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My mom had a major joint replacement surgery this week. 

Before the surgery she was telling me about how long it can take to adjust to a new joint — a year or more. She knows this because she’s been through this a few times already. A new joint makes fundamental changes to the rest of your body. Your heel sits higher, your shoe size is smaller, your leg feels longer or bends in a new way. Everything has to adjust when the new thing comes — and that hurts. Brand new aches and pains come as your whole body adjusts to something that was once so very different.

While we were talking about this, there was a woman in the surgical bay next to us, prepped and ready for a knee replacement. She was separated from me only by a sheet of fabric, so I could hear her clearly as she complained about vaccines, masks, and how silly it all was since the hospital was full with “normal-sick people” who didn’t actually have COVID.

I’m trying to figure out how to live right now, as a Christian. As a person. I’m trying to figure out how to make peace, or at least co-exist, when the differences between us feel so vast. With a Christianity that’s become equated with individual freedom, and freedom-fighters who seem blind or belligerent about the harm they cause. I’m trying to figure out how to stay me — remain committed, as I’ve been in the past, to respect and hospitality, empathy and community. I just feel so mad. So betrayed. So tired. 

I’m trying to limp around the soreness that this new thing has introduced to our lives. I’m beginning to realize that it will require that I, too, change. I’m not sure yet what that means. And maybe that’s OK. For now at least.

My mom’s surgery went well, and later in the afternoon I brought her home. We did the simplest things for the rest of the day: adjusted pillows and filled water bottles. Refreshed the icepack. Celebrated small victories, like navigating a narrow bathroom on a bulky knee scooter. We went to bed early. She learned something important from adjusting to new joints in the past: if you push too hard, things go wrong. Healing can’t be forced. Go slow. 

In a few months she’ll figure out how her gait has changed. What feels strong and what’s become weak. But not today. Today she takes phone calls from concerned friends, dozes off when she’s tired. Makes sure to say “thanks.” Today, she goes slow. 

She’s teaching me a lot.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Kate Kooyman

Rev. Kate Kooyman is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  • Alicia Jager Mannes says:

    You always do such a good job at putting into words what so many of us are feeling right now. Thank you!

  • John Hage says:

    Great article Kate!!!! Great article!

  • Dawn says:

    Talk with friends. Rest. Say thank you. Good advise for all of us. Love the way you put words to everyday things and really hard things.

  • Kathryn VanRees says:

    Thank you, Kate. You are so very good at learning from what is right in front of you, and then teaching us. Thank you.

  • Grace Shearer says:

    Thanks, Kate. You’d think we’d be adjusted to COVID by now but I’m having a hard time this last week or so. The fact that vaccines and masks are still so divisive is getting me down. Thanks for sharing this.
    Your mom commented on what a good care giver you are.

  • Marla says:

    Once again, thanks, Kate. Your reflections always come at important moments for me.

  • Christopher Poest says:

    Thank you, Kate.

  • Linda Ribbens says:

    I experienced the same feelings of anger and betrayal this past week when my sister was airlifted to a hospital for urgently needed heart bypass surgery. Upon arrival there were no ICU beds available for her recovery due to the number in intubated Covid patients so her surgery was delayed. Our prayers were answered and a bed opened up the following day so the surgery could proceed. Now I wonder if my answered prayer was due to the death of one of those Covid patients? My head and heart are both tired, indeed.

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