by Helen Burnett
from Signs of the Times No. 56 - Jan 2015
In this deeply personal and eminently readable slim volume, Ian Wallis reflects upon his experience as he is thrown suddenly upon the expertise of the medical profession.
In his new found and unwelcome role of patient he observes in close detail both his physical surroundings and his own reactions to being incapacitated. From this particular he expands his argument to a wider canvas and draws conclusions within the context of a Christian faith perspective.
Clearly a consolidation of diaries and musings kept during a protracted and life threatening illness, the narrative is idiosyncratic, perhaps unintentionally reflecting the nature of disease and the unpredictable consequences of illness.
Wallis weaves elements of his own sojourn in hospital and his subsequent languishing at home in and out of innumerable metaphors and ponders the implications of enforced passivity upon an otherwise active person.
Themes of trust and patience in adversity and in prolonged periods of waiting thread their way through the book. Looking outwards for the wider implications of his experience of illness, Wallis observes the reactions of others to his position, including the impact of his own physical limitations upon his family, his friends and his beloved dog.
Wallis makes some interesting observations, contrasting a contemporary enthusiasm for ‘wholeness’ with a counter-cultural suggestion that illness or ‘dis-ease’ is integral to life rather than detrimental to it. As hard as many of us will fight to ward off this idea, Wallis’s reflections on living with incapacity as an essential part of life should appeal to those for whom this is a very present experience and to those who accompany the reluctant patient on their journey. It is a part of life’s journey which confronts us with our vulnerability and compels us to embrace the knowledge that healing does not necessitate cure, and that the faithfulness of trust can open up unexpected horizons.