Where Does It Hurt?

Aug 19, 2016

Brooklynn and Olive, ready to operate

“Where does it hurt?”

My hip, I told the doctor, placing my hand on my right leg.

She paused, then said, “Let me look in your mouth.”

I smiled at the paper towel taped over my doctor’s nose and mouth and the roll of tape tied to the top of her head. Health care really has plummeted, I mused. The doctor is my six-year-old granddaughter, Olive.

The hip really is sore, as it should be. My husband drove me down to North Carolina ten days after hip surgery and left me here for a month to recover. Perhaps he knows what I intuitively reached for: the healing power of grandchildren.

Even in 96-degree heat, I could feel the healing begin when one-week-old Leo was laid in my arms, still unfurling from the womb, pure and sweet as heaven’s breath. I don’t think I realized how tired and frayed I had become until I leaned my head out of the car window and inhaled the lovely crape myrtle blossoms as the cicadas sang. It was soothing, like a cool washcloth on a fevered forehead. Then a newborn, pure as the Carolina rain, life unwrapped and a child of my child! My heart kicks and sputters and begins to beat again. I find a path, a bit overgrown, and turn towards home, my eternal home.

Kairos: a Greek word meaning the right time, the opportune moment. The implication is a window opened by God Himself, saying “This way.”

Sometimes it takes a six year old to show me. Or my two year old grandson running through a sprinkler as he looks back at me.

“C’mon, Ama, c’mon,” he says. And I stretch to my feet and pretend to run after him, carefully skirting the falling drops. Eli knows and stops, pointing to the sprinkler, to the spray of water. His brow dips as he repeats, for clarity,

Eli with new bro, Leo

“C’mom Ama!”

Okay. I run through the sprinkler, letting the water fall on my clothes, my hair and face. I don’t feel six, but I remember it now, screaming through the frigid arc of the garden hose, the sweat mixing with the water, the grass slick and cool under my feet. I remember joy. Kairos.

I have been forgetting things. Where I put my glasses and shoes. Whether I took Tylenol or not. Did I turn the coffee off? My keys, phone, my joy, my Jesus. Life somehow became something to do, not live. I lost gratitude, I lost balance.

Last week my son and his wife took me out to the Smokie Mountains for my first time ever. We arrived late in the day, but not too late to get in some tubing on a local river. Charcoal clouds hovered over the green mountaintops suggesting a storm, but we went anyway.

I think I found my favorite “sport” ever. Okay, floating on an inner tube down a mostly lazy river with a few riffles and rocks doesn’t sound like an Olympic feat. But you do have to walk a lot to get there and if you’re stupid like me and jump off the tube to push away from a rock, realizing quickly that the current is stronger than you are and maneuvering back onto a tube is about as graceful as a hippo on a balance beam – well, it’s a real work out.

But I learned something. If you lean back in the tube, looking up at the treetops and the sky, and tuck your legs up into the tube, you drift like a fallen leaf, easily navigating the current as you bounce and twirl beneath the drifting clouds, light dabbling your face, the water. Lovely. I learned this from watching Olive, who weighs just a touch more than a leaf.

After my doctors, Brooklynn and Olive, fixed my leg, they woke me up from surgery (I think I fell asleep) and informed me I needed a heart operation now. Brooklynn now wore the scrubs and Olive had changed into a dress with large pink and gold dangling earrings, and held a notebook and pen. She told me she was the doctor’s assistant.

“Your heart thing is too slow,” Brooklynn said.

“How bad is it?”

Olive gave me a thumbs down and I smiled, picturing the stern cardiac surgeons I know using this gesture instead of stumbling over their improvisation of the same thing. “But we can fix it,” I was assured.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 KJV

 “C’mon, Ama!” I hear the sweet voice of a two-year-old. He does not see me as too old, too tired or too busy. C’mom! And get all the way in too. There you will find rest, you will find healing – you will find you were made for that place.

Every morning I work, I sit in the parking lot with a cup of tea and pray. In the winter it’s dark, with the sun hinting of a new day to the east, splashing the sky on the horizon with strokes of fire. In the summer, I can watch the cranberry bog before me come alive as the morning stirs God’s creation. And I try to remember to pray this:

“Thank you for this day. I rejoice in you Lord!” I think God likes to hear this from us, before we are swept into the undertow of measured time and happenstance. But lately it has become rote and Hail Mary-ish. As soon as rejoice leaves my lips, my mind reaches for joy, something I used to know, a free and glorious gift, defiant of circumstance. Yet as the day unfolds, it eludes me, and I am disturbed by my aloneness. It had become my strength, my way. The spontaneous joy found only within the mystery of the Kairos moment was missing. No wonder I was looking forward to surgery.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

 I am learning, again, the need to put my time, every moment, in the capable hands of a sovereign God. And to pull my legs up and float, face to the sky, eternity in my heart, carrying the sound of the river coursing over rocks with me through each day into the night.

 Thanks, Brooklyn and Olive, for the heart surgery; Eli, for not letting me pretend and Leo, for reminding me that life is precious, it is now and forever; it is the way everlasting.