23 minutes | Jun 11, 2021

Episode 321 - Subtract Then Add

I'm finally well enough to reflect, somewhat formally through this new podcast, on the recent illness I went through, and on what I heard at the nadir of it. What happens when you are that sick -- and it happens in some form to everyone who has ever lived except those who die suddenly -- is that your body in its requirement to defend itself wipes out every thought, consideration and proper noun of your life other than what serves the body's need to survive. I mean, the preoccupation of your body with survival wipes out everything else. The word I use for this in the cast is negation. Thus when things were at their worst in the hospital, it was as if everything and everyone in whom I have ever set store disappeared. So total was the focus at that point on physical survival. Except -- except -- except -- two things: 1) I wanted Mary to hold my hand, and 2) I wanted to know where, if anywhere, I was going. ("Going", that is, if my heart stopped and my body died.) Wonderfully, Mary was there, present physically in the room, and she held my hand. Throughout the very threatening test, she held my hand. It was an incomparably precious support -- the difference, I want to say, between getting through it and not getting through it. Moreover, I got an answer to my question about "destination". What came to me, quite loudly and unmistakably, was the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah. And not only that, but the version of the "Hallelujah Chorus" that comes at the end of The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). In other words, the music of Hope came to me in my way, in a form with which I could immediately identify. (I always loved the ending of that movie, with Pat Boone as the Angel at the Tomb.) God's Word of Hope came to me from a movie! En bref an experience of severe illness gave me the everlasting connection of Divine Love in the form of Mary's hand gripping mine, and in the words of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah. Maybe I should be glad I got sick.
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