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  • Sarah Raad

Teeth

We are born to die to be reborn to eternal life. Thank God for that!

Saint Sebastian (Mattia Preti)

My youngest two children sucked their thumbs for a long long time when they were little and as a result of this and some other genetic factors, yesterday both my eldest and my youngest children needed to have a couple of their baby teeth pulled out by a Maxillofacial surgeon so that we can start to repair the damage that those years of thumb-sucking caused to their teeth…


My eldest son is 11 years old. He sat quietly in the chair and waited as his teeth were pulled. There was a little squirming while the local anaesthetic was administered – after all, who really likes needles – but afterwards, he just sat quietly while the work was performed. The entire procedure took no more than 5 minutes or so – a little longer if you consider the down time to allow for the anaesthetic to take effect.


My daughter is only 7 years old. Things played out very differently for her! Yesterday, for my daughter, everything was a problem. First there was the needle that administered the anaesthetic. She caught a glimpse of it in her peripheral vision right at the beginning, and that was almost the end of the whole exercise for us.


Then there was the discomfort of having the local anaesthetic administered. It stings. So that did not go down well either.


And finally, there was the actual tooth-pulling itself. Now, these were very simple extractions and the surgeon was very good at his job. I watched the whole procedure. There was a twist and a tug and the tooth was out. That was it! In a matter of SECONDS the entire extraction was completed.


And yet, for my daughter the entire process took the poor surgeon two whole hours to complete because she was terrified and decided to practise her screaming in her loudest voice, while throwing herself off the surgical chair over and over again! May God bless the surgeon for his patience that day – perhaps next time we will just go in for general anaesthetic!

After everything was done, when my daughter was calmly – albeit tearfully – sitting in the recovery chair chewing on a piece of gauze, and I had a moment of quiet to think things through, I realised that the reaction of this very young child to this dental extraction was so much like the way we react in life…

Let me just break this down for a moment…


Firstly, the look of the needle itself was frightening. But in life it is not just the look of the needle – but the thought of death – that terrifies us. In fact, we are socially conditioned to avoid all thoughts references or acknowledgement of death in our secular world. Most of us do not think of it at all unless we are compelled by the knowledge of our imminent death or the imminent death of a loved one. And so, we dye our hair and wear our make-up and Botox our wrinkles and watch our weight and exercise and while none of these things are bad in and of themselves and in fact, many of these things are really good things, the problem comes when these things become our focus. For when we focus too much on this world, when we are distracted from the next one – and for the next one, we must focus on preparing for our death.


And then there was the discomfort of the administration of the local anaesthetic using that needle itself. We do not like pain. We do not like discomfort. When bad things happen in our life it is sometimes almost impossible to cope. When we are sick or dying or dealing with financial hardship or social persecution, or when these things are happening to our loved ones – those are our darkest days. It is on those days that we struggle to get out of bed in the morning. It is on those days when we despair and call out to God and hear only silence as the reply. And yet, though the pain and the memories can linger, none of these things last forever, and in the context of eternity, they are as much a mere sting of discomfort, which lasts but a moment and is gone, as that anaesthetic was for my daughter yesterday…


Finally, there is the extraction itself... After all that hullabaloo and the preparation, and the fear and the pinching sting of pain of the anaesthetic, and the tears we have cried and the running away we have tried to do, finally we come to the point itself – finally we come to our death, FACE TO FACE… And there it is. Over in a matter of seconds. And not really the big hoo-ha we were envisioning. A simple breath out with no breath coming back in afterwards…


And when I think about that, I can let go of all the fear, because I know the truth, which is that after all – we were born so that we could die to be reborn to eternal life…


If I could keep my focus on that fact, rather than the distracting needles and sting of pain, then and only then would I live my life without any fear at all…


For then, and only then, would I sit quietly in the chair as my eldest son did that day, and fidget only a little, as I concentrate on the end…


For in death there is life… Thank God for that!


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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