Before you read today’s blog post, I recommend you get a glass of water.
The norovirus hit hard that fall. It seemed unstoppable. There were those who tried to control it. They disinfected, wiped, sterilized and disinfected again, with vials of sanitizer in their purses that they put on in regular intervals.
There were the carefree who tossed off truisms like, “If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. I think flu shots and antibacterial soap are making things worse.”
The virus attacked everyone, the disinfectors and the happy-go-lucky.
We were the middle of the road. We washed our hands well but carried no alcohol gel.
When the headache came, I knew what I was in for. I had heard enough stories. I brought a bowl and a bottle of water next to the couch and prepared myself for a journey into the land of illness.
My mother always called me “a sickly child.” She would say, “You’re a sickly child like your father.” How she knew the state of my father’s immune system when he was a youth was a mystery because they didn’t meet until he was 20. But she insisted. Had he said such a thing to her himself? I tried to imagine him whispering during some candlelit dinner in their courtship, “You know, I was a sickly child.”
When sickness comes for me, it is familiar. The official title of Sickly Child was born out by my example of having chicken pox twice. I spent many hours ill.
It is said that we can hear God best when we are still. That is true for me. Even stillness enforced from being sick can slow me down to mindfulness and a spiritual view. I notice the room and my body in ways I never do while rushing around in wellness. I watch dust motes drift through sunlight and find airborne patterns of houseflies.
As the norovirus staged the coup of my body like a terrible dictator without mercy, I let my consciousness dissolve in the puddle of vagueness.
All my fluids came out of me, from every direction. I could not move. The fever brought a blurring between the room and my imagination.
States of sleep and wake swirled like drops of blue paint in water.
Sour clothes wrapped my body that couldn’t decide if it needed five blankets or a fan set to high. A permanent pair of pliers was stuck on my head, always squeezing.
My husband was sick at the same time on a couch a few feet away, but it might have been in another house for all the help I was able to offer. We could only moan to one another in sympathy. Our lips cracked and we rolled lip balm back and forth.
Movement such as handing over lip balm required more energy and motivation than we had.
I lingered between the land of the living and the land of illness. From the land of the living, I heard noise, shuffling in the distance; my young son fended for himself with crackers for dinner and ramen for breakfast, cooked from the microwave.
Days before, I had stopped eating.
Three days into the sickness, I could drink no water. My joints ached as if their linings had been ground down. My eyelids grated against dry eyeballs. I kept them closed because blinking hurt too much and the light felt like a personal assault.
In the middle of the night, I woke. My tongue stuck to my mouth. The bed damp around me, I could think a clear thought, “My fever’s broken.”
I was thirsty. Not a mouth thirst, a throat thirst or a belly thirst, but a thirst from behind my dry eyes, the ends of my shriveled fingers, the thickened marrow of my bones.
I clawed the comforter and pulled myself upright. I took a moment to settle. I swung my legs over. Using the wall as a support, I made my way to the bathroom sink. I filled a glass with cold water from the tap.
I held my glass. My vision cleared. The water sparkled and glowed from golden streetlight pouring in the window. It seemed to be everything I had ever needed or wanted. It was life, mine to take in.
My heart echoed in my ear. A clear thought broke through like dawn cuts darkness and mist, “I will give you living water.”
I drank the water. I had never had such exquisite water. How good, how sweet must living water be! If this is only the water on earth.
I was back.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10
What is something you’re grateful for that didn’t seem like an obvious blessing? Have you ever had a spiritual experience come out of illness?