Each member of the surgical team looped through the room. An introduction. Name and date of birth requested. The why-are-you-here question.
My mother didn’t know the answers when I had sat in the same spot with her some years before. I helped.
My father knew — for the most part.
“Did you have anything to eat this morning?” the anesthesiologist asked.
“Not too much,” he answered.
“He had nothing,” I said.
“Has the surgeon marked on you yet?” a nurse asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” he answered.
“Yes, he did,” I replied.
“Can you tell me about your other surgeries?” the surgeon asked.
“It’s been years and years,” my father answered.
“Last August he had a VP shunt put in, and a few years before that he got a pacemaker,” I answered.
He knew his name. He knew his birthday. He knew what the surgery was.
All in all, I’d say he did pretty well.
A few weeks ago, he had had an episode of chest pain that landed him in the Emergency Room. They ask a different set of questions.
“Are you still a full-code?” the nurse had asked, but then she looked to me for the answer. It’s an uncomfortable question.
“Well, I’m not ready to cash in yet!” my father answered.
“Would you like to be placed on life support?” she asked.
“I’m not going to live forever, you know,” he replied.
His mixed responses were confusing, but he and my mother had both very clearly written out their wishes many years ago. I told his doctor and she asked that I bring in a copy to put in his chart. Just so it’s there.
Last night, I went for a walk. The fields were fifty shades of green. The timothy alone was a full palette of color — spring green, grass green, grey green, a whispery pale green at the very edges of the flower-head.
The fields whispered with the breeze, carrying along its little breaths like a melody passed around an orchestra. The meadow swayed and danced, and the only audience for this performance was the deer, the red-wing blackbirds, and me.
When the Bible talks about grass, it’s usually in reference to transience.
“The grass withers, the flower fades…” (Isaiah 40:8)
The comparison isn’t that man will last forever. We are just as transient.
A surgery day is a time to remember that.
It’s a time to pause. Even if we’re not ready to cash in, it’s okay to remember that we aren’t going to live forever either.
The surgery went well. He’s already home. He’s not ready to cash in yet — and neither am I.