I want to tell you about a book. A beautiful, wonderful, terrible, moving, life-altering little book. What I mean by that is, upon finishing it, I (an avid reader) couldn’t find another volume in my library which I felt could even begin to come near to the experience I’d just lived through.
Archives For Death
Relax. No, I don’t have cancer, but it runs in my family. I’ve lost both a grandmother, and an uncle, to it. Because of this, despite not yet being fifty, I’m supposed to get an annual colonoscopy.
I’ve yet to have one.
The reason for this is simple, stupid, but nevertheless true: I’ve had a flexible sigmoidoscopy. What’s that, you ask?
A sigmoidoscopy is colonoscopy’s younger sibling (or maybe its second cousin, twice removed). All of the prep work is the same; meaning no food beginning 12-24 hours prior, stool softeners, and that lovely Cascara, which is like drinking chalk-flavored Gatorade.
In case you missed that, one’s mission–whether one accepts it, or not–is to self-induce diarrhea in advanced of undergoing the procedure. On purpose.
People died of diarrhea during the Civil War!
In any case, while the preparations are similar, there is one crucial difference between the flex sig and a full colonoscopy; namely, that a colonoscopy is done under general anesthesia, whereas the sigmoidoscopy is done fully awake.
Yes, you read that right: it’s done entirely conscious. And while both are out patient procedures, the former is usually done in a hospital, while the latter can be done in one’s doctor’s office.
If my understanding is correct, the prevailing medical thought is that because the flexible sigmoidoscopy doesn’t go as far into the colon, it’s less a pain in the butt, and can consequently be done awake.
Let that sink in.
One reports to one’s doctor’s office, after having quite literally crapped one’s guts out, to lie prone upon a table, in a too-cold room, with nothing but a paper gown on to ward off the chill. The doctor enters, with a nurse, because like the boy and girl scouts this requires two-deep leadership (it wouldn’t do to have anything untoward occur). And then, without so much as a by-your-leave (or even dinner), lube is lugubriously applied to a region reserved as an exit only zone. After that, a long tube, at a snail’s pace, is inserted. All the while, the nurse is encouraging relaxation; “just breathe,” she says.
Relaxation is about the farthest thing from one’s mind at that point. It’s more like grin and bear it–or grimace and bear it. One of the two. The best that can happen is an uneasy peace; it’s not going to last forever, or one will die right there of embarrassment.
There is after all a long, dark tube right up there in the Hershey Highway.
But the worst is yet to come:
Air, like helium into party balloons, is pumped up in there so that the doctor may better appreciate the structures of the lower bowel. Only it’s no party; it’s quite literally a pain in the butt. And beyond.
As a patient, whether one can, or cannot, see the monitor upon which the Colon Cam is displayed, one’s doctor will typically begin a descriptive video service. (Nowhere did this item ever even begin to appear on my bucket list: have your sigmoid colon described in vivid detail by your doctor). “That’s a hemorrhoid! There’s another one! Good! Don’t see any polyps! Oh, look! A piece of poo!”
If one felt embarrassed before, that right there would be where the bottom fell out of the nadir of embarrassment. Oh, to melt through the table, into the floor, and be no more! Curse this too, too solid flesh!
Then at last it’s over, one is handed tissues to wipe off the thick, viscous jelly from one’s nethers; the doctor and nurse exuent omnes, and one is left to contemplate the series of events leading to this tube time and place.
Wiping, washing, and dressing complete, one is free to leave; breathing a sigh (or several) of relief, thinking the worst is behind you.
Oh, how wrong that is!
The air pumped up in there, no longer having a tube occluding its exit route, discovers the point of least resistance–namely, one’s anus. If the blow-by-blow of the colon highway was the bottom dropping out of the nadir of the experience this is somehow even lower.
It’s not just a little gas; it’s like the inevitable results of a weeklong refried bean binge, the Vesuvius of anal expulsions (think pyroclastic flow–all hot ash and gas, no lava), and the Manhattan Project all rolled into one. In other words, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Yet other than death there is no escaping these noxious emissions.
And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is why I have yet to have a full colonoscopy. The defense rests. I place myself upon the mercy of the court.
Have you had a colonoscopy/sigmoidoscopy? How did it go?
Today, I woke with thoughts of Lazarus in my head. To my knowledge, I myself have never been, you know, dead. The neurons are still firing up in my head. At least I’d like to think so. We’ll leave that for you, gentle reader, to decide.
“Lazarus, come forth.” It wasn’t a suggestion, but a command. This was clearly a miracle performed to show those in Bethany (where Jesus had spent so much time) that the Lord had power death. We understand that. We also understand the grief, the sense of loss, Mary, Martha, and Jesus himself felt over Lazarus’s demise. Yet this also was a command which would not have been necessary had Jesus come sooner, had healed Lazarus as he’d healed so many others.
Yet he didn’t.
Dare we impugn Lazarus? Was he lacking in faith? He knew the Lord–saw him–in ways we ourselves do not, and cannot, now know him. Yes, he lives inside. Lazarus knew him, ate with him, laughed with him, loved him.
Yet Jesus let him die.
What a letdown this was for everybody. Mary, Martha, their family, friends, the people of Bethany who knew what Jesus could do, what he had done. They knew, they saw. And yet here was one of his closest friends laid in a tomb, mouldering after three days (“I’m a servant of the Lord! Look what it’s done for me!”).
And if Lazarus, beloved of Jesus, was allowed to die what does this say of us? It seems that, rather than our best lives now, often the beloved of the Lord suffer great hardships, great losses, even die, before the miracles happen. The Christian life is, and this is not original to me, about death:
Jesus’s death on the cross, our respective deaths to ourselves. For it is in dying that we live. The lesson of Lazarus then is that while, yes, God can (and does) heal He doesn’t always. We don’t know why, except that we know him, have experienced his character–that he is good. So the lesson is that even (and sometimes especially) death can be redeemed. Somehow out of death–death to ourselves, expectations, plans–life arises.
Death often precedes the miraculous, the numinous, intruding into the courses of our everyday lives. Why is this? Only God knows.
All that we can do is lay down the gift (life) which God has given each of us back at his feet from whence it originated.
Only then can we truly live. And like Lazarus, we will live again.
Believest thou this?
Have you ever wondered why–in stories, books, films–there’s a protagonist and an antagonist? A good guy and a bad guy? Beyond the mere fact that without conflict there isn’t much story, there’s something deeper going on. The stories we love the most, of the heroes vanquishing the villains, reflect a deeper truth: that the story we’re living in (life) has an antagonist called the devil. And like characters in stories, we endure conflict either to achieve the good we seek, or because of the evil in the world. We are also in conflict with ourselves, with our own nature. But God has provided both the ultimate triumph over evil and the sin which lives within us; this happened upon the cross of Christ, when He said, “it is finished.” Although this is true, evil endures in our world until the consolation of history. If history were a play, this is the third act. But make no mistake: the King shall return to set all things right.
It is up to us to decide which way we shall go, who’s team (if you will) we’ll join. In the meantime, because we have received His help, how can we not be about God’s business, be helping others?
Following is an article from Grace Hill Media on the reality of evil:
Evil has been with us, and in our entertainment, since the dawn of time. First plays, now movies and TV shows, always have to have a bad guy – a corrupt cop, a supervillain bent on world domination, a violent criminal or murderer. In earlier, some would say simpler, times, the dark character in entertainment was clearly one audiences were meant to root against. It was easy, or at least easier, to know our heroes from our villains.
Today, though, it can be a little tougher. Far beyond the reluctant anti-hero, some of the characters we’re supposed to find admirable have qualities that just a generation ago would have firmly planted them in the bad-guy camp. From a sexy devil with charm and a heart (Fox’s hit series LUCIFER), to all variety of films (the TWILIGHT series) and TV shows (pretty much anything on The CW), characters who used to headline horror films – vampires, zombies, werewolves, witches – are now the stars we’re supposed to want to emulate.
That’s why it’s refreshing when a film like THE CONJURING 2, in theaters nationwide Friday, comes out. Like the first film, a big hit that took in $318 million at the U.S. box office alone, the sequel vividly portrays the nature of evil – as something destructive and ugly and to be defeated, not embraced. The “bad guy” in this case isn’t a guy – or gal – at all, but a demonic spirit that torments a British family and must be overcome by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, reprising their roles from the original film).
The Warrens make sure the Hodgson family, the targets of the supernatural entity, understand it is a malevolent force out to destroy them. As a statement from the real Ed Warren stated at the end of the first film, the new one makes very clear that: “Diabolical forces are formidable. These forces are eternal, and they exist today. The fairy tale is true. The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.”
A film like THE CONJURING 2, with its forthright depiction of spiritual evil, is a great opportunity to talk with friends about the true nature of the dark forces that inhabit our world. Here are a few questions to get that conversation going:
- Do you believe in good and evil? In the spiritual realm? In the human realm?
- If you do believe in evil, what do you believe is the source of it?
- If you do believe in evil, how do you think it can be defeated?
- What do you think about the trend in entertainment to make heroes out of characters that have traditionally been villainous?
- Do you plan on seeing THE CONJURING 2? Why or why not?