One day, Amanda woke up without pain. She didn’t quite trust the feeling, strange as it was. But then it came back the next day, and stayed the next. And she realized that, maybe, this is what wellness feels like. This is what it feels like when your body is your friend.
She took a risk, and the outcome is good. I could not be happier for her.
Wherever you go, there you are, and by “you” I mean your body. When the body hurts, you can’t just unzip it and come back to it later. You can’t just download yourself onto a hard drive and abandon your skin-and-bones bag. (Not yet, anyway.) Your body is you. At times, pain is the price we pay for living in bodies, without ever having asked for the privilege. While tending to my sister, I gained a great deal of compassion for people who feel betrayed by their bodies in one way or another.
Recently, I decided to read through the gospels. I noticed that Jesus taught many lessons and healed many people, but the emotion that often compelled him, according to the four writers, was compassion. Repeatedly, he was moved with compassion for the people who followed him, clamoring for attention, trapped in broken bodies.
By the time my sister went through with surgery, she’d been the beneficiary of many prayers, mine included. But, in all of those prayers, I never asked God to take her pain and give it to me instead. I wouldn’t have asked for diseased joints – gotta draw the line somewhere – but I could have asked to bear part of the burden of pain. I didn’t have the courage for it. Maybe I didn’t have enough compassion. These are the thoughts one thinks while lying on an air mattress waiting for the sun to come up.
In a broken world, we each will need healing many times, until that day of ultimate healing when our wholeness is finally sealed:
“God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
But for now, when we take care of someone, when we offer some tiny morsel of relief, we add one more patch to the repair of the world, tikkun olam.
I wrote earlier that our care-giving gig was easy because we were reasonably certain Amanda would recover and come out stronger on the other side. Far too many caregivers don’t have the luxury of such assurance. And so I end this series with a prayer for the caregiver:
God, source of all that is good, give comfort and strength to the caregivers of the world.
The mom of a newborn, deprived of sleep and wondering what she’s gotten herself into.
The daughter at the deathbed, all too aware of how this will end, but still offering her hand to steady the dying man on his way.
The dad of a child with needs so special they’re hard to explain, overwhelmed with contingencies and emergencies, with no rest or reprieve in sight.
The woman or man struggling to keep head above water, pulled under by a spouse drowning in despair.
The ones who tend those whose bodies have betrayed them.
The nurses, doctors, and helpers doing their best to repair the world one bandage at a time. Thank you for the revelation of medical science; how lucky we are to be alive right now.
And help us, God, to remember the best bandage is love. Amen.