Several weeks ago, my 86-year old mother was admitted into a local hospital for observation because she had low blood pressure.
Within three days, she had contracted a common hospital borne infection. In less than two weeks, she was in intensive care suffering from three antibiotic resistant hospital infections, along with pneumonia.
After three weeks, her body ravaged by infections, she was exhausted. Too weak to lift her hand or hold her head up by herself, she was ready to give up the fight.
She refused further antibiotics, and prepared herself to die.
That evening, after saying her goodbyes to immediate family members, and reminding me, “Don’t forget to call Beverly and tell her I’m dead” my mother closed her eyes and took a long slow breath.
And then my mother, who had pretty much done every single thing she had ever set her mind to, took one more long, slow breath; and released it gently. And then she took another. And another.
Then, as we awaited the inevitable outcome, she opened her eyes. Looking somewhat perplexed, she scanned the room, shrugged gently, and took another deep breath.
I spent the night in prayer at my mother’s bedside, asking for a merciful death.
She woke up at 3 am, and huffed, “Well. I’m mad.”
“Why, Mom?” I asked her. “Because,” she replied, “I’m not dead.”
At 6 am she was awake again. Shaking her head sadly, she said, “I was so planning on being dead.”
Three weeks later and without benefit of antibiotics, all of her infections have cleared. She is in a full rehab program, and it is amazing to me to see the progress she makes each 24-hour period.
So I sit and wonder. Why did my mother, with a worn out body, an exhausted immune system, no antibiotic support, and clearly no desire to live, survive that night?
And what about the brain-injured child who remains dysfunctional despite hundreds of thousands of prayers for healing? Or the family member with cancer, the object of her congregation’s prayers, who dies after18 months of grueling chemo treatments? What about the young woman, struck down by a cerebral aneurism? The homeless son whose mother prays unceasingly for his safe return? The stillborn baby, the lost Boy Scout, the suicidal father, the accident victim?
Why does one person live, another die, and others survive, only to spend the rest of their lives in pain?
It would be comforting to have a solid, black and white answer, but I have nothing. The bottom line is, you don’t get to pick your miracle.
Cardinal Dolan recently tweeted, “God’s time is not our time. We prefer the microwave. He prefers the Crockpot. The food is usually better.”
A good thought, but little comfort to the mother watching her child die.
All I can do is know that I trust in God, in the same way a little child, holding her father’s hand, believes that He will be with her through the dark of the night.
And I remember one of my favorite Bible verses, Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
What do you do when you encounter times of faith-shattering desperation? I'd love to hear your experiences.
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