November 14, 2016

Life Is Like a Bowl of Oatmeal


Children laughing at us Yovos as we stopped at a clinic
Children laughing at us Yovos as we stopped at a clinic

I eat oatmeal for breakfast almost every single morning. For the past six weeks, oatmeal is what has enticed me out of bed. You may think it’s crazy.

“Oatmeal is so bland!”
“It’s so lumpy.”
“Oatmeal is weird.”

But no. Not this oatmeal. It’s been my one constant, and with a little bit of brown sugar, it’s fabulous.

On Wednesday I got my oatmeal, sprinkled some brown sugar on top, and was eating it and enjoying lively conversation with friends when – BAM! Something incredibly unpleasant kicked me right in the taste buds. At first I was confused, and then reality slowly set in – someone had sabotaged my one morning delight.

Someone put pepper in the oatmeal. I went through all the stages of grief in about five seconds. Denial: This isn’t actually pepper, I’ll take another bite. Anger: How dare someone put pepper in my oatmeal. WHO DOES THAT?! Bargaining: Maybe I just need to go talk to someone in the kitchen about this oatmeal. Depression: Even my tears can’t wash away the pepper taste. Acceptance: I can’t eat this.

On Thursday, I was optimistic that it was just a one-time mistake. Not so. Pepper again. I was forced to move on to something else. Right now, it’s yogurt.

Ganvie Stilt VillageI guess you could say my week was like my oatmeal – just fine, until someone put pepper in it.

This past week I was in ENT again, removing facial masses and thyroid tumors. The week was going as planned, and patients were so happy with the results of their surgeries. Until we got to one little boy. What we thought was a simple facial mass turned out to be something more complicated. We were forced to abort the case, take a biopsy to confirm diagnosis, and close him up. Though his condition isn’t life-threatening, it could affect nerve function in his face if the mass continues to grow. So we still grieved over our discovery. We serve with Mercy Ships to help those in desperate need of care. When we encounter patients we cannot help, it is incredibly difficult to accept. We are usually their last hope for treatment. And we don’t take that lightly. But there are so many here in need of help. We have to be able to grieve with those we can’t help physically, and then we must continue on with our work.

I thought about that little boy many more times during the week. I also thought about the other patients we have been able to help. And I thought about life, in all of its balances. Death and life. Suffering and compassion. Weeping and laughing. Mourning and dancing. Gaining and losing.

A little boy in Ganvie

Keeping and throwing away. Silence and talking. War and peace. Hate and love. For everything there is a season. There is a time for every purpose. And so simply, here on Mercy Ships, there will be times we can help, and times we can’t.

Such is life; it will put pepper in your oatmeal when you least expect it. Grieve, and then go find your yogurt.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time…”- Ecclesiastes 3:11