Grace in Unexpected Places.

Our two beautiful beagles.
'If Mum's not home, we'll wait for her on her meditation chair.'
It was a strange sensation lying in hospital with lungs full of fluid and, never having spent a night in hospital before in my life —let alone in the emergency unit — seeing for the very first time what life 'inside' was like. I had no idea how it would be but the first night was pretty surreal. I couldn't breathe without oxygen. I couldn't lie down because then I really, really couldn't breathe and I couldn't sleep sitting up. Some people can sleep on aeroplanes and trains but I'm not one of them. All night there were new admissions going on and other people, far sicker than I were crying out with pain. I prayed for us all and felt a total hypocrite because I didn't know where God was any more.

Nothing I'd believed to be true had turned out to be so. Nothing. I was out of options. Even out of faith. Where was that loving God that I'd felt was beside me during all my comedy and my happy life? The one who had supported me through all my inner exploration of my psyche and soul — and all the healing work I'd done these last few years? How had it come to this? I'm sure these are questions that millions have asked in far, far worse situations. I'm just grateful (in a strange way) that I got to understand first-hand how that feels. It's not nice.

(If you know me well, you might be asking 'where was Lion?' He was home, taking care of the beagles and coping as best he could. He would have visited, of course, but I was in too much pain for a cuddle and being very practical, I couldn't see how it could help to have him sitting awkwardly there when we could talk on the phone — that probably sounds really daft but our marriage works very well for us!).

The lung consultant came along the next day, once I'd been moved to a 'not in imminent danger of dying' ward and told me that I had to have a tap put into my side so that one lung, at least, could be drained daily until I started the treatment that would solve the problem. It was to be a tube that hung out of my side, like a colostomy tube and would mean a daily visit from a district nurse to drain a litre or so of fluid per day. So be it. But, he said, it had to be done by a surgeon and it could not be done for three more days at the earliest.

Three more nights of sitting up all night in a hospital bed and not sleeping. That was hard. That was horribly hard. I gave up.

But by the Grace of that non-existent God, I gave up in the right way. I just surrendered. That's not me being incredibly spiritual; it was me out of options. I finally stopped trying to control the situation, let go and let God. In times of crisis, I have the ability to stop thinking completely. It's only happened a couple of times in my life (apart from the seconds or perhaps minutes in meditation) but it's a profound thing.

And then I lay down. And kept breathing. I can't tell you how impossible that was. It was even medically impossible. I'd not been able to lie down in two whole days for danger of suffocation. Even sitting up, I was on oxygen. But somehow, amazingly, I could do it. I wasn't even amazed because I wasn't thinking. I totally failed to realise until afterwards that the oxygen pipe had fallen away from my nose.

It was incredibly peaceful lying there half-realising that something miraculous was happening and I think I rather prosaically just dozed off. That was, until I realised that there was a tall angel in pale green standing by the bed. It was one of those incredibly ugly men who are utterly beautiful, if you know what I mean. None of his face should have worked but all of it did.

He spoke in a Spanish accent (probably because he was Spanish…) and said, 'Hello, my name is Juan. I'm a surgeon. I have a cancellation in half an hour's time. Would you like it?'

And so, instead of languishing for four days in that hospital bed, I was back home that night with nearly two litres drained from one lung and a pipe bandaged to my side. A whole new world of medical procedures, district nurses and living with a plastic tube as a part of my body had opened up. I didn't like it, and it hurt like hell, but it wasn't my job to like it. It was my job to experience it and learn what I could from it.

And I believed.


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