Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Midnight Mass (A Morality Tale In Several Paragraphs)

My wife had to work on Christmas Eve until 11:00 pm so she would not have time to come and get after work and get me to the Cathedral in time for me to find a seat.  I need a seat because my poor, disabled bones cannot even stand for the parts of Mass that you are normally supposed to stand for let alone the entire thing.  Under those circumstances my sister was generous enough to haul my crippled butt and the rest of me up to the Cathedral in time for me to find a seat.

Warning details of the limitations of the sick man traveling from his sick room to the Cathedral:

My body has been not as cooperative as I would like as of late.  I wake up four or five hours after going to bed.  It is the pain that rouses me from my sleep and sometimes after a little writhing about I can get back to a couple hours of sleep and sometimes I cannot.  I keep what I call my morning MEDs by the bedside so once it has been established that sleep is actively evading me, I can wolf those MEDs down and wait to begin my day.

My morning MEDs consist of about fourteen different pills and capsules, this does not include inhalers, eye drops, and that like.  The important drugs for getting my morning started and hence getting me the ability to move are some steroids, nuerotrophins, and pain pills.  The steroids reduce inflammation, the nuerotrophic to get the old brain firing and hopefully keep me awake and the pain pills I take for pain.  Usually within one to two hours everything has kicked in and I can start moving towards the bathroom.

There are days that I do not leave the bed, sometime my morning cocktail is not enough to lift the weight of the illness (the weight of my illness is 97% Pb and Au) and the bed is where I stay on those days.  Thoughts spin and refuse to take solid form, the fever of pain (not a real fever, but a fever like state brought on by pain) spins the old merry go round in my head.  There is some time spent gnashing my teeth and although I usually don't tear my clothes and when I do tear my clothes it is usually by accident and not from passion.

I have a small holy water font on the wall right outside my bedroom and above that there is a prayer of morning offering.  The font has a small plaque showing Saint Bernadette witnessing the appearance of our Lady of Lourdes at the grotto in France.  I have an affinity for Saint Bernadette that I will endeavor to explain in a later post, this one already feels as though it is long and heavy with words piling up on each other.  I stop there and offer up my suffering and begin my day with God.

Some days the offering up of the pain goes better than others.

That was a lot of exposition, but now to Christmas Eve!  If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know I am converting to Roman Catholicism.  On Christmas Eve or more accurately 12:01 am on Christmas Day there is a Mass to celebrate the incarnation of the word (it is Christ-Mass or Christmas) or otherwise known as the birth of Jesus!

I can no longer legally drive and my wife was working until right before the Mass was to begin so she could get herself there, but did not have time to retrieve me and get me to the Cathedral.  I put out the call on social media for a ride and my sister stepped up to give me a ride.  She arrived at my house in the early evening and we watched a movie, tried to order some Chinese food (they never answered, either too busy or closed), we did order some pizza and had some lovely conversation and as the time approached, I rounded up some oxygen tanks had my sister help me with my shoes (a little awkward for both of us) and away we went.

My walker would not fit in my sister's car, but I was not worried I figured for a once a year event I could gut it out.  We arrived early and were able to park quite close.  The air was cold and full of pollution and I traveled only across a street and before I was huffing and puffing and it became apparent that my supplemental oxygen was not supplemental enough.  By the time I had traversed the half block to the Cathedral (I did have to rest twice and probably would have rested more had there been other spots to rest) my joints and nerves had begun their dance of pain.

A rector (one who likes me, the others do not know me, but there is no telling whether they would like me or not) seeing that I was in great distress whisked me in a side door so that I would not have to stand in line.  We then made our way to my pew (not really my pew, but the pew I was always like to sit at, it is in the back so I do not have to go that far) and I sat down and began to gather my wits back around me.

My wits did return to me, but resting in my favorite pew did not bring any relief to the nerves and joints felt a little better, but when I am not being Pollyanna the joints did not really recover much.  As time went on my lovely wife joined us my nerves had moved from the slow waltz of pain to more of the Mike Flatly Lord of the Dance dance kind of pain.  In true Dude fashion I told my nerves that this aggression would not stand, especially on Christmas (it really ties the year together, not like Easter but it does tie the year together).

About twenty minutes into the Mass it felt as though my feet were being boiled like cheap hot dogs and that was punctuated with the feeling of hat pins being run through my legs at various points, maybe more accurately hat pins attached to jack hammers because I would feel the stab and then before I could catch my breath from gasping at the first stab I would be stabbed again.  There were invisible knives inserted into my ankles and my knees and my hips.  Which does not feel good, but then it felt like some invisible being was beating my joints with an invisible ball peen hammer.  At this point I was moving around a lot, my wife has informed me that most people would call it "writhing in pain", my wife is fancy.

I leaned over and told my wife that I was not going to make it through the service and we gathered my oxygen tank and a purse and such and embarked towards the exit.  I did not realize that this was to require a Herculean effort on par with the travels of Marco Polo down the silk road.  First, let me say that walking with a cane or walker and with oxygen has spoiled me.  In a crowd of people they will part like the Red Sea when Moses is coming to let the disabled folk through, but that was not the case at the Cathedral (I am not sure if it is ironic or not that people would not part like the Red Sea at a Cathedral but I think it is).

The Cathedral was packed, but there was room to part, but nobody would at least until I physically touched them on the shoulder and said excuse me.  Now that sounds normal until I mention one detail, everyone was facing me, they could see me coming but would not move.  I am not sure what I think about that, but it is not the thrust of this post so I will let that sleeping dog lie or I will not beat that dead horse or something else like that.

I came to the Roman Catholic faith for many reasons, chief among those reasons was their understanding of suffering.  I knew it would not be easy and I knew there would be moments of doubt, but I guess I did not know "know" it.  I was disappointed that I was not able to become free through embracing the pain, that is me paraphrasing a quote from the Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, but on further contemplation I am disappointed that I was disappointed.  Looking back over the time I have been ill, I was disappointed the disease did not go away on its own, I was disappointed that none of the drugs worked to treat the symptoms of the disease, I was disappointed I could no longer work, I was really disappointed when I could no longer drive.

The new year is soon upon us and this year my resolution is to accept with joy everything that each day brings.  Expectations of things "should" be has been the cause of disappoint and unhappiness for me.  On Christmas Eve, I had a sister that was willing to come give me a ride to the Cathedral and I have a wife that has stuck with me in spite of my illness and shows me kindness greater than I deserve.  I have a rector that likes me a beautiful cathedral to attend and many in the congregation that know and care about me and make me feel the community of the Church.  I am a rich man and everyday I will do what I can and let God take the rest.

Loves to all and a happy new year!

PS

I have been trying to learn this lesson for a long time so....but I have faith....