Thursday, 12 March 2009

Appendix to Appendectomy

It is now almost a year since I was rushed into hospital to have my appendix removed. So this may be an appropriate moment to reflect on the experience.
Ruth Gouldbourne's excellent lecture on 'embodiment' yesterday has provided me with a framework for this consideration.
My (brief) stay in hospital was an event which touched both ends of my life.
As I waited in the ante-room to theatre, in pain and (so I'm told) dying, I found myself revisiting baby-hood: I was utterly, life-dependently, in the hands of others. It occurred to me as they prepared me for the anaesthetic that this could be 'it': I might not wake up. And what I discovered was that I wasn't so much afraid of death, as I was of the total loss of control, the loss of self-sufficiently. I am, after all, theoretically inches from death every time I ride my motorbike, but the difference there is that I can do something about it, it is my skill, my judgement, which makes the difference. In theatre, however, I was totally reliant on the care of strangers, my independence removed, my dignity compromised (have you seen those back-less nighties they make you wear???) and my intellect redundant. I had a momentary glimpse of myself as an old man...
In that moment, I turned to the un-named nurse (angel?) by my side and simply said, 'I'm afraid.' She in turn simply reached out and held my hand, and assured me that all would be well. A messenger from God, delivering the words of Mother Julian, touching me in my moment of weakness. In that touch I experienced the hand of Christ taking mine, and identifying with me in my physical frailty. It was, you might say, a sacramental encounter.

No comments: