An ocean runs through me
I feel its current in the undertow
It pulls me to my core.
It laps about my soul.
My soul is an island a long way from the shore.
It’s high tide and I’m covered by the waves of grief.
There is no sand to walk on.
I’m in so deep, as the water continues to rise, threatening to swallow all that is left.
There are days, sometimes just moments, when I can’t take it.
Then when I think I’m going under for the last time
The water retreats again.
I am safe.
Just the evidence of its visit remains.
It leaves its calling card.
Wiggly lines of broken shells, broken glass, the things the sea rejected
Amongst the driftwood, amongst the bluebottles, amongst the sea weed
I find myself looking far off into the distance, remembering my life.
I’m stuck in a chapter of the book I’ve just read. I keep going back to its pages to read it again and again. I’m trying to make sense of the process of thinking. I’m trying to make sense of my brain. I tell myself to let go of it. Enjoy life. Laugh.
I close the book. I leave it on the bottom of the pile beside my bed, the pile that I am working my way through. I read poetry instead and children’s literature.
I make a decision to leave my questions about my brain alone. I am good at decision-making. I am good at following things through. I am always assessing and re-assessing. Indicators and outcomes, remediation and differentiation, it is what teachers do. Try as I might I cannot separate myself from this role that I play, this job that I do. I am a teacher and I apply the same methods to the way I live my life. I register what I have done, I sign my name by the date and I carry forward what there was no time for. I get things done.
When I sit with the children I enjoy the connection, I listen, I lean in. I am interested in every word they say. Children are tremendously interesting and funny. I enjoy their perspective. It is light and fresh but deeply insightful. Its like they have just been with God and they understand Him.
One child told me she heard God’s voice for the first time last night.
‘Was it quiet,’ I asked her, ‘like softly in your heart?’
‘No,’ she says, ‘it was so loud it made me jump and pull the blankets over my head.’
‘So, was it scary?’
‘Just a bit, at first because I didn’t know it was God.’
‘Then how did you know?’
‘Because then it spoke again and I looked on the floor where the pile of my clothes looked like monsters before and suddenly they just looked like clothes.’
‘Then what did you do?’ I asked
‘Went to sleep of course.’ she laughed back at me, like my question was ridiculous.
I have so many questions I want to ask God. I wish I’d been in her bedroom so that I could ask my questions while she slept.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7,8
I know He talks to me too but perhaps I have too many questions? I ask Him about this and I feel His playful nudge on my arm. He is taunting me, playing with me but I sense that I should keep asking and I do.
‘Watch,’ He says as he sits on the couch perpendicular to the one I’m on. He leans back, lifting both His hands above Him, cupping them together then easing them down to rest behind His head. I see Him lift one leg so that the side of His ankle rests above the knee of His other leg and He watches something on the wall opposite me. Something I can’t see.
‘What?’ I ask.
‘Just keep watching!’
There are so many things I have no idea about. Sam keeps complaining of symptoms and I don’t know what they mean. I am diligent. I take her for appointments. I ask the doctors questions. Sometimes I have to remind them of our case, get them to go over her notes, tell them what they said last time, remind them what drugs she is on. Sometimes I feel like my brain does not have the capacity to contain all this information and when it fails me I check with Sam. ‘Am I right?’ I ask her and she remembers a little detail I have left out.
In most weeks we see more than just one type of doctor. We see the GP, the ear specialist, the endocrinologist, the Haemotology specialist, the Haemotology registrar and lately the physiotherapist as well. They are the experts. I am just a mum who teaches kindergarten but my capacity is being enlarged. This last week Sam had symptoms that concerned me. Very sore eyes and a very sore mouth, this on top of all the other things she was already dealing with.
When she told the registrar about these things he tells us we need to take Sam’s prednisone back up to 25MG because she seems to have chronic GVHD. So I sit there and my heart plunges back into the undertow of the ocean. His words make me silent until I look in her eyes. They glaze over with tears and her lips begin to quiver. They quiver like they used to when she was a baby, only in public she manages to not allow her bottom lip drop nor does she become overwhelmed with crying. Her look says ‘rescue me’ all the same. As the doctor leaves for a device to swab her tongue we discuss this together and when he returns I ask about the risks if we don’t do what he says. I suggest that maybe he is wrong and its not GVHD and perhaps its something else, something minor.
I feel like a mad woman gambling with my daughter’s health. Half of me thinks I should do what he says, the other half doesn’t think he’s right. Either way it’s a risk and GVHD out of control is not a chance we want to take. The doctor then informs me that he will prescribe dexamethozone. I can crush the tablets, dissolve them in water and she can use it as a mouthwash, that if symptoms change by the slightest degree I must call him. I must increase the prednisone from 3MG to 25MG.
The whole next day I feel like jelly in my legs. I miss a call from the hospital as I drive to school, I cannot get onto the doctor, even as the bell rings for the children to come into class I am holding the line praying he will answer his pager. I wait until recess, I call again, I am wondering what they have discovered in the blood tests, my heart pounds and finally he comes to the phone. Her liver is good, the bloods are good but the GVHD of the mouth and eyes will be symptomatic not evidenced in the blood tests. So I call home. ‘Just a little bit sore still,’ Sam tells me. I don’t know what to do. I look up, I remember God on the couch. I know He is watching, I am not completely sure but I think He is watching my daughter and I. I think it will be okay.
On Friday morning for news one of my children brings the upper part of a plastic human skeleton, head, neck and ribs. He tells us he is collecting all the parts but the best bit of all is the brain. He lifts off the outer layer of the skull and instructs all the children to sit in a circle so they can pass around the brain. The brain can be separated so you can look at the parts; they pass them around from one child to the next. There is laughter that the children can’t hear. It’s God’s laughter.
‘You are on the right path,’ He tells me. ‘Go back to your book. Keep asking me questions.’ I look around but He’s not there. Today it’s just His voice and I don’t behold His form. Its all the assurance I need though.
But Christ (the Messiah) was faithful over His [own Father’s] house as a Son [and Master of it]. And it is we who are [now members] of this house, if we hold fast and firm to the end our joyful and exultant confidence and sense of triumph in our hope [in Christ]. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. Hebrews 3:6-8
The book I’ve been reading is ‘Into the Silent Land, Travels in Neuropsychology’ by Paul Broks. A friend recommended it, a friend who is smart. The chapter that I keep returning to is called A-Z and it talks about a trainee neurosurgeon. It says that in his brain he ‘lacked the necessary third dimension. He wasn’t able to inhabit the metropolis of the brain in the way a neurosurgeon must. Neuropsychology requires four dimensions. At least.’
And this is my question, isn’t the fourth dimension the realm where God is? And that being the case, don’t I have the best connections around for knowing all things?
So I ask and go on asking. When I feel God’s peace, when the things on the floor no longer look like monsters, I rest in Him. That’s all I need to do.