Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ephphatha: A Brief Post-Op Recovery Report about Steve

Since a number of you have asked for news about Steve's recovery from eye surgery, I thought I'd take the liberty of sharing a brief update after he saw the surgeon yesterday for a post-op assessment. The surgeon found him doing very well, and to Steve's relief, removed the wires holding the repaired eyelids in place.

Those wires were, as we had thought, to stabilize the lids during the first days of healing. They were four inches of what the surgeon called "vermicelli wire" under each lid, and as you can imagine, were irritating, though Steve didn't complain about the irritation or even the pain of having them removed--but he did admit the process involved some pain.

Thank you all for your concern. We very much appreciate it. I suppose my nursing skills haven't entirely been a washout during this recovery period, and we have every reason to think the lids will continue to heal well and the surgery will accomplish what it was intended to do--reposition his tear ducts so that his eyes are not constantly watering.

Meanwhile, even as Steve has recovered from the eye operation, he has gotten news of the death of an aunt and a great-uncle within days of each other. The aunt was the wife of Steve's godfather, and he has always been close to this uncle and aunt as a result. 

The great-uncle is actually a cousin who was raised by Steve's great-grandparents, his aunt and uncle, when his parents died early, and called a great-uncle since he was raised as a sibling of Steve's grandfather. He was 97 years old and a Benedictine monk.

When Steve got word of this relative's death, he told me, "I know this is probably childish, but I feel a real loss because this was my last connection to a kind of monasticism I grew up admiring, which I don't see exemplified by Catholic leaders today." The same family that produced this Benedictine monk produced a Benedictine nun, one of Steve's great-aunts, whom he loved dearly for the same reason he loved this "great-uncle": both were loving, gentle, compassionate, peace-making people who would never have dreamed of condemning anyone in the world. They went out of their way to build bridges, to make peace, to invite in and to include. They lived and exemplified the hospitality--Let every guest be received as Christ--which is supposed to be a central part of the Benedictine charism.

Steve does have two Benedictine aunts who exemplify the same virtues, and who have been exceptionally good to us. But he mourns the loss of the last of the two Benedictine forebears of the previous generation, who made a real impact on him as a child growing up in a Catholic community marked by the Benedictine emphasis on working and praying, on building community and living peacefully. Part of what made our Waterloo experience at Belmont Abbey College in the early 1990s so deeply painful for Steve, in particular, is that he had never before encountered Benedictines who behaved the way the monks of that community behaved towards us. For the monks of Belmont Abbey, we were anything but the guests received as Christ.

It was--and I choose the phrase very consciously--an eye-opening experience for him, as someone raised in an entirely different Catholic-Benedictine world.

The graphic is from Gray's Anatomy (Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1918), and is in the common domain in the U.S.--and available at Wikimedia Commons.

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