Do you feel safe? There are so many areas of life where we don’t feel safe in this present age, I wonder if anyone feels truly safe, as in secure, comfortable and stable? After years of living with chronic pain, multiple diseases, including the present menace of cancer, this is a relevant question not only for me but for each of us.
I’ve had this odd feeling spill over me lately when I suddenly realized; I feel safe. I think safety is a relative issue. Compare how you would feel with a gun at your head as you’re in a convenience store being robbed and how you feel when you are concerned over the health of a loved one? Here I sit in the middle of a huge crisis as I await information as to the extent of my cancer, have continuing severe pain in my sitter, multiple joints, and am concerned about retaining my eyesight. Any one of them would be enough, wouldn’t it? I wonder how I could feel safe.
Every day the news is filled with ferry’s turning over, horrific shootings and bombs exploding…somewhere on this small planet. We live in a dangerous world, of that we’re all painfully aware; but when it hits us where we live, within our own bodies, how does one feel safe?
Perhaps the answers lie in living in the moment, each day and even, often, in smaller increments, one breath at a time. This reminds me of a lovely little poem by Victor Hugo called WINGS.
Let us be like a bird for a moment perched
On a frail branch while he sings;
Though he feels it bend, he sings his song,
Knowing that he has wings.
Wings. We each have to have wings. Wings of imagination. Wings of hope. Wings of prayer and proof of our connection to God just as surely as we have wings to soar above any lot, cup or serving of trouble that is laid before us. Soar above it because we must, we can and we will.
James Roosevelt, the son of our former President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, wrote a sensitive piece about the year his father was struck with polio, many years of course before he was to become President of the United States. James writes, “That very Christmas-only four and a half months after polio-Father was getting down on the floor to exercise. He had been Indian wrestling with Elliott, Franklin and Johnny, and now with me home he had some competition nearer his size.
“‘You think you can take the old Man?’ he challenged me? ‘Well, just get down here and try it!’ His grip was so strong it could make me yell, and he beat me every time. We went from Indian wrestling to more vigorous forms of rough-housing.
“I don’t know how he did it, but Father kept us almost completely at ease. Even that first Christmas when he could move only the upper half of his body, he gave the impression of mobility. He cushioned the shock for us. I know he made it possible for me to participate in various festivities that Christmas without feeling any depression or guilt.”
Many years ago there lived a young mother of two who faced a life of stark reality. She was left alone with her children, had no money and a broken heart. She had suffered a tubal pregnancy, when the fetus begins to grow within the walls of the fallopian tube. She had had her usual amount of morning sickness but also suffered severe abdominal pain. Her husband at that time was away “on business” in another town but was due home that evening, or so she thought; later to find out his business was actually “monkey business.”
In the late evening, she was sitting on the toilet, about three months into her pregnancy, when it felt as if her world had exploded within her. She fainted onto the bathroom floor and when she awakened, she managed to get into her bed after hanging onto the walls and stopping to check that each of her children was sleeping peacefully. When she reached her bed and fell into it, the abdominal agony only worsened. She realized something had gone terribly wrong. She was unable to call for help because the phone had been turned off due to lack of payment. She knew she couldn’t reach the neighbor, making it down a flight of stairs in her apartment building, so she prayed. She prayed for her husband to come home. She prayed for whatever the dragon in her gut was spewing into her to put out his fire. She prayed for peace.
The only outward symptom she had was her girth, or the size of her belly which seemed to be growing. She wasn’t bleeding outwardly, she checked. She couldn’t sit up on the bed without fainting. She was more frightened than she had ever been in her life. Finally, her husband came home at 3AM with a story about car trouble. He saw the state she was in and had to carry her to the car to take her to the emergency room at their local hospital. A kindly neighbor said she would watch the children.
In the hospital parking lot a gurney was brought out to the car and she was loaded onto it. When she was seen by the doctor, he stuck a needle into her vagina and withdrew blood. After that, everything became a whir of activity. She remembers being rapidly wheeled into the operating room. She also remembers the overwhelming peace that came over her as she was being pushed up a long corridor. It felt as if the very huge hands of God Himself was lifting her toward the ceiling and embracing her with a touch so light it felt like the warmest yet strongest embrace she had ever felt. She felt completely safe. All the fear she had felt earlier in the night left her. She knew she would be alright. Whether she lived or died, she knew her children would be safe.
She made it through the surgery although it was what was identified as a “close call.” After many transfusions of blood to replace most of the blood in her body, she slowly recovered. That young woman was me.
My life changed drastically as I divorced my husband, looked for work and struggled to make it financially. Sometime I will tell you about those years and the wonder of it all as I went to nursing school as a young, single mother and the many ways in which that early crisis affected my life and the lives of my children. For now, let us all remember we have wings. Wings to soar, to rise and to fly above the problems of this world.