A threshold awaits.
Once Dreamer’s quintuple bypass surgery is scheduled, we spend an anxious week teetering on this sobering, irreversible borderline.
“Open heart surgery,” a former O.R. nurse tells us, “is a death experience.”
To mend his heart, they will stop his heart.
I’m facing my biggest fear: losing my husband of almost 44 years. A line we never imagined has been drawn. Will we cross over safely?
“We dodder through our days as if they [are] our surest belongings,” John O’Donohue writes. “No day belongs to us. Each day is a gift.”
“A threshold,” O’Donohue continues, “is not an accidental line. It is an intense frontier . . . a dividing line between the past and the future.”
Crossing over, you’re changed.
As in: braving that new job. Surviving a church split. A move. Failure of projects, or friendships. Unwanted divorce.
Some thresholds are forced upon us. Some, we seek. Always, we choose.
I recently gave Dreamer this card, designed by Adrienne Hedger.
A threshold can be exciting, a gateway to a new destination. You lay plans, gather maps, pack yourself snacks.
A threshold can feel like a threat. Something must die, or be left behind.
“Courage and trust” help us cross over the “. . . shoreline of an unknown realm,” O’Donohue says.
To which I would add, the earnest prayers of others—like yourselves—which, pre-surgery, have helped us sleep at night, and reel in our dread, by day.
A threshold also acts as an invitation. A glimpse of fresh terrain: physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual.
As I write this, memory dredges up a watery scene from my youth:
“Your lake’s kinda small,” the popular, blue-eyed blond said.
Dismay rounded my pre-teen shoulders. I’d been hoping she’d stay the night.
My dad looked up from steering our boat. “Have you heard of shoreline stretcher?” he asked.
“Um . . . no-o-o-o,” she said. “How does it work?”
She had peaked his Gullibility Meter. Tongue-in-cheek, Dad described a coarse powder that homeowners sprinkled along the shore, at dusk.
“Wow! Can we take another boat ride tomorrow, Mr. B?”
Thus the Cool Girl decided to sleep over.
Next morning we went wading.
Not only was she a good sport about Dad’s practical joke, she became my good friend. A small threshold was crossed together, eased by laughter.
Now, post-surgery, our daily landscape looks different. There is pain. The walker. The siege of fatigue.
There’s also laughter. (see “Check Out Day”Caring Bridge.)
Having crossed our threshold safely, now as never before we know life is a gift. We are changed. Our shores have been stretched.
We want to live these days consciously, attuned to O’Donohue’s “undertow of possibility, always at work.”
Did I mention Dreamer is already planning our next trip?
“A life that continues to remain on the safe side of its own habits and repetitions, that never engages with the risk of its own possibility, remains an unlived life” (O’Donohue).
Are you facing a sea change? Friends, wherever you stand, however you proceed, may you cross over safely.
As for us, your ongoing prayers and presence, cards and donated meals, continue to guard, heal, and nourish our spirits. Providential. And practical.
Like a helmet. And a tiny shopping cart.
What threshold is presenting itself to you, or someone you love?1