My very dear friend Aliza wrote this response to my Valentine’s Day 2012 post. Not only a dear friend, she’s a great writer and I am delighted that she gave me permission to publish it here. Aliza, I love you.
My friend was about to undergo a major operation and I had promised to take her to the hospital. I was very concerned for her, for the distress that I knew she was undergoing and the terror of the unknown. Selfishly I thought that I really didn’t want to lose her – good friends are very rare! It was a concern that enveloped me and sat on me like a heavy cloak. I wanted to do something, anything to relieve the situation, hence the offer of transport.
The only trouble was that when the time came there was a very heavy snowfall in Jerusalem and traffic up the mountain was slow and very difficult in the city itself. Now in my former life in the UK I would not have worried, but I had already been in Israel for many years (which in themselves took their toll of my driving skills) and now I would think twice about taking the car out in rain, never mind a snow-storm the likes of which we had not experienced for many years. Also I lived at some distance from the capital, so what would normally have been a two hour journey took me close to four.
I persevered and yet in the end, of course, I could not get to her at all and she had to take a taxi to the hospital. She went through her Via Dolorosa (or Valley of the Shadow of Death – you’d better ask her which) with the Lord by her side, and a good mutual friend, Jeannie, a critical-care nurse, for practical help.
I ended up spending the next three days in a hotel. I vividly remember sitting in my room in total isolation watching the heavy snow fall. I knew that during this time she had undergone the operation and was in recovery as Jeannie kept me informed.
Then I was finally able to get to visit her in the recovery unit. I was no help at all – I was paralyzed by the sight of her in the hospital bed with so many tubes and equipment, and also by her pain. I tried to be with her and do something to relieve the situation, but despite being nominally a nurse I was worse than useless. Our wise mutual friend, a REAL nurse, saw the situation and sent me home.
I contributed not one iota to the help and relief of my friend in this ordeal. I had undertaken a long, arduous journey to do something for her without being in the least bit effective.
My only comfort is that although I did not contribute to her relief, at least – or so I hope and believe – I did not add to her distress. She was unaware of my journey and most probably had no memory of my helpless visit to her in the recovery unit. She had enough going on without giving any thought to anything outside herself and it would be outrageous in those circumstances that she should be concerned with comforting those who tried so ineffectually to comfort her.
In retrospect I suppose, it was as much, if not more, for me as for her. It was an act of stupid bravery or brave stupidity, I don’t know which, to have gone up to Jerusalem in those circumstances.
I did learn some things, for example, that in some things a will doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a way and that desperate impulsiveness will not lead to effective action. Perhaps the most important lesson for me was to realize the heavy wonder of the gift of God in that we ARE all separate and unique. We are called upon to “bear one another’s burdens” but at the same time we have all an individual path to walk and an autonomy that God respects, and so must we. In the end we have to give up our own efforts and realize that comfort and relief are found only in God.