A Night With Casey in the ICU
It’s weird to see you there with the machines breathing for you. Your nutritional ooze is being fed to you at the rate of 30 ml per hour. You are eating like a rabbit, just a little food throughout the day. This is gonna be a great opportunity for you to shed some pounds. It’s the Hollywood style intense diet that probably is billing at ten thousand dollars a day, but we won’t worry about that now. Now, you just rest while I sit here and write my thoughts. We had been listening to some classic Walden from Henry David Thoreau, but the nurses kept interrupting to make sure you have this constant rate of tubes providing your every need. It was Walden that encouraged me to open up my laptop and begin to write. Without you responding, our conversations as of late have been very one sided. Not complaining as I have been free to tell you anything I wish without having to endure your continued objection or chasing wild rabbit tangents, but it is difficult to have a meaningful conversation with you in this state. So I will just speak encouragement from time to time and then for me deeper thoughts, I shall write.
I have become enthralled with the drips from the vials that sustain you. I think that is the traumatic thing to witness as a friend, to see someone lying there, completely surrendered to the control of external forces. Although I don’t know where it is, I’m sure there is a switch here somewhere that if thrown could cause your body to fall into chaos and collapse downward towards death. That is a terrifying thought to come face to face with. At the same time, it makes me think. Maybe the reality of our existence is much closer to this than we know. A phrase I have come to appreciate in life, “there but by the grace of God go I”… I don’t even know where this phrase comes from, but having worked with the homeless and personally been through moments of life where I lost everything and had to rebuild myself from scratch, I know all to well that if it wasn’t for just a small number of choices and the faith to know and hold true to them, I would easily be as lost as the least of these. If it wasn’t for God’s grace in my life, I would be dead today. I know that beyond a shadow of all doubt. So maybe that sustaining drip is there for all of us at all times. It’s just the acknowledgement of it that becomes traumatic to our sensitive psyche. Secular survival requires that we venture out, ignoring our frail and dependent state, for our psyche needs a blindfold in order to best function. There is yet another way to get by though, which the theists of old have known for generations. We can know how frail life is but trust the will of God to protect us. This does two things. It strengthens a sense of purpose and relationship with the nature we find ourselves in. We feel closer to God through our faith expressed by the life we live and the risks we take trusting our God to provide. Secondly, it builds our gratitude, both for our creator but also for every minute of survival. Where the blind folded become entitled. They do not see the tightrope below their feet, so they complain about the frivolous amenities of life. Where those who approach life with their eyes open pause at every juncture to celebrate. They are experiencing gratitude at every moment because they see life for what it is; traumatic.
This is what I ponder on while you lay there. How frail we all are and how every moment matters. We just don’t know how much it matters at that moment, because we woke up that day and chose the blindfold. I don’t want the blindfold any more. I wish to burn them all and as you would say, to wake them up. To wake people up to the reality of life. To understand their place and purpose in it all and to see, nay, embrace, how temporary this state of life is. Once we have shed that covering we can see ever more clearly the need for a savior. This is why people who come close to death often become more spiritual. Not because they are coping with the trauma, but because for a brief moment, they shed the scales from their eyes and they saw the reality of existence. And if you see it any other way, it is due to your comfort with the avoidance of this harsh reality.
I write these words because I see it now very clearly, and I never want to unsee it. I pray you get better. I pray you come out of this and we get to do silly adventurous things together again. But I also never want to go back to before. I don’t want to sink back into comfortable blindness. I want to face the trauma of life head on and trust God to get me through, just as now I trust him to guide you back to us. Take care brother. Whatever happens, I will see you soon.