Four days ago, I had surgery to correct a muscle issue in my throat. The easiest way to describe it is as a misplaced hernia. The muscles opened in one spot to permit a pouch to form.
No one knows why it happens, only that it does occasionally, and usually in men. It could be sports related, as my two passions—surfing and road cycling—both require the neck to remain taut in an upraised position for long periods. It is now eight o’clock at night, and my energy has returned in a surprise wavelet, really no predictable pattern to this at all. I was up at around six this morning as usual, worked for ninety minutes, and was left in a fog for hours.
The surgery went well, but apparently it was a good deal more involved than they had initially thought. My neck and upper chest areas remain very sore. Swallowing anything is such a chore. Isabella made me a massive pot of chicken soup which I have ground to mulch, and taking small spoonfulls I’m able to down half a bowl at a time. I don’t really mind it too much, to be honest. The entire hospital experience has had the feeling of a very intense spiritual gift.
Leaving the hospital after the preliminary meeting with the doctor last week (up until then, everything had been arranged by email and phone from the US), I had a very powerful sense of being close to God. Such moments have of course come in the past, but there was a particular edge to this one. I felt so intensely vulnerable, which was odd, because I’d just been told the operation would not be severe, and my overall health has been great. But entering the hospital’s underground parking garage, I had this one fleeting moment of glimpsing beyond the visit and this operation and this time of good health–to the beyond.
For a split second I was able to look out to when health is no more, and my days are completed, and the breath is gone, and life is given back to the giver of all. I almost broke down and wept in the parking lot. There was nothing particularly frightening about the experience. Rather, I wished I could somehow remain this close to God all the time.
Which of course I can’t. And so I left the parking garage and went to the Starbucks and had a coffee and read the paper. I felt very inadequate, and wished I could appreciate more, and have greater compassion for those in pain or in fear. And yet God loved me even with all these failings, enough to turn a simple doctor’s visit into a glimpse of the hereafter.
Everything I’ve been through since then has been two-sided. On the one hand, the operation was really intense, and the pain has been pretty harsh, and because they had to mash my tongue down hard to get the second instrument down, it compressed the nerve and half of my tongue and mouth have been numb since the operation. I have no taste, no feeling, nothing. The muscles at the back had to be cut a bit in order to relieve the strain on the entire passage, and I have also lost my voice. I am still only managing a whisper, and even that hurts quite a lot.
And yet, it really is all so minor. I have these flashes of worry, about the film’s p&a budget and the 2013 publishing schedule and my writing and when I can return to the current project… And then there are these other moments when I am back again in the parking garage, standing there beside my car, and knowing that I am not alone in that dark cold place. The feeling of being surrounded by an overwhelming gift of love remains with me still.