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“What Does Normal Mean Anyway?”

“What does normal mean anyway?”[1]



I offer this post with a bit of hesitancy. Beginning a blog, I was certain I would not be one of those individuals who would start “strong” with regular posts, followed by a single post significantly later; until eventually the blog fades into oblivion with the error message, “domain not found,” or “domain for sale.” While I am still determined to write about my experiences, I am doing my best to accept Grace ACTIVELY and not just speak about it as some theological concept. That said life is challenging, busy, and while there are plans often in place, it frequently seems as though the plans are being executed while I’m driving a bumper car rather than following a predetermined path.


In the famous movie, Forest Gump, Sally Fields, playing Forest’s mother asks the question, “What does normal mean anyway?” I am not certain I have a strong answer for that question, but I can offer my more recent experience. The first weekend of October has been challenging for several years now. The beginning of the month serves as an annual reminder in which the spiritual idea of Grace personally Transfigured from concept into action as the skilled hands of medical professionals cared with intentionality, purpose, and ultimately lifesaving precision. As I awoke to the sounds of machines “honking” and alarms “sounding,” I knew I was alive. I knew I needed to fight, and I knew from time spent previously working in a hospital’s Spiritual Care department, that the doctors would be wanting me to “breathe over” the machine. Even in a state-of-twilight, I remember digging deep inside and forcing myself to breathe beyond the assistance I had been provided through earlier intubation, leading the machine to further “honk.” Being extubated is now merely a vague memory, and I was finally moved from the Intensive Care Unit to a Step-Down Unit where I slowly became cognizant that friends and family had gathered in the preceding days from near and far. The seriousness and fragility of the circumstances that had unfolded the days prior to my “awakening,” my renewed life, a gift given but by Grace alone, is still only now slowly coming into focus five years later.


“What does normal mean anyway?” Well, it may mean that even as the mysterious implication of my time in the Intensive Care Unit and subsequent stay in the hospital continues to offer new insight and challenges annually, it may also certainly mean that an individual, having had such an experience, can continue their life journey. This includes doing such things as falling in love, remarrying, continuing to grow and celebrate as Grace floats on the “winds of the Spirit,” even amid numerous emotions, the continuous encouragement and support of friends, loved ones, and a community of faith is an intrinsic life-force. Even while my emotions have been present across the spectrum in the past few weeks, complicated by recovery from COVID-19, after avoiding infection for two-and-a-half years, I feel compelled to share openly the reality of the difficulties that are currently being faced by others and our need to speak about them, write about them, and do our best to remove the stigma and “hush” surrounding such events. The consequences of doing otherwise, of keeping the curtains drawn, of hiding these events from public discussion, is certainly a matter of life and death. Unfortunately, for too many the recognition of such struggles, and the presence of caring and high-quality interventions, has not come in time.


I was one of the “lucky” ones if you can call it that. I continue to receive ongoing care from professionals and loved ones that is remarkable, has allowed for additional healing and successive journeying along the pathway of life. For that I give thanks. Further, I offer my prayers for those who find themselves amid desperation, loneliness, or even encountering a sense of isolation in a room full of people. I pray for connection and for the availability of high-quality mental health care services. I pray that those, whether physically alone or emotionally isolated and struggling with depression, encounter Grace in a way that is life-giving. My ultimate prayer is that Grace may give to them a sense of renewal; truly a prayer for life-saving Grace. I have said that Grace is active. That Grace is unconditional, and yet Grace is also invitational.


Five years beyond a love filled encounter with unconditional Grace, I find myself pondering that which continues to beckon. That which is invitational. That which seems to be calling for discernment. All the while, I am doing my best to recognize and honor the communal and relational nature involved within this sense of discernment. Today I laughed at the increasing “natural” highlights appearing in my hair. Today I wept as I listened to the words of Francesca Battistelli’s song “Angel By Your Side,” recalling my bride quietly singing the words to me during the lighting of our Unity Candle two months ago. Today I reasoned, prayed, and tried to sit quietly, all the while feeling like I might be on a high-speed Merry-go-Round.


Again, life itself is a precious gift. So how we decide to care for ourselves, as well as others, has tremendous implications for our well-being, sense of joy, and that of future generations. Until next time!


Grace and Peace,

Clinton





















[1] (Zemeckis, Forest Gump, 1994)

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