“For now we see in a mirror, dimly.” -Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, (13:12)
Whenever I hear this passage, I am transported back to my childhood.
You see, when I was a child I was often sick. I spent many weeks off school and I remember many, many nights in the hospital.
I couldn’t breathe well.
I remember the first time I was left alone by my parents. They had refused to leave the hospital until well after hours, my mother’s face ashen as I begged them to take me home. But I had to stay.
I refused to let go of my father’s handkerchief and the hand-puppet my mother bought in the gift shop. I pushed these treasures into my face to try to get away from the room with its strange noises and antiseptic smell and the crying and the shadows of the nurses who slipped quietly in and out to check my IV and listen to my chest.
Once, I was in an oxygen tent for many days. It was hard to sleep. Every few hours, around the clock, the nurse dumped ice cubes into the back of the tent so that my lungs didn’t dry out too much.
Everything that came to me was delivered under the plastic; everything outside the plastic was distorted and warped.
Every day, Mom came with books and small toys. Dad came to watch Hogan’s Heroes with me on TV. Since the picture was curved and bent by the tent, it was often difficult to follow the show.
I was so small, so dependent. My vision was clear for things close to me but distorted at a certain distance. Dad and Mom reached into the tent to hold my hand and comfort my fear. Despite the ice cubes in the night, nurses coming and going at all hours and the pain of needles, I now know I was blessed. My parents helped me to heal.
Eventually, the tent came off. I remember the exact moment vividly. Suddenly, the clarity with which I could see astounded me. Everything around me looked as if it had been cut by a jeweller, all right angles and crisp, clean edges. Colours were so deep and rich I felt sure they had weight, taste.
If I hadn’t spent time in that oxygen tent, I never would have appreciated being out of one.
I took a deep, clear breath and smiled. I was going home.
The Rev. Lee Lambert is rector of St. Mary’s Church in Russell, Ont.