A TWISTED LOVE

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed,  and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry-mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily?

The young woman speaks.

“Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.”

She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles.

“I like it,” he says, “It is kind of cute.”

All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works. I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals, and hold my breath and let the wonder in.

Source: Richard Selzer, M.D.
Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery
(Harcourt Brace, 1996) pages 45-46
Originally published by Simon & Schuster, 1976

CONSIDER THIS

Was the young man a god? I think not. But he possessed a God-like love, a love that persisted in the midst of change, a love that did not alter when it found alteration.

Do you have eyes that can see beauty, joy, goodness, and hope? Can you sense such gifts even in the midst of seeming ugliness or when the light is dim and the darkness heavy?

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THE GARDENER AND THE SURGEON

A gardener once worked for a heart surgeon. The heart surgeon was an atheist. The gardener was a man of faith. They got on very well together, but often had friendly arguments about the nature of life, and faith, and the spiritual life.

One day the heart surgeon thought he had finally settled the argument when he told the gardener: “You talk about ’soul’, but let me tell you that I have cut open thousands of human hearts in the course of my career, but not once have I found a ‘soul’ inside.”

“Well,” replied the gardener, “I have to tell you that in the course of my work over all these long years in your garden, I have accidentally sliced through many buried daffodil bulbs with my spade, but I have never seen a daffodil inside them.”

Source unknown
Quoted in Margaret Silf, One Hundred More Wisdom Stories
(Lion Hudson, 2014) page 28

CONSIDER THIS

  • Because something cannot be seen, does not mean it does not exist.
  • What is to be, is hidden deeply within us, and will be revealed only in God’s time and through Gods’ power.