By Rev. Charles Freeman, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church

Rev. Charles Freeman, Pastor with Grace PC in Gainesville, is preparing himself for major surgery on May 20, followed by at least a week in the hospital and a minimum of 6-8 weeks of recovery.  

Our faith proclaims that whatever we face in life and in death, God is with us –and we do not face it alone.  As many others facing serious life challenges can identify, Rev. Freeman has given expression to the fears and the faith that mix within his soul with insight and honesty.  Bearing witness among this community of care and support, Charles offers this personal reflection. . .

“. . . This is the state of things for my body, and it’s going to be a slog to get through this surgery and recovery to whatever weird variant of ‘normal’ awaits on the other side. It’s also a little more complicated in that there’s a hernia in the way (left over from that cancer surgery) that has to be fixed before the actual colostomy can be done, which means a long day on the table (and more opportunity for complications, if I’m honest, but I’m trying not to think about that too much).

 “So there’s been plenty of anger and even rage so far, and I’m quite sure there will be more. There’s been plenty of sadness and even despair, too. There isn’t happiness. Why would there be? There has basically been a more or less steady flow of uneven, turbulent, and even contradictory emotions, which I don’t expect to change any time soon. The standard sardonic humor has also been kicking in, as the surgery has acquired the rather pompous nickname, The Great Rerouting, which, if nothing else, has the merit of being more or less accurate and substantially less gross-sounding than what will actually happen.

“I mean, I’m not going to have a *normal* life after this. It may be some new approximation of “normal” in the sense of a routine that sets in and becomes a pattern against which some form of life may happen, but it won’t remotely be “normal” in the sense that any kind of 50%+1 of the population experiences it. And as I’m sure you’re aware, this isn’t exactly a great conversation starter. In fact, it’s pretty good conversation stopper. So it tends to shut me down or shut me off sometimes. I have been able to confide in some valued friends and, of course, I am married to a woman who has had an unfortunate amount of dealing with my health failings with grace and steel beyond my capacity to grasp. We will be challenged again, and I have no soothsaying power to say how it will come out. Not to mention there will be a rather substantial period of enforced non-work that will no doubt fill up with all manner of reflection and reconsideration, whether I want it to or not (I’m hoping to fill it with reading and writing, but the other will happen regardless).

“So if anybody saw this hymn and wondered where it came from (, now you know it’s personal, or will be.

“This was absolutely not something I wanted to do, but all the illness and failure of that body part was absolutely hindering my ability to function much at all, much less to do my job. I have a choice between two impaired qualities of life, and I am choosing the one that at least offers a chance of some kind of “normal” living.

“I am grateful to the session for their forbearance and understanding, both in planning for the absence itself and in allowing me the professional time and vacation beforehand (when I can hopefully still do both).

“Now that you’ve subjected yourself to more than you ever wanted to hear on this, I’ll stop.”