22 March 2010 : 3 years 6 months on . . .
My neighbour, Morris, now has a pig’s valve in his heart. He underwent surgery to have his own valve replaced about six weeks ago. When I visited him next door some time after that, he was feeling a bit “down”. He had the post surgery blues. General anaesthetic, I think, not only knocks one out – it also knocks you down. But this is compounded by the emotions of not being at work, of being at home, of being cooped up, of not being able to drive, not being physically well, of being dependent on others.
I can empathise with him – after all, I have been ill for 3 years and almost eight months now. The difference is that Morris’s condition should improve to the extent that he will feel healthy again and return to work. My illness, on the other hand, is degenerative – meaning that it gets worse with time – and it takes me away, bit-by-bit. Gradually, my ability to write, type, read, walk, and talk is being eroded. Nancy Reagan said the following about living with Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s disease: “It’s difficult dealing with the very long good-bye that is part of a neurodegenerative disease.”
I’m trying hard not just to say, “I’m thinking of you”, but to do something concrete for people in need. I find that by helping others, I am able to keep my mind off my predicament. So I asked Morris whether he would like to go along to St Francis Bay the next time I went down there. He was extremely enthusiastic to get out of the house and go along, so the following week when I headed in that direction, I stopped in at his home to take him along. Alas, Morris had been re-admitted to hospital with infection in his wound.
Our visit to St Francis Bay would have to wait for another two weeks. So last Thursday, with Morris back home and feeling better, we headed off for the day. I had to check on some things at our house there, and Morris sat outside on the lawn, looking out over End Canal, the canal that passes in front of our place.
It was one of those beautiful days that we experience at the coast at this autumn time of the year – no wind and a comfortable temperature of 24C degrees. A few people were sun tanning at the pool and a lonesome couple were lying out on a solitary rubber duck in the middle of the canal. For the rest, you could hear only a few birds tweeting and the sea crashing on the beach a few hundred metres away.
Later, when I had finished the chores, I joined Morris outside on the lawn. It was quite hot and we removed our shirts – Morris displaying the large white plaster down the front of his chest – the only evidence of his recent surgery. We soaked up the last of the summer rays before the sun heads back on its annual return trip to the northern hemisphere. He drank a cold Windhoek Lite and I had a chilled glass (no, two!) of Groot Vertroue Red Harvest from Robertson, in the Western Cape.
Someone mentioned to me some while ago about how lucky I was. I was getting to see life from a perspective that most people do not experience. My initial reaction was one of a flash of anger that I normally only reserve for my wife and sons – the anger that most people have not seen in me. I retorted that I would swap my situation with anyone who thought that I was lucky!
Paul Williams, an Old Grey (Class of 1984) who has been doing missionary work in Siberia, commented on my Facebook site in response to one of my earlier notes:
” Thanks for this perspective into your world Ed. It is humbling and yet so filled with the warmth of “noticing life”, which often becomes invisible as we fill our lives with work and ‘stuff’. Travel well and enjoy the fullness of life you are experiencing which others don’t really get a chance to notice… you are blessed.”
Yes, if I think about it, how true this is. I am lucky and I am blessed. Here, again, was one of those Perfect Moments that seem to elude us so often during our “normal” life. One of those moments that would never have happened had I not been ill and been working – caught up in the stresses and strains and “stuff” that most other people experience every day in their working environment. One of those moments that, as healthy people, we often choose to forgo because our work is so much more important. One of those moments that we choose to defer to another time – next week, next month, next holiday, next year, or for when we retire, and in many cases, then never get to experience at all!
The first little fishing boat that the boys got at St Francis is a 3-metre, six-seater river boat powered by a 15HP Johnson engine. Phillip still uses it on the river – mainly for fishing and visiting friends up and down the waterways. Its name is RUSK and it comes from a family saying of ours (sort of based on the if life hands you a lemon, turn it into lemonade idea): If life gives you a hard rusk, then dunk it into your coffee and make it soft.
Today was the flip side of the hand that life has dealt me. We spoke about Perfect Moments there on the lawn and when we went for a “fresh fish of the day” lunch at Christy’s Catch. We spoke about the little things that make up the perfect moments. We discussed the things of importance that we so often overlook in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We continued the conversation in the car, when we returned home to Port Elizabeth later that afternoon.
In order to experience Life, we have to be living each and every moment. And, in order to be living each moment, we have to live in each moment. But that is easier said than done!
Yet, as children we do it (just watch the youngsters at play in the playground at school during their break times). But, as adults, it seems to become so elusive and difficult. We are so busy bringing up and blaming the past moments, and planning for and worrying about the future moments that we miss out on enjoying the present moments.
It is something that I have to work at all the time – living the moment. I tried it on Thursday evening when we went to view the Grey Afrikaans Rock show at the Boardwalk’s Amphitheatre and on Friday evening when we listened to Sean and the Grey Orchestra (of which he is the leader) playing their Proms ‘Neath the Tower in the school’s memorial quadrangle. I tried to close my eyes, put everything else out of my mind and just concentrate on the music. It is not easy!
Roland Munro, another Old Grey and ex-scholar of mine (Class of 1984) said the following in a note he made on Facebook:
“It reminds me of an awesome book, “Tuesday’s with Morrie” by Mitch Albom. This book changed my life and my view of life. I strongly recommend you guys read it! Morrie was Mitch’s varsity Professor and Mitch learns of his terminal illness and decides to spend every Tuesday with Morrie, where Morrie shares a life lesson with Mitch every Tuesday.”
Today, I learnt another life lesson to Live the Moment. It was my Thursday with Morris.
Matthew 6:25-34 NIV
Do Not Worry
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.