of spiritual immaturity? And what wonderful things to reflect upon in this Lenten season, which is here, whether I’m ready or not.