Floating in a lake of liquid glass I decided to do it

My children and I had spent the hot mid-July morning swimming around our boat we had parked in the middle of the beautiful Wisconsin lake when it dawned on me. “You’re not getting any younger. Just do it.” Forever 17 in my head, I decided  I needed to feel the smooth velvet under my ski.  After pulling on a life jacket I hung back in the cool water, my blue-green O’Brien ski tip just showing above the surface.   While my teen age son pulled the boat around to take the slack out of the tow rope,  I basked with the sunshine on my face and had two thoughts; “Life is great,” and ” Think Strong.”  When I was ready I yelled, “Hit it.”

Along with the  sudden sound of the boat’s engine roaring, there was a terrible sensation, (well, actually a severe pain,) all along my sternum.  I remember now, that same sensation of bones crunching  under the heel of my hand when I did chest compressions on an elderly patient years ago.    I was working in a small town E.R. when the little lady came in and coded. You know-when you age your bones get “brittle.” They’re not as strong as they  used to be.

As I drug myself onto the deck of the Nautique, my tears were partly from pain and partly from the fact that I can’t always do what I enjoyed doing when I was younger.  Now, a week later, because I feel like I’ve been kicked in the chest by a horse, my tears are” just below the surface,”  and I’m spending a lot of time thinking about life being “good.”

You see, besides having a chest that aches, I have a heart that aches.  I just found out that my friend Luke, whom I don’t see very often,  has lymphoma.  Mr. Successful, Mr. Personality,  Mr. Everybody-Loves- Luke; yeah,  that Luke has cancer.  And it makes my heart ache.

He was on the top of his game from all outward appearances.  The night he told us,  it was hard to see him smiling and chatting with all of his friends who love him and his   restaurant. He was chatting, but in a more reserved way; some of his vitality was missing, and he looked  a little vulnerable.  I wondered if he tired of repeating his story while sporting a new look;  the    “I just finished  chemo” look…no hair, no eye brows, no lashes.

The sound technicians at Focus on the Family Radio Theater are masters of their trade.   When producing The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,   I don’t know what type of fleshy, juicy fruit with a rind they used to portray the tough, scaly skin being ripped from Eustace,  but the effect is unforgettable.  It is my favorite “scene” in the radio production of C.S Lewis’s book.

A rather nasty little boy named Eustace,  turns into a dragon and he is miserable.  His selfishness and greed are to be blamed for his misery, for it was while he was trying to hide treasure from his friends that he  became a dragon in the first place.   Initially, he thinks it may be grand to be a dragon and take revenge on all those whom he thought had made his life difficult, but he quickly finds it to be a lonely existence, isolated from those he realizes he loves. And the gold bracelet he had stolen was cutting into his larger dragon leg, causing him great pain.

While in his dragon state, he came face to face with Aslan- the only one who could help him.  The Great Lion, looks into his eyes and tells the boy to “Follow Me.” They eventually came to a  well in the mountains. It was a beautiful, round  bath with marble steps leading down into its depths. It looks inviting,  and may soothe his pain.  Aslan then requires Eustace to “Undress,”  before he bathes,  and the boy sheepishly realizes Aslan is requiring him to remove his skin, as he is wearing no clothes. After repeated attempts to scratch off the horrible, scaly skin  Eustace finds he can only remove  layers, much like a snake shedding his skin.  But he remains unchanged.  He can do nothing on his own to remove the rough, thick skin that is still  covering him.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Aslan requires Eustace to lie on his back.  Because Eustace is becoming more humble in his desperate condition, he submits and “the first tear with the Lion’s claw was so deep it felt as though it was going straight to his heart.”  (Here is where the  Focus on the Family sound fx guys were brilliant; the tearing, ripping,rending sound they accomplish leave a lasting impression in your mind.) The only thing that makes it bearable to Eustace is the pleasure he feels when his  real, tender, human skin is exposed and the hideous,  thick, dragon skin is  removed.  It was glorious  to feel as “smooth and soft as a peeled switch,”  and smaller too.

Luke reminds me of Eustace.  Oh no.  I don’t mean that he is a nasty little boy.  Au contraire.  Luke is a very nice young man, but like all of us, he probably has a bit of an exterior surface.  It may even be tough and scaly after years of build up. Life sure has a way of ripping off exteriors doesn’t it.  Those tough hides we like to hide inside of, thinking we could remove them if we wanted to, but it’s safer not to.  Less embarrassing too-you know… never let ’em see you cry.  Never let ’em see those tears that are “just below the surface.”

It’s easy for me to say I am thankful the Great Physician doesn’t leave us in our present state, our dragon state.  I’m not the one currently lying on my back while he rips into my hide,  trusting the Great Healer to “undress” me, but somehow, I hope Luke will see  though His mercy is severe, (to borrow a term from Mr. Lewis,) it is a mercy none-the-less.

And I pray the debridement will give him the pleasure of feeling as “smooth and soft as a peeled switch.”

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