From Israel – Kibbutz Kinneret

Reprinted from The Common Good, No 29, Lent 2004

A cheesemaker in a kibbutz ( and breast cancer survivor and mother of 3) goes out to work one autumn morning. She notices that (in the best communal tradition)) someone has taken the tractor she regards as hers for bringing her milk from the cowshed. She carries on with her preparations – circulating sterilant thru the endless pipes of her pasteurising machine, assembling her separator for healthy skim milk and sweet cream for Shabbat’s cakes, sterilising her tank outside ready for today’s milk; when her husband arrives having ‘got the children off’. Just then the tractor returns and the borrower hitches it to the tank. ‘Check the hose on the tank’, her husband says ‘It looks like it’s come loose’. So she does just as the tractor-borrower puts the whole kit and cabooodle into reverse. The tractor comes screaming back, powering over the stopper bars with its full 45 horses and she’s screaming ‘What do you think you’re doing?’and the tractor-borrower’s screaming ‘What have I done? I meant to put it in third!’and the dog is barking it’s head off in panic. And her husband leaps onto the tractor and stops it as she cowers in the corner – her arm bleeding and torn open with the bones going crunch, crunch as she tries to assess the damage and wonders how long it takes to get totally crushed and will it hurt or are you unconscious by then and what is awaiting her Afterwards. He stops the motor, pulls her out to the porch, sends a passer-by to get the nurse, tries to stop the blood, remembers to tell the nurse not to put the drip into the mastectomy arm so they take off her Bata gumboots and her Norsewear sox to get at a foot vein… Friends gather, the ambulance arrives, Casualty, phone Mum, the long operation, the ward and home… to what?

And she thinks: Advent, cards, , Hanukka and the candles, Christmas, winter …How do you do all that with one breast and one arm (and that messed up from the mastectomy) in amongst the fright and the pain.

Who am I if I’m not Margaret-from-the-dairy?

Will I ever be Margaret-from-the-dairy again?

How will I have to change everything in order to be Margaret-who-came -back to the-dairy?

So I fed a robin-red-breast who turned up on my porch, took long walks on my 2 good legs in my tough boots; reading marking and inwardly digesting the progression of the wildflowers, the flow of the Jordan and the winter rains filling the Sea of Galilee .Occasionally thinking a real thought: ‘‘You’re never to sick to pray’; downloading Prayers for Peace in the Middle East or ‘Look at Julian of Norwich, Mother Theresa, or Mother Suzanne Aubert who were all flattened when well past their youth and went on to the great things we know them for.

This story is not uncommon. People get up, go to work and an hour and a half later find themselves in A&E every day, everywhere. What does it mean ‘hard work never hurt anybody’? It has hurt plenty of people. Neither God nor St Joseph the Worker should be held responsible for not suspending the laws of physics for Margaret-from-the-dairy, no matter how good her cheeses or how much her kibbutz enjoy them and proudly describe her dairy and load their tables with its products for their guests. It’s always going to be tractors one, middle-aged women (even feminists) nil.

With the help and support of family, friends and community I have to make some kind of New Life out of all that blood, brokenness and pain. Even during Advent. Even at Christmas. Even at Easter. So I watch the world, sit with Family and friends, ask for help and receive even more. And wait: for the candles, for the Baby, for the Risen Life.

How about that, then? Love to all, Margaret

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