Pax, peace, shanti

newbornToday is my son’s 37th birthday. His name is Pax, which is Latin for peace. Pokój, paix, pace, paz, shalom, salam, mir, shanti… (For peace in multiple languages, click here.) Pax is an unusual name but I won’t go into the story of how and why at the moment.

I woke up promptly at 8 am on the morning of my due date in labour. We went to a small clinic run by one doctor, and at 2 pm Pax was born – a natural delivery, surrounded by friends.

That was 37 years ago today. I thought the arrival of Pax heralded the start of many happy years of motherhood and a big family. How wrong I was. I am sitting here now, childless.

It’s confusing to think of Pax being 37. A young man heading towards middle age, with a career, a family of his own. No, that’s not what the future held. Pax had a genetic blood disorder and passed away at the tender age of 3. His only pictures are as a baby or a small child. I remember the feel of the fabric of his clothes, but I can’t recall the sound of his voice, which is very sad.

Frankly, life seems more confusing than peaceful. This scripture verse has always meant a lot to me:

From the end of the earth, I will call to you, when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

(Psalm 61:2)

When my heart is overwhelmed is a bit of an understatement. When hasn’t it been? But this picture of strength that comes from outside of myself is very reassuring.

Going through the tests and operation for cancer in the past months has been difficult – another understatement! When I had my knee replacement surgery, I was wide awake, having an epidural only. (Actually the same pain relief I was given during Pax’s delivery, although that time it never seemed to work.)

At any rate, because I was awake for the surgery, I could listen to music. My choice was Handel’s Messiah. I lay on the operating table with a drape in front of me hiding the surgeon’s activity from my view, and Handel’s Messiah playing in one ear, and I chatted to the nurse for most of the hour. I was lively enough to make a confused joke about the surgeon coming to trim my garden hedge next, as I listened to the sound of his drill. Having what I consider heavenly music piping into my ear seemed to make me float. And it was quite apt. The most famous song was playing as they wheeled me out of the theatre after the successful conclusion to the operation: the Hallelujah chorus. Perhaps unsurprising I was actually quite high when I arrived in recovery!

The discovery of the kidney tumour was another story. One of the tests was a CAT scan (CT). It was nerve-racking, and I couldn’t use my little comfort back-up of playing music. No Ipods or MP3 players allowed in that machinery. I just had to lie very still while the machine whirred and hummed. After I was injected with some kind of a contrast die, I could feel the heat spread through my veins. I was nervous of getting sick – I had listened to the patient before me throwing up. And I had drunk loads of water beforehand as I was instructed, so I was desperate to go to the loo. Laying there, uncomfortable, nervous, feeling quite alone, I tried one thing to occupy my mind that I used to really enjoy – I quoted scripture. For many years I memorised scripture. My memory is a bit hazy now and I struggled a bit to remember but I finally found the groove of the words of Jesus in John chapter 14. It begins,

Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.

And yes, it brought me peace again. It wasn’t magic, but somehow it helped me through those difficult 20 minutes.

So in honour of Pax today, whose name means peace, I hope somebody reading this might also stumble upon peace in their most difficult moments. There is a rock that is stronger than ourselves.

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