Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Setback or Setup?

Time to Think
These days of silence since I last blogged have not been easy.  There was a period, following my prolonged 'nil-by-mouth' exercise, when I thought that a new day might be dawning in my long battle with serious ill-health. Encouragement came from folk who know me well pointing out that I was looking better, and the good old diary told me that it had been nearly four months since I had been admitted to hospital.  Four months?  Yes, that's a record that beats any period for several years now.  Sadly, during this time of hope, my dear Sister-in-law Janet Hulbert passed away, and her tragic passing was all the more painful because our parents are gone now, and Andy, her partner, is all of nine years younger than me.  I felt for him and did not want him to go through the funeral service alone.  In fact, he even asked me to officiate at the service near Manchester in the north of England.

Then, bang!  Three nights before the planned flight, at 2am, I was curled up in the foetal position choking with agony and in desperate need of medical help.  We hung in there at home for 12 hours, but then I was admitted as an emergency through the A & E department of our local hospital, with the raging pain and fever of acute pancreatitis. The staff could not have been kinder to me. 'We have not seen you for quite a while now, have we?'  'Four months - wow, well done!'  Meanwhile Diane was cancelling flight tickets and letting Andy know of our changed circumstances.  He was great - so understanding and kind in the midst of his own deep suffering.  There was no choice.  Only rest and acceptance could give me peace in my troubled situation.

Once the immediate scream of pancreatic pain settles, there is always the fear of not knowing which way this attack will go.  Will the serum Amylase in the blood just keep on rising to life-threatening levels, or will it give way and start going down.  Thankfully, within a few days, the crisis passed, and I had time to reflect.  What did I think?  Well, I thought about the fact that if I had been there and taken that funeral service, Andy would not have the ongoing pastoral support of a local person who did take it, and the Fellowship he represents which is nearby to where Andy and Janet's home is. Also, I found myself in a bed next to some very special people, whose needs were great and whose company was meant to be.  And Matthew, our son, now nearly 30, was able to travel and be there in my place, cementing his place into the life of the wider family.

And I got yet another reminder that my life is not my own.  We plan and prepare, but God decides whether we will even be there.  Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:13-15) Food for thought eh?