I’m going to take a break from the narrative of this story for a moment to give everyone a snapshot of my “entourage.” These people have walked beside me from the beginning and it’s important to the story that I give you a little character development here. We will begin with my Dad. I have tried my entire life to escape it but in so many ways we are exactly alike. We are both determined, type A, always right, and stubborn as hell. As you can imagine we get along swimmingly. My Dad and I also share the same tenacity for life. We do something all the way or we don’t do it at all. When my Dad chose to become a parent he committed his life to his children. To provide, to nurture, and most importantly to protect them. His love is fierce.
(As many poor unsuspecting Mayo Clinic doctors, PAs, nurses, and volunteers now know…Sorry guys, we are all demanding and scary when something we love is threatened right?)
His love is fierce and so is his faith. My dad is deeply rooted in his church and from day one he mobilized an army of fellow parish members, prayer groups, church leaders, anyone who had five minutes to pray for me, he made sure they were. While I do have a relationship with God, mine is a little more fluid and less concrete that my Dad’s. He is what I guess some people might call a bible beater. For him religion is a one stop shop. If it’s in the book it must be right. There is good and evil, right and wrong, black and white. Sometimes I envied him for his stalwart position on the human soul. He always seemed to know where he stood with God. I, on the other hand, have no idea. My views are constantly changing and evolving with my human experience. I don’t think the Bible is a magical book that fell out of the sky and I don’t think Peter will be waiting for me outside some pearly gates with a list like a bouncer when I kick the bucket. I’m not sure how I feel about miracles or faith healing or sacraments or saints. I’ve seen too much evil to believe that God has it all under control. I do believe that things happen for a reason and that there is a plan and a purpose to our existence but if we are made in God’s image you have to think about the fact that he/she is like us. We drop the ball from time to time. Show up late to appointments, are too busy to listen, let phone calls roll through to voicemail. Being omnipotent seems like a pretty full time job. What if God needs a personal day?
As I said earlier my Dad does not believe in these things. He believes in the power of prayer and its ability to heal. On the day of my first surgery he placed a blanket on my lap as I waited for the prep nurse to finish asking me the multitude of ridiculous questions about my state of mind. “How are you feeling? Anxious? Excited?” Why on earth would I be excited to have someone remove a tumor from inside my head? Anyway, the blanket was not just for warmth. Hidden in its folds was a piece of paper with a list of names written on it. A LOT of names. These names were of people who had taken the time to quiet their minds, take this fabric in their hands, and pray to God for my safety and health. As I ran my shaking fingers over the folds I remembered something that I had learned in a middle school science class (thanks Mrs. Davin!). Energy is never destroyed, it simply changes form.
If this were a movie, the blanket probably would have softly glowed with the transient energy of all those positive thoughts and prayers that had been transferred into its fibers as people had touched it and concentrated on me and a successful surgery. In reality it was still just a blanket but the idea of people I did not even know taking the time and energy to simply think of me made me feel more hopeful. And maybe that’s all any of us needs to survive. A little hope.
I wrapped that blanket around myself and continued to answer the nurse’s questions about whether I had slept well the night before a surgery where there was a risk of extensive bleeding. It may not have been an invisibility cloak that would allow me to slink out of that hospital and pass death unseen but that morning I shrouded myself in the prayers and positive thoughts of others.
I wrapped myself in hope. (Trust me, it covers more than the hospital gown)