I sit alone in my car, in a parking stall outside the farm-supply store. I will find out the doctor’s answer in 30 minutes.
I lean my head back, close my eyes and ask the question out loud: “Lord, what am I supposed to learn from this? What’s the take-away here?”
I breathe in deep, feeling how my lungs puff up with oxygen, then how they squeeze all the air out in one long stream of warm. You notice these sorts of things on days like these — on days when you’re not sure what they’re going to tell you.
You notice the way a single breath feels in your lungs, or the way the sun slants in to make your keychain sparkle, or the way you’ve got a tiny pebble stuck in your cowboy boot. You feel them, because that small part of you that entertains your own mortality wonders how long you’ll get to.
I have 30 minutes before I meet the neurologist who will tell me what the MRI of my brain showed.
A week earlier, I lost hearing in my left ear, and my face grew numb. An infection maybe? I didn’t know. I went to the family doctor, and when I told her, I saw her eyes grow wide. She muttered something about needing to consult a neurologist, then walked out the door.
She came in a bit later. “He wants to see you right away. He’s fitting you into his schedule.”
Her words brought deep relief and profound fear — relief that he had made time for me, and fear … that he had made time for me.
Soon, I was resting on my back with a nurse at my side, telling me to hold still so the machine could get good pictures of my head.
I just knew nothing was wrong. No really. I just knew it. I did. Honest.
Or, … that’s what I kept telling everyone, anyhow.
Afterward, I drove around the city for three hours, waiting for the neurologist to read the MRI.
And that’s where you find me now, waiting it out in the farm-supply store parking lot. I’m wearing a new pair of cowboy boots, and I like the way the leather feels wrapped around my calves. Just bought them inside. Always wanted a pair, but this is the first ones I’ve owned.
Standing sock-footed on the pavement, right outside the store where I bought them, I slipped off my shoes and put on my boots, tags still on. I open the car door, and that’s when I feel a pebble between my toes. I leave it there.
Then I pray.
What is to come of this? I ask God.
Because what’s the point of anything in this life if I’m not going to let it change me?
My radio is tuned to a local Christian station. A woman’s voice hums through the speakers. I listen to what she says, like it might hold some kind of answer to my prayer.
“I’m going to heaven someday,” the cheery voice says. “And when I get there, I’m going to spend an eternity worshipping the Living God. And that’s going to be some kind of party. So the way I figure, I may as well get a head-start here on Earth.”
It takes me awhile before I recognize the voice. It is mine. The woman on the radio is me.
Not figurative me. But actual me.
I had recorded that message a few months earlier for the radio station. I hadn’t heard it in a good, long while.
And now, here I sit, gape-mouthed in my car, listening to Self tell Self to get a head-start on my praise before I get to Heaven. And who knows when that day will come?
Thirty minutes later, I walk into the exam room, new boots clicking against the floor with each step. The neurologist walks in behind me with a broad smile.
“I’ve got great news,” he tells me.
And I walk out of the office wearing cowboy boots, dressed up for a party, dressed up for a way of really living.
Revisiting this post from the January 2012 archive, while we make preparations for our family trip to Haiti … Remembering here the gift of each day, this invitation to really live.