Many people tell me, during a conversation, that I am “looking good,” or something similar. I have been uncertain how to respond because, generally, I am not conscious of progress recovering from the stroke. Instead, I am vividly aware of things that have changed, in my evaluation, for the worse.
The last time I could receive Holy Communion was at the Wednesday noon OSL healing service, October 29th, 2014. The last time I drove our van was Thursday, October 30th, when I came home for lunch. I was feeling so bad I’d told the folks in the church office I was taking the afternoon off (and as it turned out that was my last day at work). The last time I slept in my familiar bed at home was that night. On Friday morning I took what would be my last normal shower alone. I had my last normal meal that evening when I was already in the hospital. The stroke that would take away my ability to swallow hit shortly before midnight.
I was not raised in a church that taught Holy Communion as having the “real presence” of Christ in the elements. I came to that understanding many years later. Being cut off from the ability to receive it (because of the damage to my swallowing reflexes) was a real loss to me. As near as I could eventually manage, when I was able to attend worship services again, was the take the host, dip it in the wine, and touch it to my tongue before handing it on to Melanie to consume for me.
About a month ago I began some swallowing recovery exercises that included eating small ice chips and tiny portions of yogurt, apple sauce or pear sauce. These efforts were often failures, to say nothing of being noisy, scary, and awkward. Not the sort of thing I wanted to impose on a worship service even among parishioners who loved me. But I kept practicing.
Two weeks ago it occurred to me that I should ask the Altar Guild ladies to bring me a dozen unblessed hosts so I could practice at home and see if I could get them down safely. Most of them I did. So today, after six and a half months, I was ready to try it for real at church.
I didn’t foresee that I would start weeping, which did not make the swallowing safer or easier. But I received without choking or creating a distracting scene, I think. I am glad to have something I can recognize as progress at last. I am grateful the Lord once again made it possible for me to receive his gift to us in Holy Communion.