I’ve been down this road before – usually at times of hectic busy-ness, so much to do that one simply gets overwhelmed and the end result is either of slumping in a corner and not achieving anything or trying ever more desperately to pull something out of a fire. These past 10 days have been a whirr of mental, emotional, spiritual busy-ness – potentially the grist for any aspiring writer, except I have struggled to commit anything to paper or tablet.
Perhaps it was the physical business – the fortnightly check-in with doctors which, 10 weeks after my transplant, is now a run-of-the-mill routine but still impacts in various ways (this time again all has been fine, almost too fine except glucose sugar spikes requiring yet another tablet to be added to the regime to counter the side-effects of another essential post-transplant medication).
Maybe the looming deadline for me to submit a note to my donor’s family – I have seldom struggled as much with any piece of communication as this, even as I am as unequivocal about my sense of gratitude towards them as I mourn with them this festive season and forever the loss of a loved one; how to set those sentiments in words.
It could also just be that life’s rhythms have changed irrevocably – almost totally for good, I am feeling so much stronger each day, I am enjoying a heart that beats so strongly, that’s giving me extra breath, an extra sense of being alive, of having a destiny beyond simply making it to the next place where I can stop for rest and respite. But with that also comes the “worry” of what to do with this new life, how to ensure that the gift to me is not wasted.
So, all-in-all, waayyy too busy for any good.
But, as Heath Hartle once – in another space and season – said so emphatically, so profoundly simply: “you’re here”. And what a blessing that is, beyond all the busy-ness that one can conjure up.
Throughout this season of heart failure, transplant and restoration, I have realised anew that I have been socialized into a Christian Faith and into an Anglican expression of that faith. I have had my faith renewed but it does not mean I do not have questions, nor that I agree with how others interpret tenets of faith, nor that I cannot walk closely with those with differing belief systems or no belief in a god / God at all.
On Friday, I visited the Claremont Main Road Mosque for midday prayers. On Saturday night, I attended midnight mass at St George’s Cathedral. During the feast of Chanukah, I will visit Temple Israel in Greenpoint. These are my acts of re-embedding myself in aspects of my heritage – some of the people, the faith communities, the rituals that contribute to “Raymond-ness”, and revelling in what I regard as holy spaces, even as I know that our whole wide world should be our holy space and its people our holy people.
I didn’t know when I entered Claremont mosque that Imam Omar had invited retired Catholic priest Fr Roger Hickley to deliver the khutbar or homily. Fr Hickley used as his text, the Koranic version of Mary’s pregnancy and the birth of Jesus and showed how prayer and charity were at the heart of Jesus’s ministry, not unlike the basic tenets of Islam. To say that this was one of my most moving spiritual experiences – for a variety of reasons including the warmth of the congregation – would be an understatement.
In his sermon at the cathedral, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba spoke about the miracle that emerges from brokenness. Of course, I accepted this as a reflection on my own journey, of a broken physical life that has been healed, miraculously but also because of the gift of another and the medical skills of many others. But the archbishop also spoke, more passionately and emphatically than I have ever heard him, to our careless and corrupt (democratic) government, warning that the time is close, given the brokenness of our country, when churches, mosques and synagogues will reject totally those in power. It was at once a message that both affirmed and struck fear for those of us willing to stand up for justice.
Re-dedication is at the heart of the Jewish feast of Chanukah and so this journey at the end of my 10th week of life restoration has been primarily about coming back to roots, returning to where life started for me and those who have brought me to this point.
It has also been an expression of thanks to the many who have contributed and who continue to give of themselves to my well-being and healing in so many ways. They are people of Christian, Moslem, Jewish, African, Eastern and no faith.
I am here. Because of them. Because of you.