I wasn’t planning on writing anything today. But then, I wasn’t planning on dialing 911 this morning, either. Because this blog entry is meant to be more gratitude than suspense, I’ll tell you right up front, it looks like we are all fine … but the day definitely left me scratching my head yet again about prayer. Not “Did prayers get answered today?” … but which ones?
My beloved came home a few days ago from her day job with a bad cold that got worse; she has spent the entire run-up to Christmas in bed. I’ve been Dasher and Prancer, back and forth between the kids and the kitchen and the sick-bed. I thought she’d turned a corner last night; we finally got the cough stopped, and she got some sleep. Then this morning, the mother of all headaches descended, complete with dizziness and nausea and “Honey, something’s not right. I better go to the hospital.” And I was dialing 911, trying to remember stroke signs and praying incoherences that started with “Please … ” and “Oh, not ….”
The first responders came quickly. The doctors and nurses and tests and medicines came quickly. We were able to come home quickly, about four hours after we left. And the whole time I was saying thank you in my prayers, and thank you to the helpers, and “Please …” for the other people in the ER. (Clara, I will be hearing your guttural cries in my sleep tonight. I pray you found some peace.)
As Jane Kenyon says in one of my favorites of her poems, it could have been Otherwise. I have been thinking that for days, as my beloved struggled for breath and coughed and spluttered. This cold has been hard, and yet we have both felt sure it will end fairly soon, and she will return to good health.
Not everyone with sickness in their house at Christmas can feel so confident. I have spent the last 8 months as a chaplain to people struggling with cancers and chemo and death. These experiences keep things like colds in scale, and make you wonder, and — when it’s just the cold in your house — leave you feeling grateful, and yet a little guilty about your gratitude.
I have thought often this week about what it must be like to have someone sick unto death in the house, without the hope for recovery. I have thought about what it must be like to no longer have the beloved in the house, and I have felt the raw edge of that grief, knowing the edge is not even the outline of the reality.
Well. To the gratitude, then.
That the children have been patient with sickness in the house and its constraints, and stepped up today in a big way, thank you.
That the first responders, nurses and doctors gave swift, skillful and compassionate care, thank you.
That such pain and desperation turned to relative relief and rest at home, all in the space of hours, thank you.
That the mystery of what happened and why and how is unanswered, and in that lack of an answer is good news — i.e., none of the things I was afraid of were happening — thank you.
I did not ask for any of these things; I am not really that good at asking for what I need. And yet, all these blessings poured in. So … what prayers were answered today, and whose?
Perhaps it was the very Spirit of God, interceding with groans too deep for words, that God who comes to us in ways unimaginable, in ways that it would never occur to us to ask …
Here’s the hard thing. This is the same God who does not always come in the ways we pray for, who does not or cannot give us what we know we need.
At the end of this day, I know I have received far more grace than answers.
I’ll take it … and pray the same for you.