Today I made a phone call I had been procrastinating about for days, the one to the travel agent. There's no question that it had to be made, but to pick up the phone and ask for her to cancel our tickets was a final and complete admission that no, after all this planning and all this anticipation we were not going after all. Another little step. Another little loss.
I know about operations. I know what to expect: the kind people who will put me on one of those odd, movable beds, put a mask on my face and wake me 15 seconds later with a furnace burning in my belly and tubes sticking into my arms. I know about this and I'm apprehensive but not frightened. The real grief of illness is over an accumulation of small losses and some not so small: Travel of course; privacy; dignity;freedom of movement; physical fitness; the belief in the indestructibility of my body; My sense of infallibility. Some losses loom threateningly just over the horizon, too bewildering to contemplate in their entirety:continence; sexuality and therefore my identity; perhaps even life itself.
There are two things about this sense of loss that I have got to remind myself of: 1) that all these things which I may be about to lose have been given to me absolutely free and undeserved and I have had unrestricted , well almost, use of them for decade after decade after decade. 2) I am going to lose all of these things eventually anyway. Not one of them is going with me into eternity, no not one, not even a little bit. The grief is not so much the loss itself, as having a date set on the loss.
There is a last time for everything. There will be a last time I hear the double D concerto or see a sunrise or take a photograph. There will be last meetings, last views, last tastes. Just as there was a first kiss there will be a last one. We all know this to be true and pretend mightily that it isn't. Illness strips away that pretense. It sets a date. It reminds us that life is not an endless loop but a cord of finite length.
These little losses also bring a new question. All these things that I so valued and so dread the ending of - how much did I need them anyway? It's amazing how easily each of them slips away, and how easily the idea arrives of how I might get on without them. So I can't get to England? Kant changed the world but he never traveled more than 100km from his birthplace. For that matter, Jesus probably didn't either.
So I call Travel Partners and ask for Denise; kind, capable, knowledgeable Denise, and ask her to undo all that she has done on my behalf. Perhaps on another occasion I shall see Iona and Jerusalem, so it's not the end of hope but It's one small step towards removing the lovely illusion of my own infinitude - one small step towards the reality that is best revealed to us as death and resurrection.