Saucier: Sickness and separation


This meditation was originally published in the April 16, 2004, issue of The Catholic Missourian:

By Mark Saucier

Something was wrong when I crawled under the covers with a sweatshirt and a jacket.

I’d been tired for days, but that’s not unusual if you find yourself considering life a bit too seriously. But the chills passed and by morning I thought I had recovered with youthful resilience.

A couple of hours later, standing in church, I was suddenly sweating like Peter in the high priest’s courtyard. It was a monsoon of perspiration, gushing from my forehead and flowing down my cheeks.

I tried to discreetly wipe and mop, but to no avail. From the reaction of those around me, it was either typhoid or bubonic plague.

When I was growing up, doctors were repairmen. If you broke, tore, or cut something, they fixed it. I’d never been to one because I was “sick,” and the tests were unnerving.

You can imagine my relief when the doctor told me I was a virile Numidian. Unfortunately, the illness affected my hearing and my lungs: what he said was viral pneumonia.

I spent 10 days in the margins. There was a constant noise, like conch shells held to my ears, that made everyone sound far away. It was hard to talk because even the rush of air forming words irritated the lungs.

The fever effectively quarantined me as I never wanted to get too far from a bed. And the cough, deep and disturbing, was like ringing a leper’s bell.

I will never make a great patient, but I do have a new respect for those who battle with disease.

Sickness separates, confines you to solitary with your pain. And the pain dispirits, inundating you with the physical.

Some manage though, to turn their groans to prayers, to find not just a reason, but a meaning in their suffering.

I will never be one of them, but they still have a lot to teach me.