Waiting patiently is never my best attribute. I grew up in the instant coffee, tea-bags era and the internet, ”on-demand”, “here when you want it age” suits me just fine. But I’m waiting. In the Waiting Room no less as my wife, Cynthia, paces impatiently. In fairness it’s been 90 minutes of waiting past the hour they told us to report. They need an app for the Smartphone, like Uber has, that tells you where your taxi is. We’ve exhausted our patience alternatives. Emails have all been checked, Facebook feed read, status posts updated. I’ve been introduced to daytime television. They have computer magazines from 2005! I’ve long ago had a coffee and now it’s lunch time. Cynthia tells me she is walking, not pacing. Stretching and exercising before an anticipated long lay-up. She is scheduled to have a hysterectomy today (women’s business I would have been told in an earlier age). And I can sit, because I have been warned that for the next few weeks I will be on my feet as the primary carer for she who cannot lift, bend or stretch through the extended healing process.
After about two hours of waiting a strange thing happened. We stopped filling in time and started using it. We talk about love and our lives together. We discuss the (remote) possibility of her dying on the operating table. “I don’t mind dying”, she says, “but there is so much more I want to do.” In her Facebook post she thanks me for being there with her. As we are interviewed by the nurse, Cynthia comments on the nurse’s bright blue patent leather shoes. The nurse is from Northern Victoria and we discuss the rain, the floods and the vagaries of farming. Without realizing it we had moved from passivity to active engagement with the now. We talked of how at her church in Eaglehawk the congregation prayed for her and as they prayed several people came and placed their hands upon her in an act of solidarity. Suddenly energized, Cynthia wrote a column for her church newsletter. She rang her local GP to thank her for her support, asking the receptionist to wish her Allah’s/God’s blessing. (Her GP is Muslim).
So here is what I learned today while waiting. I learned that we should not do it alone. Too often we cut ourselves off from others, believing that to admit of need of company, to admit our fears, to admit our anxiety is weakness. We need to be humble enough to receive and to let others give.
I learned that patience and waiting is easier when we keep things in perspective. We have enjoyed good health, we have meaningful and fulfilling jobs, we have great kids, and caring compassionate friends. This is just the pointy end of the waiting. There has been years of discomfort and months of planning. These few hours will pass. There are other people undergoing operations far more complex and with less certain outcomes here today. It’s so easy to lose perspective and think it is all about me.
I leaned that patience is not passivity. It is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the sun to rise. It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment. And if we are attentive we may see signs of God in our midst; in the caring professionalism of the staff, in messages from friends and in each other. I learned that patience is a gift of God and that I have a truly wonderful wife.
Brian Spencer, Minister