A Blessing and a Curse

That's the text.

The occasion? Last week I was kicked out of Valley Hospice. It wasn't for moral turpitude or anything like that. I doubt if I will be brought before any presbytery committee or take up the PJC's precious time. It simply was the halfway point in their six-month program and I was too healthy. I don't really need the kind of crisis care in which they specialize. So why not save the last three months for the days I need them.

Well, why not? Of course it fouls up my long-term goal of having Medicare complain to me some June morning that I had overstayed my hospice welcome. Sounds like the folks have worked out a compromise ó there’s no expense for either program when I stop out. But it does tend to confirm the possibilities of my major goal ó to live to my April 6 birthday when I will turn three-score years and 10.

So behold what a blessing! I am kinda healthy. I’m up at 6:30 a.m. and do fairly normal stuff all morning ó read, write, feed the swans. I walk half a mile around the block pushing my wheel chair (in case I need a rest, but I don’t). I drive, do a bit of shopping and take in every movie I can. (My top three: “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” “Finding Forrester” and “Chocolat”) After a nap I putter around in the afternoon, my energy drains by supper time and I am in bed by 8:30 p.m. Not a glamorous life, but I am much healthier than I was three months ago.

But there’s a curse involved as well. My left arm is numb thanks to the tumor wrecking a nerve, so golf is out. My voice has become a whisper, not handy for a preacher. So here I am: too healthy for hospice; too sick for golf or preaching.

At the cancer support group the other day a new woman spoke of how she was given a terminal diagnosis. So she built her life around a quick death and making her peace with God, her family and friends. But now the cancer has disappeared. She has stage-four cancer as do I and there are probably cancer cells floating around her blood stream looking for a landing zone. But for now, she is clean. And she doesn’t know how to act.

What do you talk about when you can’t explain your ailments? And how do family and friends deal with a person who doesn’t need their special care? She has trouble sleeping at night because she keeps thinking this good health is not going to last. Every little ache and pain brings the fear that the cancer has found a new site.

I find similar moods within my own soul. I have what must be a common cold but it worries the daylights out of me. And I am conscious of various aches and pains that could develop into trouble. That’s the problem with us sickies. We hesitate in celebrating good news. And real trouble, including great joy!

But last week our New York son, Andrew, and Bonnie were here with 4-year-old Lane. And Brother Jim and Marcy took a break from New Jersey weather. And one night the whole gang of us, Marks family and all of us looked at all the old slides of their childhood and we laughed for hours. And since this month is Major League Baseball’s cactus league, the Kings and Stokes are visiting and the Gillespies are down at Cook College and will join us for dinner this week. And the mama swan has started nesting right across the lake from us. And . . . .

“Behold I set before you a blessing and a curse.” Not an unfamiliar text in Scripture or living. And my task is as it’s always been — choose life!