Friday was my final surgery and the event hardly lived up to my dread of it. I thought that being wheeled back into the OR would push play on a montage of scary moments from the past few months. Nope. With Bernie at my side, Maria cherry-picking the staff, and Adam bringing his usual fun approach to an absolute command of the day, I relaxed into their capable hands and drugs. Still a bit loopy from anesthesia, I have a vague sense that I talked to many of you yesterday… but since that’s impossible, I can honestly say I felt your prayers.
With my half inch of fuzzy hair, and new body that seems more can-play-tennis than dance-on-poles, I think I’ve entered the hopeful healing phase. It will be a few more weeks before I can hug you hello, but in the aftermath of my final implant swapping, I feel pretty fantastic. Once again, I’m perched on pillows, napping off narcotics, and enduring the careful cuddles of my boys who are happy to know that this is the last time they’ll need to tip toe around a battered and bandaged mommy.
Last weekend, as Bernie’s sister’s family visited, I did my usual mostest hostess thing, not only because I had the energy to do it (and because their family’s approach to mealtime is gypsy at best), but also because I was desperately trying to distract myself from patchy baldness, shedding eyelashes, and looming surgery. As all of these treatments and side effects wind down to a happy end, I’m worried that a big, emotional meltdown is on the frontier. And as a blotchy, ugly weeping sort, I’d rather be in some control of when the sobbing, grateful relief of finality hits me. In a rare moment of hiding-with-Prosecco-on-the-patio, my four-year-old niece ambushed me with an assortment of talking points:
“Why do you always wear hats?”
“Why didn’t Uncle Bernie get Cancer?”
“Do you have any rainbow hats?”
In addition to at least fifteen more arbitrary questions and observations, this was my favorite declaration, as she coquettishly fingered her pink, sparkly barrette:
“When I grow up, there’s NO WAY I’m taking chemo!”
Good plan, sweet girl. I hope I can be that one-in-eight for all of us. Her innocent take on this made me want to buck up immediately. Should this brand of bad fortune cross her path in the future, maybe she’ll remember Auntie Britt did it grilling food for 18 people in a (not rainbow, but still snazzy) hat.
Here on the other side of silicone, I’m ready for my cancer mortarboard. And like all graduates, I’m brimming with thankful nostalgia and swallowing lumps in my throat with love for all of you. It just so happened (do these things just “happen”?) that our faithful Rector, Dorsey, gave his final sermon this morning before he leaves us to be even more Important as the Bishop of Pittsburgh. It was poor planning to attend this service without Ativan, or at least better answers for Teddy’s rather constant queries in loud stage whispers, “What’s wrong with your eyes? Why is your nose red?” After weeks (months?) of keeping my mixed emotions at bay for the sake of my kids, my friends, the CVS pharmacist, or the eyebrow pencil wielding staff at Sephora, our kind-hearted Rector bade us goodbye with an eleventh hour endorsement for exactly this brand of splotchy, unattractive, and public blubbering.
Dorsey’s message today was that it’s a good and great thing to let our hearts soften in these milestone moments. These are actually Holy Spirit shout-outs, weepy recognition of all the things we’ve been doing right… all that “walking in His ways” stuff that leads to good places. Hardening my heart to its messy effects might have left me with a bit more mascara and dignity, but I couldn’t help but sniffle along with the rest of the congregation and revel in the beauty of a large group of very well dressed people not too proud to honk into hankies. Maybe a bit more than other parishioners lately, I’ve been relying on Dorsey’s Big Guns prayers and the generosity of his flock, neither of which are abandoning me now. Almost at odds with the very fact that our Church is divinely lovely, Dorsey reminded us that its actual location remains earthly. Meanwhile a heavenly “Church” exists in the fellowship between us, the ones we love, and Him… and none of those beautiful things is being ripped away from us to Pittsburgh. On this final Sunday with Dorsey, and at this particular moment for me, I saw it more clearly than ever… through tears.