Thursday, June 17, 2004

Trish #14

People keep asking me if Trish has "woken up yet." I can only reply that she is awakening -- slowly and steadily.

This morning a nurse asked her if she knew me.

She shook her head "yes."

Then "who is he?" the nurse asked.

Trish looked puzzled for a moment. Then she pointed her finger at her heart.

Her heart knew more than her mind. (That is often the case. We should trust our hearts to speak for us more often!)

Details still escape Trish. Complicated questions seem to bewilder her . She is still not fully conscious for very long at a time.

I compare the process of her recovery to the times when the telephone has awaken me out of a deep sleep. Something in me hears the phone ring. My instinctual self walks (or runs) in a panic to the phone. Some part of me picks it up. That same part of me stammers out something like, "YES! HELLO!" If the person on the other end of the line asks me my name or some other simple thing, that diminished part of me takes a few seconds, trying to figure out what is being asked. Some kind of conversation takes place in a fog but it is not very informative or connected. In fact, there have been a few times like that I did not even remember later.

A similar process is at work in Trish's recovery. In her case, it will taking weeks or perhaps even months for her to become fully conscious. Thank God she did not suffer serious neurological damage, not enough anyway to keep her the way she is permanently. For the moment, however, she is stunned and "sleepy" from her close encounter with death. Her brain was traumatized and is taking its time to heal and to wake up.

I find myself experiencing a diminished sense of conscious awareness since Trish's aneurysm. During these days I have at times felt like as though I were looking at the rest of the world through water. I try to read and can't. I try to think of the church and its needs but I can't focus. I tell myself that it is foolish to stay at the hospital when Trish is asleep most of the time but I can't leave. Every morning I say that I will not stay down there all day but every day I break that promise. I am helpless to do anything constructive for her but I can't seem to do anything else anyway. So I just sit at her side or in the waiting room. Then, the next day, I do it again.

Today though, when I learned that the doctors were going to do another angiogram and knew it would be three hours before I could find out anything about it, my anxiety level got too high to just sit and wait. I called up some friends and we went to see the Stepford Wives. I liked it. The movie is about a group of husbands who arrange to have their wives operated on so the women will be totally submissive and pliant.The women always smile, say cute things, look sexy and don't cause any trouble. The men and women in Stepford think they are living the good life. Actually, they are just sleepwalking; never thinking, never reading, never questioning, never really engaging with life. They are just numbed by their wealth, good looks comfort and a total absence of conflict.

This state of being half-awake is what most of us experience spiritually most of the time. That's why the Bible speaks of the need for us to learn how to be "sober minded" watchful, and "mindful." The bible writers tell us that we were once "dead in trespasses and sin." They admonish us that it is high time that we "awake from our sleep." When I think about the spiritual numbness that seems to be our natural inclination, I wonder if I will spend my whole life sleepwalking. Have I really been wakening up, learning to live, learning to love, learning to be aware? I know that I have always wanted to do big things, important things. Today I just want to be alive. I want to enjoy life with Trish, my family and my friends. I want to serve God and his people wherever I can be of service, whether in a big and important setting or in obscurity. I want to be awake, even if waking up requires pain and conflict.

After all, what good is life if we live it asleep? Or marriage, for that matter.

For years Trish and I had no conflict. We never argued. We never fussed. We thought our relationship was that way because it was an example of a fine Christian marriage. But really our marriage was asleep. It was in a coma. When our marriage first began to wake up, we were afraid. The awareness first made its appearance as conflict and disagreement. Since we were not used to disagreement, were used to being numb, the life and awareness felt scary. But after a while, our conflict turned into discussion and partnership. We threw out the "Stepford marriage model" and opted for a real human partnership.

That's why today I could not hold back the tears when Trish made that little gesture with her finger. As she pointed to her heart to answer the question, "who is this man?" I translated her gesture to mean, "he's the man I have allowed in here, in the deep part of my heart."

What love letter, what romantic gesture, could speak in such a moving way as this?

Does God feel this way when we first begin to wake up? When we begin to stumble our way toward prayer and devotion does he give us such focused attention as I did to Trish today? Is He as moved as I was today when we, sleepy in our spiritual twighlight began to gesture and stagger our way toward Him? If marriage is anything like the relationship between Christ and His church (as we say that it is in the marriage ceremony,) then today I experienced something like what God must experience when we remember him, when we struggle to stay awake, when we watch and pray, when our sleepy soul begins to turn Godward.

Yesterday's MRI did not reveal any damage in Trish's brain stem and today's angiogram revealed nothing worthy of major concern. There is every reason to believe that her ability to swallow should soon return Also, she has been using her left side more and more. So the doctors decided to wait until tomorrow to remove her ventilator. They are hopeful that she will be ready to live without it and without the need to do a tracheotomy. Everyday the doctors and nurses seem to be unplugging a different apparatus from her body. It appears that Trish is being prepared to leave ICU in a couple or three days, if all goes well.

Meanwhile, Trish keeps waking up -- like the rest of us who struggle against our own stupor of anxiety, fear, lust, self centeredness, inordinate love of money and power -- all the effects that have happened to us as a result of the great trauma endured by our souls. Like Trish's brain trauma, we shake ourselves to get free of the things that isolate, confuse and numb our present existence and which keep us from waking up. We want to know and to be known by our beloved; just as I long to know and be fully known by mine.

No comments: