During the past week I have been balancing life in St. Mungo’s with trips backwards and forwards to the hospital visiting my younger brother. It began with a call from him saying that the local surgery had phoned advising him to come in and to bring a bag with the expectation of being in hospital for a few days, and that it would be best if someone was able to accompany him, and preferably to bring him to the hospital by car. At short notice I had to cancel evening Confessions which I knew people would be understanding about. I also had to cancel a dental appointment, which means I am now nursing an unattended broken tooth until I can find time to rearrange. The rest of the day was spent getting him admitted and settled.
The following afternoon, when I was out on 1st Friday housebound calls, my older brother called to say that our younger sibling was being transferred to another hospital, but then, a couple of hours later, he called back to say that no one knew where he was, neither the hospital he had been admitted to, nor the hospital he was being transferred to. I want to stress here that this is not a rant against the NHS whom I have the greatest admiration for, and a trusted dependence upon, and that’s why I’m not naming anywhere. It was the Friday of a Bank Holiday weekend and I think he was just lost track of a wee bit. I decided to go to the hospital he was meant to be at, only to find the main entrance area pretty much deserted. I found a helpful porter, who put me on to his supervisor, who then dialled a certain number for me, and eventually, after a bit of toing and froing, I discovered, some two hours after finding out he was A.W.O.L., where our younger sibling was now meant to be, and indeed that’s where he was, oblivious to all the panic and confusion that was surrounding him.
Needless to say, when my older brother, the infamous sports journalist, called to visit, he was immediately recognised by a patient in the adjoining bed, and, as word spread, this man’s visitors, claiming to be long time listeners, got quite excited by this. One of them even asked for a mention on Super Scoreboard that night. They also came to know that I was a priest, but that didn’t seem to generate the same excitement. Younger sibling remained stoical as ever.
It’s interesting how we can immediately rearrange our lives when circumstances demand. For example, I had to cancel my attendance at some meetings in Dublin this week, for which I am the convenor and chairperson, realizing that, important though they were, the meetings would carry on without me, and that was just fine. But it’s also interesting how certain things can be forgotten, like eating. On the evening of Bank Holiday Monday, when I arrived back from the hospital, I suddenly realized that I was very hungry, and that I hadn’t really sat down to a proper meal in days. I invited one of our Passionist community to accompany me to a local restaurant where we both had a decent meal, and I would have to say that I enjoyed every morsel of it. Hunger, as we say, is the best sauce.
At the time of writing I am still balancing life in St. Mungo’s with twice-daily hospital visits and wondering what lies ahead. Two sayings come to mind; the first is this: Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans; the second, an old Yiddish saying, is similar: Man plans, and God laughs. Both mean the same thing; that despite our most careful planning, the road of life is always unpredictable, who knows what any given day will bring, and we just need to pick up the challenge of every day as it comes, sustained by God’s grace.
Perhaps, as always, Jesus expresses it best of all. In Matthew 6:34 He says:
Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.