News

Only bad news at the hospital.  I’ve been thinking of the medical center as a broadsheet: storied lives, chronicled and clipped to fit.  Every closed door a caption to suffering.  Every report an informative elision.

“Am I going to die?” I want to ask my surgeon.  In my imagination he laughs, “No!” then turns serious and troubles his brow, “Not under my watch, you’re not.”  In my imagination I don’t trust him for that.  I want him to say, not no, but yes,  “Yes, you are going to die.”  Because I am.  Because it’s not about his watch, his witness.  In my imagination he makes a journalistic mistake.

What passes for good news at the hospital is palliative.  “This afternoon rescuers helped a stranded fawn back to land.  It seems the fawn mounted rocks just north of Perpetua during an especially low tide this morning.  As the tide came in, the rocks were submerged, leaving the fawn in chest-high water.  Beach-goers sighted the struggling fawn and called local emergency services . . . ”  “Good news!” my surgeon announces, “I’ve heard back from Thoracic about the sternotomy.”  At a recent conference a friend reminded us that no amount of knowledge will be itself sufficient for the ethical work of our lives.  Perhaps unsurprisingly there was protest.  She cited the whole concept of good news and bad news–our news-saturated culture, the information overload.

“Good news!”  The Messiah is come.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.  But see how even the gospel must needs be taken up in a sacrament of faith.

Thoracic wants to go in on Good Friday.  My sister, Kase, thinks this is an excellent idea.  Kase is interested in death.  She once wrote an essay on Lent as her favorite time of year.  As Emory put it, “Kase takes no prisoners.”

My sister, Emory, suggested that I focus on Easter.  She made me laugh with the Woody Allen line, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.”

My sister, Ada, is going to come out for a while.  She’s the youngest, and has by far the most calming presence.  The other girls may join us by and by.

C.

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