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Illness and isolation

Jenny Flannagan photo Jenny Flannagan · 08 Sept, 2020

Illness can isolate is, and sometimes we use it to isolate ourselves, just when we most need the support of others. Jenny reimagines the experience of one of the women Jesus healed.

I've always been an outsider. And especially here. Wherever I go, I'm the white woman, come from far away and I choose to keep myself apart. Here, but not here. Living among you but always holding something back. I eat with you. Sometimes I've prayed with you, but I'm never fully there. Once it was fear, but now it's habit.

And then 12 years ago I started to bleed. I was sick and I hid away. You all wondered why I stayed, but I had nowhere to go.

I don't know what your culture thinks about diseases like that, but I was ashamed. I was ashamed to be sick in your midst. So I sent for doctors from outside. And I stayed, but hidden away. I was too ashamed to see you. I felt like I'd failed you.

Then I was an outsider, but not of my own choosing. You brought me food and water and I couldn't look at you.

People who want to drown themselves have to put stones in their pockets, because when it comes to the final moments, everything in them overrides their desire for death. Their body fights for life and fights for breath. I was alone and I was wasting away, but there was something inside of me that wanted a way back. I just didn't know how.

My only hope was the rabbi. And I prayed for a long time that he would come. The day he was here, I was so afraid, because I knew that you would all see me.

You know the story now, how I hid, how I tried just to touch the edge of his clothes, how he healed me, but the real gift, the real miracle was that he made me own up. When he looked at me, his eyes were full of love. And I realised that I was starved of love, that I was longing to be seen. I'd hit from you for so long.

When I told him that it was me, I was telling you, when I confessed to him, I was confessing to you. I was saying that I wanted to find a way back. That I want to belong.

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