Several posts ago I mentioned an ethics class (Ethics of Life and Death) I’m taking this quarter at Fuller. Well Nate is also taking the class and we recently had an assignment that involved a book review or non-traditional project incorporating art. I, of course, chose a book review on Lucy Bregman’s, Beyond Silence and Denial: Death and Dying Reconsidered and Nate…well he took the non-traditional approach. We both read the book, but as I typed, he drew his response, and titled it “Daily Bread.”
A few days after turning these in, Dr. Dufault-Hunter approached us and asked if we would be willing to share with the class- Nate his drawing, and the two of us about the summer of tumor. We don’t speak of it much, have really only done so formally/publicly once or twice, soon after the crisis ended.
It turned out to be a great opportunity for us to continue verbally processing the affects of the summer. It was meant to be a short 15 minute explanation and it evolved into an hour of class members (including a few nurses, hospital chaplains, and a surgeon from Sweden) asking questions and sharing thoughts. I was blessed by loads of understanding, compassion and encouragement.
Of particular relevance to the class was our experience of the hospital and Nate as patient, treatment, over-treatment, medicalization, isolation, and the presence of God during crisis. I heard it said once, a long time ago, that experience defines our perspective. This was certainly the case here. I find it much easier to speak of God’s presence in tragedy, but when I found myself there…I’ll be completely honest, I’ve never felt so emotionally and spiritually alone.
I’ve thought about elaborating here, risking some misunderstanding, and talking about the confusion of our (Nate and me) emotions not matching the emotions of those around us. Feeling so depressed for months when everyone around us was celebrating (understandably!). A lot of this has been our own working through a grieving process. But we stood in front of the class on Tuesday and asked questions with no answers and expressed new thoughts we were having in the moment as memories surfaced. Per usual, it came across unresolved, untidy and a bit raw. And I’m comfortable with that, even prefer it. I heard Peter Rollins describe trauma as something impossible to conceptualize, impossible to synthesize to a description of what one has learned or integrate it into our minds because it’s so many things. And to do so would make the experience less, would mean we may be missing the point.
Each of us responds differently in moments of crisis. Our experiences are our own. And for me, it was all much more personally complicated than the standard words of comfort, “God is here,” or “He is grieving with you.”
Nate wrote about some of the complexities of this…God’s presence and relationship in moments of tragedy, and perspectives on the role of the hospital/doctors/medicine, in a portion of his artist statement:
He also wrote: “Ironically, despite feeling so mentally, emotionally and spiritually isolated, the Christian community was interceding and experiencing this communion on my behalf.” And for that, we are enormously thankful.
ps, if this is new dialogue for you and at all confusing, read more HERE