Pain   1 comment

I have so much yet to learn about what it is to be a person, the wildness that is in us. Part civilized and part savage. Today I heard a terrible story — about pain — that gives rise to a prayer, first, and next, the need to investigate further why there is such a powerful force — pain — in us.

My friend’s mother in law had been feeling very weak and was hospitalized for immediate treatment as well as extensive testing. As feared, it seemed the cancer she’d battled years earlier had returned. A PICC line was installed to get urgently needed blood into her system as quickly as possible while a treatment plan was being worked out. Who knows what, who knows why, but while my friend and her husband were away from the hospital overnight, Edna pulled out the PICC line and when they arrived in the morning she was extremely agitated, demanding that they get her out of bed and take her home. When they couldn’t agree, she became extremely hostile, particularly shocking because they had been such a close family. My friend persuaded her husband and his sister to leave the room; she couldn’t bear their pain as their mom, in her delirium, turned on them. Better, she thought, that Edna rage at her, the daughter-in-law. The nurses were finally able to calm Edna’s agitation with high doses of morphine. Whether because of the morphine or the trauma of her having pulled out the PICC line or something else, Edna died the next morning, never regaining consciousness, her last interactions with her most beloved people a crazed assault of blasphemy.

“May I be spared!”, I think. I remember my first experience of intense pain, in labor with my first childbirth. Left alone in the hospital room with horrendous, incomprehensible, things happening inside my body, I looked desperately for a way out, and saw my clothes, the clothes I had replaced with a hospital gown, on a hook, by the door. “Simple!” I thought. “I’ll just take this gown off, put my own clothes back on, and leave! I’m not a prisoner! They can’t stop me!” Unable, for a few minutes, to comprehend that the pain wasn’t in the hospital; the pain was in me. The nurse did stop me, of course. Despite having entered the hospital with the strong intention to have “natural childbirth” (my husband and I had taken a course to prepare ourselves), I succumbed, shocked by the experience of pain, to the nurse’s offer of “a little bit of demerol”. I thus missed out on my daughter’s birth, during which I was completely unconscious. The demerol was amnestic, leaving not even a memory trace.

Ten years later, on what would turn out to be the last day of my husband’s life (although he had been severely ill for several months, I simply hadn’t grasped the possibility he would actually die of the illness), I walked into his hospital room in the morning. A nurse was opening the curtains. “Such a beautiful day,” she says. My dear, gentle husband, who never cursed, bites her head off. I reprimand him, “She was just trying to be pleasant [still a very young woman, I haven’t a clue about sickness, pain, powerlessness].” — “There’s no reason to yell at her.” My husband, a skeleton, raises himself up in the bed, to roar at me, “Nothing matters! NOTHING!”. And that is the last conversation we ever have. And in my mind, that last conversation, despite fourteen years of amicable marriage, has a very disproportionate weight.

Now I am ill. Sometimes, the pain is like a roaring in my head that drowns everything else out. To make myself heard — to myself — above the uproar in my head, I have to yell. It seems as if I’m yelling at my caregivers, at my friend, who gives to me so generously. Afterwards, I beg their pardon, explain that my yelling has nothing to do with them, it is just the pain. I can see that they are shaken, but I can’t help it; I can’t not scream. So far, there has always been time afterward to clarify, to apologize, because, so far, the pain has subsided, and I have returned to my civilized self.

So I pray: Oh Holy Spirit, please spare me from having paranoia on top of my other problems. Let me never blame someone else because I am in pain. Help me, Source of All Things, deeply to understand the function of pain. I wish to accept it with grace, but, so far, can only wish it away with all my might.

Posted April 10, 2011 by judybloomgardener in Uncategorized

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One response to “Pain

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  1. I think pain is close to what death may be for us. I mean severe, protracted, unremitting pain.
    We are alone with it. My pain is not like anyone else’s even if it is described as such. No one can take it away with compassion; indeed, everyone else goes home at the end of the day and we are left with ourselves and our pain. Not ourselves – myself.
    But as long as I am in pain, I am alive. The ultimate opportunity, or will it be as Bob said, Nothing matters. Frightening, because I always thought Bob saw things I didn’t know.

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