Magical Truthsaying Bastard Shadesong (shadesong) wrote,
Magical Truthsaying Bastard Shadesong
shadesong

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Quoting

from Lying Awake by Mark Salzman. The character is a nun. From the back cover: "Sister John's waking dreams have led her toward the deepest religious ecstasy she has ever known, and have allowed her life and writings to become an example of the rewards of devotion for her fellow supplicants." Note from 'song - her writings are published outside the convent, too, and are popular. "But her visions are accompanied by shattering headaches, and when a doctor reveals that they may be dangerous, se faces a devastating choice. For if her spiritual gifts are symptoms of illness rather than grace, will her "cure" mean the end of her visions and a soul once again at odds with the world?"

I am going to quote a big chunk here, so I'll cut-tag it.

This is an entire chapter, actually.
-------------

Before leaving the monastery to hear the results of her tests, Sister John lit a votive candle in memory of Saint Gertrude, a Benedictine mystic who spent nearly as much of her cloistered life in the infirmary as in choir. When God asked saint Gertrude if she wished for better physical health, she answered: I desire nothing but Thy holy will. By suffering in union with the crucified Christ, she turned the ravages of illness into the ravishment of surrender, and became both more human and more holy.

This time, when Sister John reached the hospital and took her seat in the examination room, she felt ready. The pieces of equipment around her posed no threat. They were no different from spoons or fountain pens or lawn rakes. The sounds of the hospital no longer seemed dissonant; her ears had merely needed time to awaken to God's rich counterpoint.

Dr. Sheppard stepped in, greeted her, then opened her file across his knees. As he turned the pages, a pamphlet slid out of the file and onto the floor. The cover showed two healhy-looking people smiling at each other. Under that image, Sister John saw the title: Living with Epilepsy.

She felt the blood rush out of her face and limbs toward her heart, protecting it from the sudden chill. Sister John had come prepared to hear bad news about her health, but not about the state of her soul. She knew quite well that one of the first questions asked of anyone wishing to become a cloistered nun was, "Have you ever been treated for mental illness or epilepsy?" If the answer was yes to either, the candidate was automatically rejected. Epilepsy was particularly feared because of its reputation for producing compelling - but false - visions. Doctors and clergy alike had referred to the disease for centuries as "holy madness".

Please, God, take anything, take my life


The doctor picked the brochure up without comment, and put it back in the file. "The results of your tests are back," he said, "and while it might not sound like good news, I think you'll see that it's not so bad, either."

but don't take Yourself away from me, don't tell me I haven't known You at all


"The EEG showed that you have an epileptic disorder, but so far the seizure activity is localized in the temporal-lobe area of the brain. That's good -- it's kept you from having any grand-mal attacks, the kind that spread across the brain and cause convulsions. Temporal-lobe seizures tend to be more psychological."

I waited for so long, Lord


"The symptoms vary, which is why it's difficult to diagnose without the tests. Some patients experience their seizures as attacks of nostalgia or deja vu, while others find that their senses are heightened. I had one patient who became convinced that she should "read" people's moods by their smell alone. Unfortunately, she found this ability so thrilling she couldn't resist sniffing whoever happened to be around her, and she worked as a museum guard. That's one of the characteristics of the disorder, by the way -- becoming so drawn into the altered world created by the disorder that one loses interest in everything else."

He delivered this information in a brisk, matter-of-fact tone, as if talking about a third person who was not in the room.

"But now the good news. The CT scan found what's causing the seizures, and we can do something about it. You have a small meningioma - about the size of a raisin - just above your right ear. It's in an excellent position for removal, just under the skull. I've consulted with a surgeon about it, and he says they should be able to peel it right off. It'll be a very clean procedure, very straightforward. If we take care of it now, while the seizures are still localized, your prognosis for complete recovery is excellent."

Even with the doctor sitting with his knees almost touching hers, she felt more alone than she ever had in her cell. Still, she knew that the real test of faith came when faced a situation for which there was no human answer.

He sifted through the folder and removed some papers, including the pamphlet that had fallen out earlier. "These materials answer most of the questions patients have when they are first diagnosed. If there's anything you don't understand, or if you just want to talk more about it, feel free to call me anytime. I just want to repeat that the news is positive. Once we've removed that tumor, I predict you'll be good as new."

She stared down at her hands. The artificial light of the hospital made her wedding band look dull.

God made me as I am.
Each of us is given a unique cross to bear, each situation in life a personal call to become holy.
He would not have taken me on this journey for nothing.
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