The medical student was being thorough, trying to leave no stone unturned. At the end of her preparation for rounds, she looked at my sister and I and said two words: I’m sorry. This was the first time a doctor had acknowledged any emotion to what our family must be going through. We gratefully received it. The one resident had come very close, and perhaps yesterday had said something to my sister after my father’s seizure. The nursing staff have been terrific and are at their wits’ ends in caring for a number of patients. I arrived today to find Dad’s roommate gone, replaced by a crabby man. I nodded to his space with a question mark on my face, asking my sister silently what had happened to him. He was taken to ICU in the middle of the night, she whispered. We both teared up. He had waved to me yesterday as he went out for an appointment. Life can change in a heartbeat.
The medical team came in and the student presented. No magic words, no solutions, and no new information came forth. We need a miracle. A whole host of people are praying and I think that helps. The doctor who has been incredibly disappointing made no appearance today and that seemed like an answer to prayer. God responds in small and quiet ways when you are walking through hard, as Kara Tippetts called it. A community of faith and keeping your eyes on God will lay down a solid foundation to stand on as everything known crumbles. After a long, cold winter, the crocuses refuse to stay in the darkness. They push past the limits and the seed breaks open to new life. We must walk through the hard, trusting that the shattering will not have the last say, but that hope will bear us to a new day.
By mid-morning my sister who had done the overnight shift had gone home to sleep. One of the health care aides offered to give Dad a sponge bath. This was the man Dad had threatened to hit when he came out of one of the seizures. I stayed on the other side of the curtain listening to them interact to ensure Dad was calm. The aide was upbeat and positive. Dad responded to his requests–turn over, lay back, etc. The man was gentle and affirming. At the end of it, I apologized to him for Dad’s earlier behaviour. His gracious response was that it was long forgotten. The man who had taken a swing at him was not my dad, he reassured me, and besides my mom had already apologized. He was kind and generous too. Dad has no memory of the incident I suspect or he would be horrified and devastated. I found myself teary again.
Walking through hard requires strength we do not have. These days demand a leaning on the Divine in ways that are new and bewildering. Life does not stop happening while the undertow threatens to take you down. The hospital vigil watch, the attempts to be bright and chipper at the bedside, and the information sharing are wearing. At the same time, laundry needs to get done, groceries must magically appear in the fridge, emails pile up unanswered, and the daily routine asks for attention. Some of it can slide by. Canceling plans, attending my own medical appointments, trying to manage my fatigue, and worrying about friends and family members who have their own issues right now crowd the silence. Then it happened. This morning, as I made my morning smoothie, I danced. My little act of rebellion and joy surprised even me. Later this evening, a friend would send me Kara’s link and I would receive it with much gratitude. Yes, Kara, you walked through the hard and danced, twirled as only God provides. I do too. Where does that grace come from? I know of only one place.
When you have walked through hard, have you received grace beyond what you thought you were capable of?
Do you have an image of hope or survival that helps you to know that you can walk through hard?
Great Physician, we are walking through hard and your grace is all that sustains us. Help me keep my eyes on you, even if I am too tired to pray. I know you hear us and you are at work. Help my unbelief right now. Amen.
My heart and my prayers go out to you and your family, particularly your Dad. I am so sorry you are facing yet another (nearly) soul-crushing time. I am sadly familiar with the situation you describe at the hospital: waiting, waiting, not sleeping well, not seeing any changes and not getting any answers. Feeling keenly your Dad’s pain as though it was yours, and not knowing how you can even take care of yourself each day under these circumstances. (Even worse since you are facing your own mortality so intimately.)
And yet, God shows Himself in the smallest breeze, the tiniest smile, or sympathetic nod, or phone call from an old friend. Mercy is there because you are open to receiving it, made more available through the collective prayers of your faith community.
With your recent Eastertide posts you have been blunt (in a good way) about your entire range of emotions in response to the trials and graces that are coming at you. I find a rich well of truth in what you tell us and I believe that God led me to you through your writings.
You have among other gifts the ability to describe the emotional landscape of a situation. I found myself transported with this post to events in my own past and can still feel the emotions but also the graces given during those times. I can now see the hand of the Spiritual Exercises on the way you write about these things. I believe that these letters that you release to the unseen digital world in faith are bearing much fruit already and will continue to do so.
God have mercy on you and bless your during these times of trials. You have my continued prayers for consolation and healing for both you and your Dad. May your entire family receive the strength to see this through in peace.
Mary Beth, you are such a kind and kindred stranger. Thank you for your encouragement, insights and prayers. I am glad that you have had a few moments of your own graced history as that is what I hope people will do–reflect upon their own lives and blessings.
Peace and love,
Suzanne….walking through these hard times, feels to me like trudging hard through thigh high waters. Exhausting yes. But, how much stronger my legs will be.
Stronger still, to carry me on, afterwards
Yes, stronger still to carry you through. Deep peace to you and yours in the letting go.
We are blessed with deepest bonds of sibling love
And the lasting examples of our parents’ faith and live for us
Uncanny, “love” was the intended, rather than “live”
But, upon reading my comment…they are interchangeable