Christmas 2016 for me was rather different than normal. I knew the other side of it was less about working off the turkey pounds and more about not being chicken for the major surgery that lay ahead. My operation was originally scheduled for beginning of January, but with the challenges that the NHS is facing at the moment, it wasn’t to be.
So it was after two cancellations , days of waiting in my dressing gown (of course sporting a pocket square), unexpected taxis home in the rain to wait for a new date, more nights overnight in hospital, more shaving (how many times is it necessary to shave a chap’s chest in 3 weeks?!) I was finally facing surgery as first on the list the next morning.
Not only was I sitting in a room of strangers, but I was missing out on a fun night to celebrate the re branding launch of an LGBT charity I’m a trustee of. Thank goodness the Wi-Fi signal gods at Papworth were kind enough to show me the well wishes from the event and from other friends.
Even in the short time that I was in hospital before and after the operation I was struck how isolated from the world I felt and whilst it’s a two edged sword, modern technology can be a blessing to keeping in touch with the thoughts and prayers of friends and family.
As I lay in bed in that ward I had time to reflect on the extraordinary few months leading to that point. There were many occasions where the ordinary collided with the extraordinary. There was the time of waking up on the sofa just in time to see the final image of the Paralympic closing ceremony of a huge heart being formed on the stadium floor. Or the Sunday that I left Great St Mary’s Church later than normal which meant I bumped into the last of The Chariots of Fire race competitors who just happen to be raising money for Papworth Hospital. Or being in the right carriage, at the right time, on the right train to hear a conversation between two men clearly describing the language of the Church of England’s ordination selection process .And having the courage to speak with them.
Many moments. Many conversations. Many beats of the heart.
The heart . There’s something so emotive, potent, visceral and compelling about it.
The imagery in faith, art, literature, songs and indeed hymns: all manner of human expression. It is so vital: the pump house of our bodies and yet or indeed because of that, so soulful.
I closed my eyes and thought back to the towering figure of the Bishop of Ely laying his hands on my head in blessing to help prepare me for this ordeal.
I was reminded on that Epiphany Sunday and now in that hospital bed, of a knight being blessed before going into battle.
My thoughts returned to that dear hymn I learnt as a boy:
When a knight won his spurs in the stories of old
He was gentle and brave he was gallant and bold
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand
For God and for valour he rode through the land
No charger have I, and no sword by my side
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride
Though back into storyland giants have fled
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead
Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
Against the dragons of anger the ogres of greed
And let me set free with the sword of my youth
From the castle of darkness the power of the truth
It was time to face my dragons……….