When my wife is twenty minutes late getting home I’ve imagined what my life would be like if the worst happened. This intellectual activity has been part of my routine since the eighties when my 5-1/2 month old nephew died in a freak accident. Nonetheless, up until my surgery some sixty-seven days ago I was immortal.
Perhaps it was the look on the faces of my children, who raced via airway and roadway to be with me that made me mortal. Perhaps, it was the seriousness of my wife’s tone and her diligence in caring for me that made me human. If you’ve been following my blogs, you know I thought the removal of my right colon was No Big Deal. So, that couldn’t be what did it.
Though I’ve told my children since they were tiny that I planned to live to be one-hundred twenty, I wonder now. It’s still my plan; I have a lot of living to do yet.
But I recognize that at fifty-five, I may not live another 65-years, plan or not.
Somehow, the suddenness of major surgery jolted me into mortality. I did not expect it. I went in for a colonoscopy, a routine screening procedure for cancer and other issues, because I am in my fifties. I perceived no problem but rather than heading to the local pizzeria that evening, I was talking about the possibility of cancer with my wife.
Even talking about the c-word with my son wasn’t enough in and of itself to jolt me into mortality but here I am. Mortal. Tim Graves is mortal!
Reflecting, I think I became mortal the Sunday following my surgery. It was the look on the face of my first-born — my baby girl! I always get a hug but somehow her hug was more. More something. More fearful?
On the other hand, looking back it may have been on the day before my colectomy. I drove to Portland to pick my son up from the airport and lost the car in the parking garage. I had no idea where I’d left it except that it was facing an outside wall.
Isaac, my son, said to me, “This is kind of an old man thing to do, Dad.” His words were a joke but his face revealed another emotion. He knew this was out-of-character for his detail-oriented father. It might have been in that moment when I became mortal in his eyes and my own.
Or…or it was the day I finally returned home from the hospital and finally read my wife’s blog in which she writes, “An instant can change everything. A routine screening can morph into urgent, major surgery. Uncertainty can overwhelm normalcy. The daily routine of work and home becomes the routine of vital signs, meal trays, and pain management. Roles can be frightfully altered” (It’s Three in the Morning).
I have come to realize that my superhero immortality belongs to the world of fiction. The concept of immortality separates us from one another and from the Divine. Immortality is about permanence and control. Endless life — the ultimate control of the uncontrollable — eliminates our need for the Divine in one another.
But we need one another. The One who I call God exists most fully in the spaces between us. The Divine spark exists within each of us but that loving spark burns brightest and fully in those times when we touch another.
I became mortal when others considered the possibility of life without me. When I experienced the emotions of others — through a hug, a joke-less jab, or in an altered relationship — I became what I’ve always been. I became a part of a bigger whole.
I became a part of the river of humanity and creation that flows ever onward. The drop of moisture that I am will eventually evaporate. When my essence one day transforms, I will remain within those I have known. My moisture will seed another tributary or be present in a joyful tear.
As I give up the charade of immortality and with it my make-believe control and pretend permanence, I travel a divine path. I have lost nothing. Instead I have gained a glimpse of the wholeness of creation. I have glimpsed a signpost encouraging me to exist in being who I am and striving to love more fully.
This is the fifth of multiple posts about my experiences of surgery and recovery following a colonoscopy.
God Hides God’s Face From Me! May 20, 2014
Unnatural May 21, 2014
Out of Chaos May 27, 2014
No Big Deal May 29, 2014
Mortality June 3, 2014
Wiped Memories June 6, 2014
Perseverance June 10, 2014
Scars June 19, 2014
Why do I write about this topic?
Following my surgery I had a myriad of feelings. A myriad of web searches to find the stories of others, perhaps to validate my own emotions, left me empty handed. And, so, I write these posts to process my very real feelings and in the hopes that someone else finds them useful following their surgery and recovery.