|None shall pass here...|
Or so said the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, after getting his arms cut off and blood was squirting everywhere, and that could well have been my motto a couple of weeks ago during morning Mass, as I sat there bleeding uncontrollably, next to the altar, after cutting myself shaving!
But, this wasn't your average garden variety flesh wound, as I am used to (I am what you may call the Edward Scissor hands of shaving!), it wouldn't stop bleeding!
It all started on another whirlwind morning at the Espinosas; the girls dragging their feet, my wife running around making breakfast, getting herself ready and counting down the minutes like the announcer at the Miami Heat games, "Two minutes! Twoooo minutes!," and me dressing my son as he slept and trying to get out of the way so as to not get hit by the incoming shrapnel.
After all the chaos, breakfast, teeth and hair brushing, I practically had to push them out the door, so I could get ready in time for Mass, since I have been serving as the lector every Friday for the past several weeks.
However, that particular day, I was running later than usual, which is not saying much, considering I have about 15 minutes to take a shower, shave and finish getting ready in time to make it to the church on time, as David Bowie would say (I'm supposed to be there 15 minutes before the liturgy), so, in my haste, I cut a small gash below my lower lip while shaving.
The solution? The time tested go-to remedy for most men; a small piece of toilet paper! However, it was really gushing out and it took several pieces before it finally clotted up.
I continued my mad scurry and as I finished, I noticed the embarrassing dried red spot near my chin (an omen of things to come!) and, unfortunately, pealed it off carelessly. That's when the flood gates opened up!
Realizing time was against me, I grabbed a sheet of toilet paper, patted the cut, threw on my jacket, picked up my brief case and ran out the door. I was hoping it would dry on my way to the parish.
But, as I drove, I soon realized, it was not going to be easy. I kept dabbing it, in fear that the blood was going to drip on my shirt but, every time I patted it dry, it would well up again in a matter of seconds. And, if I didn't dab it for a little while, in hopes that it would coagulate, it started running down my chin.
When I came to a stop at a red light, already feeling the anxiety of being late and having to read at Mass, which I am still getting used to, and, to top it off, the concern about blood dripping on my shirt, I tried to apply pressure on the cut and held it tight for a little while. But instead of stopping the bleeding, I think it got worse.
I guess it was like the Lamaze classes my wife and I took before our first daughter was born. When I tried to put it into practice during labor, my wife just looked at me, as if to say, "You have got to be kidding!" and that was the end of our Lamaze experience. I had about as much success applying pressure on my cut that morning.
In any case, by then, the sheet of toilet paper I was using was totally soaked. There wasn't a single white spot anywhere on the sheet.
I parked my car with only five minutes left before the start of the Mass. I rushed into the church, dipping my finger in Holy Water and doing the sign of the cross, as I hurried up the side aisle, pausing briefly to bow before the tabernacle and continuing into the sacristy. Everyone was ready and were just waiting to begin. I didn't even get much of a chance to read the scriptures before having to walk in with the procession around the altar and unto my seat next to the pulpit.
It just so happened to be the Feast of St. Francis, meaning the reading I had practiced at home before the frenzy was changed!
I was sweating. My adrenaline was pumping. And, I felt my heart pumping out of my chest. I started praying to try to settle down and get focused, and in all honesty, started feeling a bit faint. To make things worse, I was still bleeding!
So, there I was. The priest greeted the congregation, led us in the opening prayer and then sat down, as did the rest of the faithful to listen to the First Reading (me!). I was up.
As I stepped up to the ambo, I still felt the blood running down my chin, and with a small piece of paper towel I got in the sacristy, I kept patting it. I paused briefly to adjust the microphone, dabbed the bleeding once more and began to read.
As I read, I was afraid I was going to drip on the lectionary and kept patting the wound with my left hand every so often, as I tried to stay focus and sound as eloquent and passionate as possible, despite the distraction. A friend later admitted she was wondering whether I was slobbering! Nice.
I held my own during the First Reading but the Responsorial Psalm was longer than usual. It just kept going and going. I thought it was never going to end! Somewhere towards the end, between the unfamiliarity of the text, my concern with bleeding on the lectionary, and my adrenaline and faintness, I thought I was going to collapse.
I thought, "Great! We were in for a treat; a public bludgeoning like the early Christian martyrs!" (Not that I'm comparing myself to a martyr but you get my drift!)
Fortunately, I was able to regain my composure and finish before leading the congregation in the Alleluia, and stepping aside for the Gospel. Whew! It could have gotten ugly!
Although I continued bleeding during the rest of the Mass, at least, I was not the center of attention any more and was able to bleed in obscurity.
On a positive note, I was scheduled to have blood work done that morning, so I figured instead of sticking me with a needle, I was going to suggest they draw the blood from lower lip!
I really should revisit that electric shaver I bought several years ago...