the good of being sick

Yesterday I was pretty sure that I was seriously ill, maybe with cancer or kidney disease, or maybe even meningitis. I kept thinking of this woman I read about in the paper last year who had what she thought was a simple headache and she died days later of meningitis. I certainly felt like I could die.

My whole body ached, I had fever and chills, ringing in my ears, and a debilitating headache. All I could do was lie in a dark room with a cold wet cloth over my forehead and the rest of my body covered by mounds of blankets, waiting desperately for sleep to give me some relief. I also, to my horror and dismay, found a large lump in my hot and painful breast. Cancer for sure. Maybe cancer and meningitis.

Turns out I had mastitis. Unpleasant and inconvenient to say the least, but not normally life-threatening.

Well, I wouldn't wish that on anyone, least of all myself. Nonetheless a very nice thing can happen when one is sick -- the midwife who attended Noah's birth pointed this out to me once when we were talking about the almost obsessive desire to avoid all illness and pain in our lives -- and that is that someone gets to take care of someone, and someone gets to be cared for. To have someone lie down with you and hold you gently, to have them put their hand on your head, to have them sweetly assure you, "you'll be better tomorrow, I promise." How much someone loves you is evident in how they care for you when you are sick. And I don't think anyone, being given that, would not be thankful to be reminded.