As I type these words, a woman Laura and I only met a few weeks ago is cutting into my wife’s abdomen in search of a mass that she will then snip off and remove from my wife’s body. There’s a gravity about that fact that somehow sharpens one’s focus on what’s important. And this is a surgery that, as surgeries go, is relatively low risk and routine. For those of you who have gone through emergency surgeries or other, much higher risk surgeries, you must have been able to cut glass your focus was so sharp.
I looked at Laura sitting in her big, light blue hospital recliner in the pre-op room. She wore a white hospital gown striped blue (I’m assuming to match the chair and eminate a sense of tranquility), and she had the blankets the nurse had gotten her pulled up tight around her neck. They have to tell you about all the risks when you go into surgery. All of them. And so of course, at one point the operating doctor said the D word. Death. That will sharpen your focus real quick.
Laura somehow looked more real sitting in that chair, as if I were seeing her in fuller color and higher definition than I saw her yesterday. Her loose hair fell around her soft face. She seemed to radiate beauty, even in a hospital gown. Perhaps even the remotest possibility of losing her combined with the fact that here she was about to actually go through with this procedure, as if on the cusp of some great battle, caused me to see her with new eyes, with a sense of sharper focus, with an awareness of details that are too often lost on me. All the things we’d worried about last week blurred into distant background noise. Plans and commitments and goals and dreams and obligations all paled in comparison with the intensity of this singular moment.
I kissed her in the hallway outside the pre-op room before we parted ways and she walked down a hallway with the anesthesia guy en route to the operating room and I returned to the waiting room. It’s not a high risk surgery at all (I keep reminding myself of that), but the thought did cross my mind even before my butt hit the waiting room chair that that might have been the last time she’ll kiss me back this side of heaven.
Now I’m sitting in the waiting room with a bunch of strangers. Laura’s name is highlighted green on a TV screen with a note in the third column next to the doctor’s name that says “Procedure in Progress.” I just got a text message (a text message!) through some automated system that says simply “Lauras Procedure has started.” I won’t even text back to tell them they forgot the apostrophe and that there’s no need to capitalize the word “Procedure” in that sentence. Not even the most egregious sin committed against the English language could phase me at the moment. It just doesn’t matter. My wife is unconscious right now on an operating table! See what I mean? Laser-like focus. And all it required was to be faced with something so much bigger and more important that everything else fades away like morning fog beneath a warm sun.
I wonder what it’d take to live this way. Perhaps we’re not supposed to. Perhaps it’d be too much for my senses to be constantly so aware. Or perhaps it’s precisely how we’re meant to live, truly alive in the moment and not trapped in either the past or the future. I have this moment, this conversation with the woman I love more than oxygen, this chance to look into her eyes, this kiss. Nothing more. I can’t focus on anything other than what’s right in front of me, what’s real right now, what I have in this given moment. And in these flashes of focus, a thankfulness for all I have wells up, and God draws nearer somehow, and I’m confident that truly nothing can separate me from his great love. Nothing. Not losing her or a botched Procedure or inappropriately placed capitalization. The focus afforded me in these moments lifts my gaze to see past this world and into the world just beyond the senses, a world no less real but often lost on me, kind of like the way I so often miss so many of Laura’s details.
And I don’t have to worry. I’m aware of the reality of something so much bigger and greater. God’s here, and he’s for us. If that’s true, everything else fades into grays and disappears, and the only thing left in its place is the deepest sense of hope. Whatever the doctor might tell me during our post-op meeting. It doesn’t matter. My gaze is set on the fact that God is real and with me right here and right now.
Oh, for eyes to see this sharply more often. For now, while my eyes remain this open at least, I’ll worship. And I’ll hope. Come what may.