"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; ...a time to heal."
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-3
About 35 years ago when our husbands were serving together in Vietnam, my Georgia friend and I decided to climb Maine's highest peak, Mt. Katahdin. (Depending on your point of view, this mountain is either the beginning or the end of the Appalachian Trail.)
Since I had grown up in the area, this would be my fifth or sixth trek to the place where the sun first shines on the United States each day, but for my friend, the journey would be mountain-climbing 101.
The sun was barely above the horizon when we strapped on our knapsacks, laced our heavy-soled shoes and drove to the base camp to begin our climb. Eleven miles, half uphill, half down, lay ahead of us, but neither of us had a moment's doubt we could manage the day's event before the sun disappeared again behind those azure hills. My optimism came from experience; hers from unwavering confidence that if I who was 10 years her senior was up to the task, she could go the distance, too.
We made wonderful time at first, but as we approached the last mile we were literally crawling. Determination, or the stubbornness of not letting each other know we might not be able to finish the climb, was the only fuel that kept us going. My friend spoke first:
"Why didn't you tell me it would be like this?"
The only reply I could think of was, "What have you ever done that I could compare it with?"
I've been thinking of my exhausted friend's frustration all during my current uphill climb, which I might as well call "healing, 101." My tonsillectomy at 6 was a breeze, and a hysterectomy at 44 was a three-week break I can scarcely remember. Today, with another quarter-century behind me, and likely because of a good-health history for most of my life, I'm struggling to match reasonable expectations with my own self-determined time line for recovery. Patience hasn't always been among my virtues. Perhaps that's another 101 course I've yet to take.
But I've had lots of time to think, and other thoughts have been on my mind, too:
I marvel at the body's ability to heal, and the unimaginable skill of the surgeon who knew how to fix what was wrong. Surely the Psalmist was right when he wrote, "I will praise thee (Lord), for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 139:14) Surely, I will learn - someday - that patience is part of the "body formula," too.
One day I watched an interview with a doctor from the U.S. Navy hospital ship, Mercy, still anchored off the coast of Indonesia in the aftermath of last winter's tsunami disaster. What struck this doctor most was that hundreds of patients coming to the ship are not suffering from the tragedy at all, but from ordinary medical problems for which you and I can be treated any time. The availability of medical care, let alone the skill, so common in this country are blessings I hope I never take for granted again.
Although I've sent bushels of get-well cards in my day, I know there are bushels more I neglected to send, phone calls I didn't make and prayers I forgot to send heavenward even after I'd promised "I'll be praying." But until these recent days alone, feeling useless, whining that I should be up and about sooner than this, and other symptoms of self-absorption, I had no idea how quickly my mood could turn around after receiving a simple card, call, or unexpected visit from someone I know was thinking - and praying - for me.
One note from a friend who often tells me not to "work too hard," was a special day-brightener:
"Try to enjoy all this free time. Your body, mind and spirit must be rejoicing at the break."
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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