Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
This part of compline in the Book of Common Prayer brought me a real peace the other night in a scary time. We are in a scary time. On Tuesday Chris’s blood levels dropped critically, in response to the “line holiday” surgery. He was moved to the ICU, and as I sat in a stupor in this new room on a new floor with all new staff, I was asked what my wishes were for his code status. …We who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life…. God’s grace came to me in the three men who showed up shortly thereafter–priests from our church–whose presence comforted me. We went through compline together. They sang a portion in a baritone unison. Even Chris, in half-lucidity, said it was beautiful.
…So that we who are wearied…may rest in your eternal changelessness…. As we recited the collect together, I had a sense of looking on something big, something undergirding, something solid, unmoving. Within and on the surface were the shifting things, the tossing things, us–all of us and everything we experience. But we were encompassed, so far beyond our vision, by the pearly white and pristine and unruffled expanse. It was too big to even see from within, but for a moment I had a bird’s eye view.
I am wearied by the changes and chances of this life. And, frankly, I don’t believe these chances and changes are going to resolve as my heart aches for. Chris’s internal bleeding did stop; after five units of blood he was stable. But his systems aren’t working well at all, and health is falling away from him. For our first few weeks in the hospital we seemed to be dealing with one hurdle at a time, resolving each problem as it arose. But the hurdles are piling up. Fluid is continuing to build up in Chris’s abdomen and then up into his lungs. He has been short of breath and panicky. Today they drained a liter from around his left lung, but this fluid buildup will continue. His liver isn’t able to maintain his blood sugars and they’ve dipped to critically low at points; he’s receiving amps of dextrose several times a day. He had dialysis today, which I’m very thankful for, but they weren’t able to pull off much fluid from his arms and legs because his blood pressure began dropping. We’ve been getting further and further from a second round of chemo, because there are too many issues to take care of first. We’ve also now seen on a CT scan that there’s been no change in Chris’s cancer after our first round. If we get to a round two, I’m not sure if we’d stick to the same regimen or change drugs.
Today I have grieved in a new way. Maybe tomorrow Chris will be experiencing more fully the benefits of these procedures and treatments and he will be lucid and calm and I will get to engage my best friend. It may very well happen. It’s hard to predict a day based on the day before. But even still, his body. None of these treatments can fix how his body is functioning. They are therapeutic efforts to sustain his life. This reality is sinking in to deeper and deeper places in me.
I am learning, because I have no choice, to put my hope in the changelessness of God, to put my rest in that placid and solid expanse in which we live and move and have our unpredictable being. I think he is calling us to look beyond–to look for what is underneath and holding us. I know that He Is. Thanks be to God.