When someone in authority calls you on the telephone and you hear the words “please come as soon as possible”, what are your thoughts?
We live 120 miles from the person who was ill. Fortunately we had the bags packed but, as we collected the last things together and locked the front door and moved downstairs, I went into a trance. Can I permit the emotions which are straining to run high affect my ability to rationally consider and plan the journey. The thoughts of what might be ahead of us whirled in my head as I tried to grasp meaning and logically move forward. How can I tell what is rational at the moment?
We got everything packed into the car and set off, glad that it wasn’t rush hour – for in Birmingham this can spread over many hours. The now obligatory satnav has been setup and guides us nearly faultlessly through the outskirts of the city: her quiet voice breaking the ‘silence’ amidst the road noise. Our prayers silent, for it is difficult to speak of the possibilities, are said. Onwards along the motorway and the junctions speed by with momentary reflections on the busyness of the opposing carriageway. Am I permitted not to think of the situation which lies ahead? My mind races to what may need to be done if my thoughts are correct.
We have done this journey several times now, we know the ‘pinchpoints’ and the ‘sights’ on the way: the Ricoh stadium in Coventry, the windfarm by the M69, the Leicester Forest East service station we seem to frequent so often and the rather smelly factory near Newark on the A46. BBC radio news bulletins come and go, their content fleetingly probing my awareness as I soon return to what we are to expect. We ring ahead to confirm the news that the ambulance has delivered him to the hospital.
The journey seems to take ages: I’m sure the Police wouldn’t appreciate the reasoning if I broke the speed limit although a number of cars are ‘cruising at excessive speed’ – well, faster than my speedometer would say is the speed limit. The outskirts of Lincoln approach and we meet the school run home but we are soon through that and navigate to the hospital. The A&E staff are first rate: cool, calm and direct. No dawdling around in the waiting room, one mention of his name and we are through. There in one of the bays lies the man, now thankfully responsive, now alert, alive.
The relief is over powering. I am so glad to say that he is now safe and improving but it has also left me with that sense of ‘preparing for that day’. Can we ever?
Is it possible to prepare yourself for the day when you hear those fateful words “Can you come as soon as possible please?” Trying to separate the raw emotions from the procedural implications, it can be easier to focus upon those mundane matters of whom to tell, what to do next, but I’m left with grief: how do you prepare for it? What was the last thing I said to him on the phone? Was he comfortable where he was living? Could I have done anything to improve that? Guilt arises but this may be quashed as rationality comes to the rescue and we recall the standard, the quality, of life he has had so far. Our emotions can bring some form of resolution to pain, to trauma; although I feel that we may need to test any conclusions drawn by equating them with rational thought : for example, is the voice inside my head telling me what actually happened?
I know that the grief (when another family member died) previously hit me like a tidal wave, agreed slightly belatedly. The power was immense and it took time to reflect on the magnitude of the loss and how to help and support others, as well as myself. It’s strange that I struggle with ‘this day ahead’ but have no concerns over our future; thankful for the relationship we have now with God. I am so glad that I attended his baptism a decade or so ago and his keenness for the local Curate to call and minister the Eucharist.
I note that it was Julian of Norwich, and not as I had presumed John Wesley, who said:
“all will be well, all manner of things shall be well”
Rachel Hosmer, Gender and God, (New York : Cowley, 1986), p. 112.
It is in such times that our faith is severely tested, but also at such a time when our faith can be strengthened. Perhaps it is in supporting our loved ones that we can rid ourselves of potential guilt, safe in the knowledge, through faith, that this life continues in that deep loving relationship with our God.
We are shattered with this emotional roller coaster, but thankful to God for this individuals continued health. We can rely on God to help us on that day ahead.