There is nothing dreamy or romantic about illness. It is twisting, carnal, writing through the night. It’s pain so intense that sheets tear in spasms. There is nothing lovely in sweat and hot breath and the clammy lint that gathers on the palms of your hands. It is the natural state of man, a worm. Writhing. And so I cried that night. Cried in class… back seat, nobody noticed. Cried because I was scorned, cried because the pain was so intense, cried because I was simply hungry. And I am not very brave, you know.
I’m just a person. I don’t want to hear the whispers of friends who asked the question I didn’t want to hear. “Are you going to die?” I am not afraid of dying. But I am afraid… horribly afraid… of ceasing to live. And how can I climb mountains and elbow my way beneath them when I’m stretched out on the bed? I cannot. I am prisoner to the unknown, to pain.
But here’s the secret – for us. Illness does not define who I am. It does not define who you are. You and I face death everyday. It can scare us we slam into our driveways and abandon our cars, while we hide behind our curtains as hypochondriacs, terrified, attributing every cough to whooping-cough, every ache and pain to the worst. Or we can shrug off death as a necessary part of life and ignore it. Learn to tune in to the little things, the God things. The friend who sits across from me at Wendy’s and says “hey, uh… could we study the Bible?”, the praise music I have a habit of blasting at anyone who’s driving to school with me, the boss who gives me an extra ‘how are you’, the dad who lets me sit on his lap and cry, Mum’s interested listening to my stories of school.
This is my secret. The story does not end. I am free. Ever since I can remember, I’ve flopped down in the newmown grass and watched the birds. Learned their species. Laughed at the crows chasing off an indignant hawk from their young ones, cupped the tiny bluebird who has been abandoned in my hands and marveled. I am a bird. I am free. And I will live. I will run those mountains again. I will laugh and swing from a grapevine over the cliffs, I will swim up to raging falls found hidden in the woods. I will show a child the marvel of a chrysalis, and lay my head up against the hollow of a poplar tree and hear an owl sleepily answer my voice. And I will not die. I will never die. Who cares about if this body lives or dies. I am alive with a life that is eternal. I am ALIVE.