Well, I’m Still Here

Waking up from a medical procedure to the anxious faces of the medical team and my wife, when we had been told she wasn’t allowed in recovery because of residual COVID protocols, is – well I’m not entirely sure what it is. It was surprising, sobering, disconcerting, a little humorous, thought inducing, and eerie. There was no narration by Rod Serling. There was no sudden panic, on my part – I was out until revived.

“Raymond!” The voice was Greg, the nurse anesthetist. His was the first concerned look I was aware of.

One of the other nurse’s announced my blood pressure was returning to normal, a collective sigh of relief seemed to waft across the tented room, yet still the level of anxiety was palpable in the room.

The doctor explained that she had to abort the procedure midway because my blood pressure had fallen so low.

“Well,” I announced, “that should make me memorable.”

“We don’t like memorable,” Greg said, I was still looking at the doctor.

“How was your blood pressure through this?” I asked the doctor.

Her response was one word, “elevated!”

“Well,” I said, “I hope the rest of your day is boring.”

She appreciated the sentiment with a nod of agreement.

I was her first procedure that day.

The first thing to enter my head after this exchange, the team was still focused on my blood pressure and were darting about adjusting wires and stuff, was, “I’m still here.” I wasn’t surprised, nor did the thought have any particular drama in my head. It was just an observation.

I didn’t expect to be anywhere else, though I had noted that in the many lists of disclaimers, death was the last thing on the list. At the time I thought, “well there’s a sales pitch.”

So, I sat there, awake, feeling a little perturbed that my nice nap had been interrupted. I eagerly accepted the offer of juice. The doctor was going over all the events that unfolded while I was under, the faces were still quite concerned. I sucked on the juice box and thought, “this is – well, I’m not sure what this is, I’ll have to think about it.”

We checked out, I was given a ride to the car in a wheel chair by a nurse I encouraged to make the journey feel more like Mr. Toad’s wild ride – she ignored my suggestion. Once in the car Janice cried with relief, I held her hand. I still didn’t know how to categorize the experience.

I’m home, the question that has emerged is simple but contains a stronger sense of urgency. What do I want to leave behind for my children and grandchildren? I feel compelled, in a deeper way, to give them something to hold on to in life. Life is uncertain, it can be scary. It is always challenging. All of us exist after beating incredible odds just to be born – it is reported that scientists estimate the probability of any one of us being born is one in 400 trillion. (I think I will buy that lottery ticket.)

I want to invest my faith. But, I can’t. Faith can be modeled, it can be demonstrated, and communicated but no one can live by my faith. It is evident in looking at the matriarchs and patriarchs, for example, the faith of one’s mother or father has to transition, be experienced and be encountered for oneself. I live a faith in the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob….and now, Ray!

When I think about investing or communicating faith, I see it as a summons or invitation to engage a living God personally. To wrestle, as did Jacob, with the reality of the almighty. It is to question God’s work, as did the prophet Habakkuk, it is to agonize over the injustices of life like the prophet Micah, it is to question whether God is concerned at a personal level at all like the king, David. It is to ponder life’s meaning and purpose like Mary. And sometimes, it is to laugh at the absurdity life contains like Sarah.

I can explain my faith to my children and grandchildren, and I have. But I can’t magically invest my faith in them. I realize instead that I can testify to it. By that I mean I can share my experience with the mystery of God. I can demonstrate the phenomenology of faith that condensed into a creed cannot be contained in one.

So, this story is one more attempt to testify to my experience and awareness of the love, care, compassion, hope, and power I know in walking with God. There is nothing particularly dramatic in this story. It is another paragraph in an unfolding novel about one who encountered Jesus who rose from the dead. Read this story, debate its perspective. Analyze its argumentation. But, above all, I hope you see it is a consistent aspect of who I am, how I live, and it contains a still small voice that calls to you, “I love you.” It isn’t just my voice, there is a deeper voice, a timeless and incomprehensible one that speaks under, around, and through me. “I love you.” It is the voice of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Ray calling to you. “I love you.”

So what did I experience? I experienced another event in life when I was not forsaken, forgotten, dismissed, or minimized. I was, and am, loved – so are you!