In passing; a reflection on Psalm 22.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
    Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
    Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.

As Christ hang suffering on the cross, he cried to heaven with these words.  Christ was a rabbi and the words to this psalm were familiar to him.  I wince at the thought of Christ reciting this long psalm as he hung on the wooden cross.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
Our ancestors trusted in you,
    and you rescued them.
They cried out to you and were saved.
    They trusted in you and were never disgraced.

A crisp, cool autumn weekend in 1987.  I drove to work that night hoping it would be a quiet weekend for my crew in the Progressive Care Unit.  We pulled a three night schedule every other weekend and they could be long suffering ordeals.  One of our ‘frequent fliers’ was someone I’ll call Ed, and he was in for what we called ‘tune-ups’.  He was admitted for blood transfusions.  He had an oat cell cancer in his chest.  They say that OCCA grows at such a speed that you can watch it grow under a microscope.  Ed would get three units of blood that night and be dismissed to home on Saturday morning.

But I am a worm and not a man.
    I am scorned and despised by all!
Everyone who sees me mocks me.
    They sneer and shake their heads, saying,
“Is this the one who relies on the Lord?
    Then let the Lord save him!
If the Lord loves him so much,
    let the Lord rescue him!”

No one can imagine the pain Christ felt.  Spikes through his wrists, his body weight hanging from them.  Constant, aching, insufferable pain.

Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb
    and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast.
I was thrust into your arms at my birth.
    You have been my God from the moment I was born.

Ed was dismissed as planned and my coworker Nancy and I had a quiet Saturday night.  We returned to work on Sunday evening.  Ed had been readmitted because he started coughing up blood Sunday afternoon.  I was his nurse.  Ed was on his second of three units of blood–packed red blood cells–the good stuff left after the plasma is separated in the blood bank.  Ed was pale as a sheet, his admitting hemoglobin was 5, close to bleeding to death.  I took his vitals and made small talk.  I noticed he was reading his bible.  I asked him what he was reading.  “Oh, the psalms.  They solve all my problems.”

Do not stay so far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and no one else can help me.
My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls;
    fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in!
Like lions they open their jaws against me,
    roaring and tearing into their prey.

Death by crucifixion is slow and painful.  The crucified usually die from suffocation.  It’s difficult to breathe when your muscles are cramping, especially the intercostal muscles between each rib, front and back.  To die more quickly it was Roman custom to break the leg bones of the crucified.

My life is poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax,
    melting within me.
My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
    My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
    You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.

At around 2100 Sunday night I started the third and final PRBC transfusion for Ed.  He asked that the commode be placed closer.  I did so, with the caveat that he call me first before getting out of bed.

My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
    an evil gang closes in on me.
    They have pierced[a] my hands and feet.
I can count all my bones.
    My enemies stare at me and gloat.
They divide my garments among themselves
    and throw dice[b] for my clothing.

O Lord, do not stay far away!
    You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!

Christ’s legs were not broken as he was already in extremis…close to death, short gasping breaths.  A centurion pierced his side and water and blood issued forth.

Save me from the sword;
    spare my precious life from these dogs.
Snatch me from the lion’s jaws
    and from the horns of these wild oxen.

I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.[c]
    I will praise you among your assembled people.
Praise the Lord, all you who fear him!
    Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob!
    Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!

I was sitting at the nursing station watching the telemetry monitors and Ed called for me.  It sounded like he was talking under water.  I entered his room to find him in an agonal rhythm, sitting in bed, his mouth open and blood pouring out from his mouth, collecting into a catch basin.  He looked at me with a thousand yard stare, sighed and stopped breathing.  I shut his monitors off and called for Nancy.  She had the chief resident come to the unit ASAP.

For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
    He has not turned his back on them,
    but has listened to their cries for help.

I will praise you in the great assembly.
    I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you.
The poor will eat and be satisfied.
    All who seek the Lord will praise him.
    Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.

Slowly removed off the cross by his followers, Christ was taken to a rich man’s home and placed in a grave cave.

The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him.
    All the families of the nations will bow down before him.
For royal power belongs to the Lord.
    He rules all the nations.

Let the rich of the earth feast and worship.
    Bow before him, all who are mortal,
    all whose lives will end as dust.

Nancy and I were both shaken badly by Ed’s death.  The resident assured us that there was nothing we could have done to save Ed.  The OCCA had eaten through his pulmonary arteries and he was dead in seconds.  The basin was full of clotted blood, about 4 litres in total.

Our children will also serve him.
    Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord.
His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born.
    They will hear about everything he has done.

After we cleaned Ed up we took him to the morgue.  As I cleaned his room, I noticed the bible he was reading, set aside on the bedside stand.  It was opened to Psalm 22 and marked with Ed’s bloody finger prints.


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