For whatever reason, this February has brought a higher-than-normal rate of news of illnesses, surgeries, and found us attending a number of funerals. I found myself reflecting on the real fragility and vulnerability of our biological bodies, our fungible assets if you will. Depending on our beliefs our spirits are eternal. And God knows, our spirits are strong and courageous and unflagging in the face of things in life that we never expected. But our bodies are so frail…even for the strongest weight lifter, or marathon runner. Is this the good news or the bad news?
It’s bad news because we all love our life, we love each other. We struggle to hold on. Our bodies make us suffer. It asks a tremendous amount to live with long-term illness. Sometimes every minute of the day.
And yet, have you ever noticed how people behave toward each other in the waiting room of a surgical ward? In the play room of a pediatric ward? In a cancer treatment center?
There is some knowledge in these places that we are usually in denial of the rest of our healthy lives. Some acceptance of fragility. Have you ever felt it? The carefulness of others, the kindness, the gentleness of the woman across the room who offers to buy you coffee. The compassionate gaze of the parent as you walk down the hall with your child on a guerney. These are almost like divine glimpses of a different world.
This is not how we treat each other every day. The truth cannot hold. It is in itself too fragile and precious for our work-a-day world.
I had a silly fantasy. I imagined everyone who suffered from any medical condition, or several, wearing a tee shirt that gave that list of health issues. Every single person, kids included. Maybe just for one day, because that’s all we could stand. Can you imagine how many people that would be? What would that do? It might change our perspective. It might even change our culture. To realize that it is not the few but most? To see so many children coping with these illnesses? What would that do? The world for a moment, the grocery store and Wal-mart and Old-Country Buffet and Starbucks, would become that surgical waiting room. Imagine.
Maybe you open the door into that room a tiny bit when you wear your vulnerability on your shirt even wrapped in humour. Just a thought.
- Diane Fisher, Ph.D.
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