A little over a month ago I found out that a lump in my breast, although it was thought to be benign, had grown significantly and needed to be removed. We were planning to move the next week so I scheduled the surgery for after the move. The day before the surgery Tom and I drove to Houston and stayed at a hotel close to the hospital. That night I had to shower with a surgical scrub and was instructed not to use any lotion after. And I had to shower again with the same surgical scrub the next morning. I didn’t like it. I have really dry skin and by the time we left the hotel the next morning at 6:15, without the protection of lotion or makeup I was beginning to feel very old and wrinkly. And itchy.
When we arrived at the hospital we were promptly, and politely, ushered back to a hospital room and I was given a lavender paper gown and bright green socks with grippers on the bottom to put on after I took “everything off”. I had held on to a strong resolve to take this whole surgery thing in stride. This was nothing in comparison to what some people I know and love are going through. But, that resolve was abruptly shaken when I felt that paper gown in my hands. Bluntly I thought to myself, “Oh sh**, this is real!” I was getting ready to have surgery!
A way too cheerful chaplain came by. I didn’t like him. I like being the one to offer pastoral care. Not the one receiving it. This whole surgery thing was beginning to mess with my mind and heart. I had a growing desire to bolt.
In spite of my growing unease I obediently changed into the gown that was clearly one size fits, or rather doesn’t fit, all. There were poufs of paper puffing out all around that were hard to control. Tom did his best to tie me into the thing but about the best I could do was jump in the bed under the thin white blanket and allow the poufs to overtake me. What I would later learn, to my surprise and kind of delight was that this gown was equipped with a connection and tunnel and would later be hooked up to a warming hose. Such modern technology!
The nurses and technicians were so very nice and did their very best to make me feel at ease and comfortable. Which strangely made me feel more anxious. The guy who put the iv in did so in one stick and for that I was extremely grateful. When I saw the IV bag hanging overhead and the needle sticking out of my hand I felt the harsh reality…I was now a patient. I lay there under the stark overhead light, bare faced and pale, an old lady waiting for surgery. I looked at Tom and said in my sweetest voice I could muster, “I like it better when you are the patient.” What kind of loving spouse says a thing like that! My baser instincts were surfacing.
After a while a nice woman came in to wheel me and my bed down to the holding area. She only bumped into something once as she safely navigated us through the crowded hall. People were coming and going, passing me by. Some looked down at me, the pale paper clad figure being rolled by. I tried to smile like I was comfortable with the whole thing. I wasn’t. Then the strangest thing happened. This woman began to sing. And she had a beautiful voice. She sang that old song that Doris Day sang (in an Alfred Hitchcock film)… “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que sera sera” Wow. She sang as a prophet and it struck me as truth. I had absolutely no control over what was getting ready to happen. I was completely vulnerable. I resist vulnerability with everything I have. I will do just about anything not to ask for help. My friends and family find me very stubborn about this. I don’t try to control what other people do (I hope!) but I am fiercely determined to be able to be in control of my own situation and to do for myself. And here I was completely and totally NOT in control. How funny she would pick that song to sing. I determined to cling to it as a message, and gift, from God and I felt a peace that went beyond my understanding. I realized in that moment I was being held in Love, and I trusted this Love to be in control of all things and all time. It was a clear reminder I only live in my illusion of being in control
In the holding area I would have one more jolt of “aha” when a class of medical students walked through. They all looked straight ahead as they made their way through, careful not to look at any of the poor specimens waiting to be cut. Except for one young man. He couldn’t help himself. He just had to take a peek. The awkwardness between us was palpable as we greeted one another. And so was the humanity. At the heart of it we humans are all the same. Curious. Vulnerable. Scared at times. Relieved at times. He was relieved he wasn’t me. But we were connected, in spite of our intention to remain separated from one another. Yes, it is our vulnerability that actually unites us. And the fear of it often divides us.
The anesthesiologist was my friend of the day. She gave me whatever it is they give people to infuse them with euphoria right before they put them out. Ah! Finally. I had been asking for that since 6:30 AM. The next thing I knew I was awake and it was over. And I felt good! There was a poor guy across the way who was sicker than a dog. I felt bad for him. I think I kept saying so. Not sure what other “insightful” things I might have also said.
I’m back at home now. In full control. Ha! Glad to have it behind me but still considering what I have gained from the experience. I’m hoping it will make me a better support or encouragement to others when given the opportunity. I’m hoping I won’t forget that being vulnerable is not a sin, but rather a calling to faith. I’m hoping I won’t forget that it is in our vulnerability we are most likely to experience the love of God.
In the Gospel of John there is much talk about love, how we will be known to the world by our love. Jesus showed his love by being vulnerable. He allowed his fate to be determined by the hands of those who would harm him, kill him. Because he knew this vulnerability was ultimately held in the hands of Love. And in that Love, well, there is only more love. This is the source of life. This is a Love that makes Que Sera Sera a song of good news. Whatever will be will be….and all will be well.
Something to chew on…