The Holy Breath
I am trying to get out more often. One thing I have missed since acquiring Empty Nose Syndrome is attending the occasional Sunday morning worship service. By myself, I pray and practice meditation, but communion with others is an essential part of the spiritual life.
This past Sunday, I attended my first worship service in two and a half years. I decided to try a nearby Unitarian church as I feel myself more than ever outside the mainstream since my nose and face were disfigured by an ENT. I felt right at home sitting next to the trans-gendered individual beside me. I was a little over-dressed for the occasion in my silk shirt and black skirt, but so was she. I was happy to be worshipping God in amongst a flock of worshippers. Isolation has been my nemesis in recent months. Here I was sharing this beautiful Sunday morning—with others—and I belonged.
Then the Reverend asked the congregation to stand. I stood with the others, a little wobbly, with my fever and shortness of breath. I started to sweat. And then the Reverend said something like this:
“Take a deep breath.”
“Isn’t that beautiful?”
“Breath is life…and life is breath. Every moment that we live, we breathe this beautiful holy breath. As walk, we breathe this breath. As we work, we breathe. As we talk, as we sleep, as we pray.”
“We don’t think about it…this most precious holy gift. This breath that is given to us. We take it for granted. Let us become aware of the gentle breath moving through our bodies, and the breath in the air. This breath that you take in was breathed out last week by your brothers and sisters in Somalia…in France…in China…”
I saw that my sweat was making dark splotches on my silk shirt. I’ve had a sinus infection for the past four months. Or maybe it’s osteomyelitis. That’s my fear. The ENT performed a Caldwell-Luc—a bone amputation—on my face. The ENT also removed my inferior turbinates so I can’t appreciate the gentle flow of breath entering my body. I can’t feel it. Instead, I feel the sharp absence of breath. I feel it always. Every moment—through work, sleep and prayer, I feel this absence of breath.
I was aware of the rising bliss in the room which I didn’t share, aware of the reveling in joy. I felt I might pass out from grief. I sat down in my chair.
“Bow before the holy breath,” the Reverend said.
I was plotting my escape as the choir walked to the front of the church. And they began to sing John Lennon’s song “Imagine.”