Although I know something was wrong, the news came as a shock. I’ve always imagined myself blasting through the golden years with verve and energy – bounding up stairs at a single leap, running to the top of towering hills and thumping my chest in victory. No more.
Suddenly my goals are more prosaic. Mary Helen and I have always tried to walk a couple of miles a day – now she walks alone. I helped chart the Hope/Hamilton section of the Oak Ridges Trail – now they hike without me.
Suddenly my view of others is more sympathetic. I never could relate to those who were always scheduling doctor’s appointments. Didn’t they have anything better to do? Now my calendar is full of such appointments.
I would look askance at people popping pills. Now my first duty in the morning is to lay out my daily dose. Pills for blood pressure. Pills to slow the heart. Pills to cut cholesterol. Pills to lessen joint swelling. Pills, pills and more pills.
Now I have to chart my excursions and leave my calendar open. Will I have to walk far? Is there an elevator? Is there a washroom? Will there be a doctor’s appointment during the week of the 23rd?
And greetings! Am I being hypocritical or dishonest when someone asks me, ‘So how’s it going?’ and I reply, ‘Super’ or even ‘OK’? I’m tempted to reply, ‘Fair to terrible’ or ‘Miserable, thanks for asking’.
There is nothing like a little bit of painful reality to make one sympathetic to others in similar situations. The incarnation of Christ takes on a new meaning when I realise that Jesus voluntarily stepped into our dusty, hurting world so that he might sympathise with our pain and temptation.I did say to one person, ‘Medium’ and he replied, ‘I’ve never heard that before’. Of course we all know greetings are just a polite way of saying ‘Hello’. They are not meant to trigger a litany of ills.
We know he chose the humiliation, the pain and the shame of the cross. And he calls us to imbibe his concern for others by identifying with them in their problems and grief.I am dragged unwilling into sympathetic situations. He chose it. I wonder if he ever hit his finger with his carpenter’s hammer?
Listen and pray
I’ve been forcefully reminded that behind every smiling face may be a painful story that needs to be heard. That means I need to do more than say ‘hello’. I need to ask people about themselves – their families, their jobs, their hobbies, their problems, and yes, their sicknesses. And I need to learn to listen and pray.
OK, what was the bad news? It wasn’t the terrible ‘C’ word. After a month or two of shortness of breath and tightness in my chest a stress-test highlighted the verdict. Angina -clogging of arteries to the heart that will require either medication or an angioplast or both.
Not so very bad compared to the bad news many hear from their doctors – and yet it requires quite a change of lifestyle.