Monday, September 21, 2009

To Life

Here in Baltimore, in the tiny battleground of Gabe’s wrist, a fight is in full swing.

The surgery, which was predicted to take two hours, has been nearly four hours now. We just got a call from the OR nurse. It’s been difficult. It’s going to be a while longer. Maybe another hour.

Is Gabe okay? I asked. Yes. He’s fine. And the doctor is really good.

I can picture it, the landscape of broken bone and sheared cartilage, the pieces which need to be put back together securely enough somehow so that tendons can pull fingers, so that hands have full strength to lift, to twist. I picture Gabe a month ago, agile, supple, up and down in a flash, working on things on his truck. His hands moving fast…too fast. Slow down, we would say. But he was so proud of his quickness. I want those hands to work well, really well, again.

The surgeon is in there, making choices. What to hook to what, and how. Not having anywhere near good choices to work with. Maybe weighing difficult decisions of what could be lost.

I think of the doctor leading the operation. He’s a superstar, I was told by Gabe's renowned leg surgeon. He’s the guy I would want operating on my kid if need be. This very talented man is still in there, now going into the fifth hour. They have been fighting, doing their best with the rules of flesh and bone and physics and tension and tissue and a very limited space to work in and much to leverage, to get the job done as well as they can. Inevitably, they will be unhappy with parts of the process. Some of it will not go as well as they had hoped. There may be permanent damage.

It is hard to write that. I do not take it lightly. I am just forcing myself to look at this dispassionately, and honestly.

If we are talking about putting a wrist back together, it’s one thing. If we are talking about doing the best job you can to design the rules of a war, permanent damage means something else. It means the life and health of men and sometimes women, who deserve to live, and be as healthy and happy as you and me.

Kathy Wilt, Scott’s mom, emailed me a couple of weeks ago. She has mentally adopted every soldier over in the province. I think it’s a mom thing, to open your heart like that, and Kathy really, really does. Her anguish over the Rules Of Engagement – the ROE – that is supposed to protect Afghan civilians but sometimes leaves our soldiers wanting, was deep and heartfelt - and understandable. And shared by many.

There is not going to be a succinct summing-up of life, a perspective that puts everything in place here. The wrist repair and the war have this in common: it’s work that's not pretty. It’s not perfect. We just hope it works the best it can.

And we have to trust that the folks in charge – the NATO leaders and the folks in the operating room here – are doing the very, very, very best they are able. That's a leap of faith when you are talking about the life and health of someone you love.

Dear hearts who have suffered loss, may you find the peace you need to live with it.

The rest of us…let us be grateful. In fact, let us be ridiculously happy, aware of life, celebrating it. The world is trying to be good and do good. Ramadan, the time for Muslims to ask for forgiveness and to do good deeds, has just ended. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, has begun, and soon it will be Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement. Today we celebrate the close of this year’s summer, and look forward to autumn; it's the fall equinox, known as Mabon to the ancient Celtic tribes. My Buddhist sister and my Episcopalian church have prayed for my sons this week.

It's no particular holiday here in the fluorescent halls of Sinai Hospital. It's just another wonderful, patient-filled night. The surgery is over, and Gabe's wrist is going to be mostly okay again over time.

Life is good. Things go wrong sometimes, sometimes terribly wrong; but more often in life, I believe things go okay. Let us love and comfort those in pain; but let us live with joy and hope for good.

I have faith in good. In the best of times and in the hard times.

Especially here, today, now.

Thank you, Dr. Dietch. You ROCK.
Thank you, good luck; and to all: to life, to life, l’ life.

Thanks for checking in,

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