Tadhg’s Journal: ‘Of Morphine And Men’ Or ‘The Day I Met Gabriel’


Tadhg’s Journal Excerpt: Some time ago, on this very day (it was about 10am) I was waking up, after spending some eighteen hours comatose.

Here is an account of a time that was terrifying, profound and which includes some humour.

Some of you will know that nine years ago I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer (and given the ‘all clear’ four years after that – extreme gratitude to the Source of All, and the UK NHS system), and that year was ‘the year of hell’. There is no other way to describe it. Old ways of living, neat and clear ‘theology’,  the mundane and expected, all fell away. It was a year of concern leading to worry, worry leading to anxiety, and a resignation – not a ‘giving up’, but an holy acceptance, and an eventual living one day at a time,  and a ‘face into the wind’ mode of living; a deep knowing that there is more. In one sense, a deep peace. What else could one do?

More about that time appears here.

But, exactly nine years ago, yesterday, I went down for a massive operation – I had had three cycles of chemo already,  had been irradiated, probed, and cameras inserted through the navel etc, and yesterday (some years ago) had that major operation through my stomach and neck.

Because I went into the operating theatre at about 11am and they expected to finish about 5pm, I elected to remain comatose until the following morning – meaning I wouldn’t be as ‘fresh as a daisy’ when I awoke and neither would that day ‘feel’ six hours longer to me when compared to the rest of the world, meaning that I wouldn’t start feeling sleepy until 4am and so have my body-clock thrown out. It also mean I was comatose during Hallowe’en. Awww! A night and a half (equivalent) imposed rest was the least of my concerns, (and at my age) was greatly appreciated.

So, I slept, until this morning, mid-morning (nice years ago), and awoke connected with ‘drains’, machines bleeping, and on a morphine drip. I remembered the following:

Voice in the shadow: Good morning, Mr Gardner. You’re awake.
Me: (Somewhat groggily) Good morning.
Voice: How are you feeling?
Me: (Pausing to recollect my thoughts and make a quick analysis of my surroundings): I’m feeling very well, thank you.
Voice: Do you know where you are?
Me: I’m sorry, you’ve got me at a disadvantage. You know who I am, but who are you? (I really did feel wonderful. Physically, mentally, emotionally alert and ‘raring to go’, but really wanted to know to whom this Voice belonged).
Voice: My name is Gabriel.
Me: (I could now answer his question. With a name like that, it was clear to me now that I didn’t make it through the operation. I had been informed that there was always a risk, albeit a small one (but always larger than one hoped for), and now the thought raced through my mind: I hadn’t made it.) Oh!
(I felt good, though, so if this was heaven I was very happy. It was then that the owner of the Voice came out of the shadows, and into the light where I could see him. And immediately I had to review my thought of being in heaven.)
Me: Oh! (He was about 5ft 4 inches – small for an angel, I thought; and he was dressed in a male nurses uniform with no hint of wings, so I began to suspect; and he had an American accent  – odd, as I thought God would have been considerate enough to minimise the transition by at least giving an angel the accent of the ‘arrivee’, me – no disrespect to my Americans friends).
Voice: Yes, I’m from New York.
(In one moment of time, as I looked upon an American with latino roots (am I allowed to day that?) I realised that I hadn’t passed-on, but discovered two things. Firstly, this male nurse could have at least explained all this, initially, when he declared his name. Anyone waking up after an operation might have such a shock at meeting a supposed angel, well, it might kill them! Secondly, I realised that the Source of All has a sense of humour. I guess there was a third discovery: my extreme gratitude to the Source of All, the NHS free-at-the-point-of-need health service, and , yes, gratitude for people from America who are nurses – or angels in disguise!) Thank you. 

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