One day in the early morning, more than two years ago, I got up from bed — and promptly collapsed. I lay on the floor and could not get up again. Somebody else picked me up and took me to a trauma centre: Diagnosis? Dehydration. Not enough fluid, later there was even an excess of fluid.
By Fr Oskar Wermter sj
One ailment followed the other. I got to know many doctors, surgeons and nurses. My skull was punctured, my spine was drilled into, leaving holes. But I am alive. The operating theatre has seen some drama. But I got away.
Humans know that they are weak, susceptible to disease and epidemics; soon looked for specially gifted men or women to be their healers, physicians, and wise men and caring women to help them fight evil spirits. If you are sick while your heart is full of hatred, bad thoughts and grumbling, go first and be cleansed from all grudges, and, reconciled and at peace, go see a doctor and put yourself into the hands of medical people and take their medicines.
“N’anga haizvirape (A healer cannot heal themselves)”. That may not work. That is why we send priests and prayerful people and disciples of the Great Healer to the sick. They must be humble servants of the poor who know they are doing the Creator’s work and restore what only the Spirit can recreate and make well again using our brothers and sisters’ hands and hearts.
There are days when the sick person is dominated by spirits of the dark and cannot free himself. There are days when they are depressed and tottering under their burden, wanting to throw it all down.
So mere technicians are not enough. Someone who sees himself or herself near the final abyss, about to be taken to where the Creator is ready to receive them once and for all, can no longer walk this final distance all alone. She needs companionship, light and hope!
I am over 70. A Psalm in the Bible says: “70 is a person’s age or 80 for those who are strong”.
At that age, you can take nothing for granted. We even expect to make it to 90. But, in actual fact, you may be called from the big stage of human life at just about any moment. You look at a book, at some tree in full bloom, at children, at mountains, at the sea. I look at them with admiration and love of their beauty — do they belong to me, do they belong to this world? A cool breeze touches me. Who knows? Who can settle me in absolute security? This somewhat alienating experience, alienating and taking me away to where I have not yet been
Are they asking me to say goodbye? Who can still give comfort and consolation?
Then a nurse comes with a long needle to give me an injection. She is all efficiency and bustling about, she has no time for dark thoughts. She manages a smile as she leaves. The surgeon looks at where he cut into my back and removed what was causing me severe pains. He too manages to say goodbye, as he looks for other patients.
A sister from the convent is happy to see me stronger and relaxed. The sun is rising over the horizon, and my mind feels free and no longer threatened and tied down. In fact, Hope comes back, one day to be able to walk again. That will be the first battle I have to win. Already old friends whom I helped in the past in small ways are coming back, though I am a bit of an invalid myself. All I can do, actually, is listen and show compassion and sympathy. I am a strong man in comparison with a cancer patient. I suppose we have to share our burdens somehow. (See Gal 6: 2).That is the way of Christ, who had the planks of a Cross to bear.
“Lord make me walk again!” But there is no sudden miracle. This is a miracle I have to work for very hard. Even smiling doctors and charming nurses can give you a hard time. But I am enormously thankful to them. I do not understand all they tell me. Trust is needed, and confidence in view of an invisible future.
The miracle is that neither the doctor, nor his collaborators, nor I myself, their patient, are giving up.
I can walk, crawling along, supported by a walking aid, or, eventually by a regular walking stick. The pain is gone. That alone is a great step forward. That is vital for your morale if you can list small successes and a little progress in your daily struggle.
There is much that a family, friends, colleagues can do, for example, by helping with little morale boosters.
We have no answer to the medical problem, to disease, pain, and maybe a failing memory, even dementia.
But we can put our loved ones into the hands of the Creator and Great Healer. We can, with the help of the believing and praying community, put ourselves into His hands.
I once, when I was still able to see my friends in hospital wards, watched the nurses whispering among themselves. Then one of them asked, “Father, you prayed for our patients, But what about us, are we not worthy to have your prayers?”
I may forget, but my healing Lord and God never forgets.
Father Oskar Wermter is a social commentator. He writes in his persocnal capacity.