Imagine my surprise when the emergency room doctor said, “It’s your appendix.” It is unusual for someone who had just celebrated her 81st birthday to require an appendectomy. An appendicitis attack most often happens during teenage. As a matter of fact, both my daughter’s had their appendixes removed when they were about 16. I had been ill for a couple of days with abdominal pain but thought it was the “flu”, or “something I ate”, or …? But when the third day dawned and it was not getting better, I headed for the ER.
I was taken into the operating room and the surgeon removed my appendix. In the recovery room, later in the afternoon when the staff were preparing me for discharge, I suddenly went into atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase one’s risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. My sensation was of a rapid fluttering and pounding in the upper chest, just below my throat. I knew when the staff went into emergency mode. More people came into the room and IV medications were started. I have no idea how long they worked, but later that evening I was admitted to the hospital.
What I experienced during this initial A-fib event was the second big surprise of the day. I am a retired Registered Nurse and I realized that the activity going on around me was serious. But imagine my amazement when I also realized that everything was “okay”. I was relaxed in body and mind. Whatever happened was in God’s hands. As Julian of Norwich famously said, “…and all manner of thing shall be well.” I remained in the hospital for 5 days. The certainty was replaced by times of distress and concern on my part. A few tears were shed. But finally I was able to have the IV meds discontinued, and was sent home on oral medications.
During the seven months that have elapsed, I have had time to reflect on the experience I lived through. I have come to realize that one of the fruits of my practice of Centering Prayer is my certainty that I was in the presence of God at that time, in that situation. That I could surrender my life to God and be in absolute safety. That God’s love for me is unlimited and all powerful.
I continue to be a work in progress. I struggle with distractions during the “sit”. I find myself being judgmental, and functioning in the false self, too much of the time. The experience I had of the closeness and presence of God, I recall. The awareness was more powerful than at any time during my prayers of silence over the years. I know that God is always that close and present. Because the noise and confusion in my mind, and in my surroundings, get in the way, I am unable to live in that certainty in the “normal” course of my life. But I now see how far I have come in awareness. I intend to continue Centering Prayer so that I may be surprised again, at some future time, as I continue the journey.