Photograph courtesy of Tracey Berry. More images like these can be found on Instagram @traceaberry
As we boarded the train, we started our list. It’s a habit now after all these years of treatments.
It’s so great that the train arrived just as we got to the platform.
It’s great that the shop girl had my staff code and gave me a discount.
I can’t believe the book that I wanted was on sale.
Even cheaper with my discount…And so it continues as the train rattles down the line. In time we run out of things to be grateful for. She rubs her arm, unwinds and rewinds the bandage. I watch the silent contemplation in her eyes. “You okay?” I ask. “Yep, just the fluorescent lights and the bandage is tight. I’ll be okay,” she smiles.
The girl at the store had asked if we were having a mother and daughter day, shopping in the city. We both agreed in unison that it was exactly that. How do you explain that in fact you are just filling in time waiting for an appointment at the blood bank. That when the hour is right she will donate her blood but not like everyone else in the waiting room. Not like the others who have a healthy blood count and veins that are easy to get a needle in. Nothing like that. Her blood isn’t good enough for anyone else to make use of. No, her blood is donated so that a scientist in Melbourne can take the plasma and make tiny vials of droplets. When its not too hot, or a freezer is nearby, she can take these frozen drops and squeeze them in her eyes. It’s not a complete solution but because her eyes no longer produce tears, it’s all there is. She doesn’t complain.
She doesn’t complain when the secretary at the Red Cross counter has to make a call because she doesn’t understand the forms. She doesn’t complain when the trainee nurse pokes and prods but cannot find vein nor when she asks how her arms came to be so bruised. She doesn’t complain that she’s weary and drained from the procedure. Instead she is grateful that its a short walk to the train. Though I walk beside her there are times when it doesn’t seem possible that this is our life. I’m an observer from afar. I try to make sense of it all. Like Ondaatje writes, ” I have been in that hovering unsafe place with no grounding to the unknown miles below.” Yet in this hovering place, just like your daughter said she would be, she’s okay. Not because she’s better, though people wish that she was. “You look great,” they say, “but what’s wrong with your skin?” You look great, what’s wrong with your eyes.” You look great, have you hurt your ankles?”
“No, I’m fine,”she replies, “just GVHD.” When they look at her strangely, she laughs, “don’t worry about it.” It’s too hard to explain how it is. If it weren’t for all the external signs no one would ever know that life is managed now between a multitude of specialists and the coordination of a complexity of drugs. No one would know because she’s not complaining. No, she is shiny and bright like the lost coin.
I think about the parable as the train clatters through tunnels, around corners and past suburban homes. I think about the story that I’ve been sharing with the children at school. Most of all, the thing I love about teaching, are all the things the children teach me. No wonder Jesus said we should come as a child. After reading the parable and searching for chocolate coins in the playground I sit all the children down on the mat and I ask them, “What do you think Jesus meant when he said we were like the lost coin?” The hands shoot up and there are a host of explanations. Things that you and I would never think of.
The older children tell me that it’s a story of perseverance, of never giving up, of looking everywhere you can and eventually you will find what you lost. I like the answers from the younger ones best. One child tells me that we are like the coin because we have round faces and coins are round. Another tells me that maybe God is the gold coin and we are the silver ones. That we are supposed to shine for Him. Then one girl thoughtfully tells me that her Gran has got dark coins, made of bronze, that they’re not worth much. She tells me that Jesus sees us all like the gold ones, we are so precious to him. That even if we aren’t worth anything to anyone else he would search and search for us because he just loves us so much.
I don’t why I think about this on the train or really what it has to do with our day. All I know is that what has been lost, He can restore. What I see is not what He sees. I’ll never understand why God didn’t prevent the coin from rolling away in the first place, or why things got to be so dark, or why the quality of her life had to suffer. What I do know is that He can be trusted to take care of our lives, that we are more precious to Him than we can imagine. I also know that the end result has everything to do with Him and His grace and nothing to do with anything we’ve done. Slowly it comes into focus, “A bruised reed, I will not break,” and somehow this simple truth from His word is all I need for today.