Fear is a powerful thing. My greatest fear growing up was that something would happen to my family and that I would be all alone. I still have that fear now. If someone is not in the right place at the right time, it’s in the back of my head. Maybe that makes me crazy or hypervigilant or just weird. A very definite possiblity.
When I was doing CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital in Atlanta I learned a great deal about loss and death and everything in between. People always want some sort of reason…some sort of answer…something they can cling to and trust and know. In the 17 on call nights that we had, there was only 1 that I didn’t have sort of call and this happened to be the Friday night that I was frantically working on my probationary member Board of Ordained ministry papers finishing up at the last second as normal in my world of procrastination. I think everyone was praying for no calls that night and I was able to email the papers to Mike, he printed them out back at our home in Decatur and then mailed them in fed ex right before midnight. Craziness.
Anyway, to say the least, CPE was a life-changing experience for me. I maybe crazily got a lot out of it and learned a ton about myself. Dealing with tragedy in the lives of children was tough as heck and has made me a somewhat paranoid parent in being overly cautious with hotdogs, the pool, second story windows, monkey bars and all sorts of random things. On my second to last on call I performed my first baptism on a few weeks old dying baby. I had never done a baptism before and didn’t even really know what to do, but it ended up being one of the most special experiences I have shared with anyone as this life returned back to God. In the midst of this I got word that a 6 month old was in the ER from a car accident downstairs. I stopped in on my way out and checked on the child who they said had substantial brain injuries. There wasn’t any family there and so I eventually left to then be called back late that evening.
I found out on the way that the police had just located the child’s mother who had been working at Ryan’s making some extra money for Christmas. The child had been with her 3 year old brother and husband who both had died at the scene of the accident. I was waiting at the hospital when the family – mother, grandmother, grandfather, uncle arrived. I’ll never forget that night. Their child had been moved to the PICU and the doctors were pretty sure she was brain dead.
I don’t even have words to describe that night. I do remember us going to the chapel of the hospital right before the final evaluation at 7 am the next morning and I remember that mother screaming at God in that chapel. With all of the anger and grief and sheer despair that all of us felt and much, much more. I had at that point seen a lot of children be declared braid dead and I had accepted it and grieved with the family and been whatever support I could be, but not until that day did I scream at God too. As the mother of this child said “Come on, you’re God. You can do anything. I don’t care what they say. You can work miracles. You can make this happen.” I felt myself thinking the same things right along with her. You are the Great God of the Universe – You can make this happen. You can do this.
There are so many stories that run through my mind of miraculous and amazing things that have happened that we rejoice and are unfathomably thankful for, but then there are also many where we feel sucker punched and reeling. I know that life is supposed to be more normal now. The tumor board recommended the same wait and see and we’ll check back in 3 months with the MRI and see how much what’s left has grown, etc. I am super thankful that this is not worse. Really. But it took until today for me to figure out why I haven’t been able to totally bounce back. Oh I’m bouncing. Thanks to y’all’s prayers. But there are times when I’m tired and sad and it’s hard to keep bouncing. I figured it out today. It’s that fear thing again. But for me it’s the reverse. When I witnessed that family’s heartbreak, I saw one of my fears realized (boy was that fodder for CPE discussions). I hadn’t been able to entirely put my finger on what was getting to me until today. Not that this wouldn’t happen without a total fight and all the strength and grit that I have, but it is terrifying to think of ever leaving Mike and my kids. For my kids not to know who I am or how I love them. For them not to feel that to the essence of their bones.
I know this is not a feel good blog post. I haven’t posted in a lot of days and it’s not because they’ve been bad days, they’ve been good. But part of the reason that I’m writing these – actually one of the main reasons – is to process this for me. Read it, don’t read it – it’s not hurting my feelings. For me I think naming my fear, naming the imaginable loss I would feel leaving Mike and my kids, even if there’s no way in the world that would happen and the prognosis is great and I should be happy – just naming it makes a difference to me. Saying the words outloud and acknowledging the big and small shifts that this has made in my life is important in moving forward. Gosh, it sometimes sucks to practice what you preach.
What clicked today is that even in the most dreadful things, I know that God is still present. God is still with us. God is still cradling us. Whether this is in the crazy topsy turvy days or the floating in between times. I’m not going to let fear rule my life. And I certainly don’t want it to rule the next 3 months. It’s hard to live that abundant life Jesus talks about when fear takes root in your heart. So my hope is that we get them out there. That we say them outloud. That we can let not just the nice happy parts of our souls shine through but that we can be honest in our questions our concerns our frustrations. I keep thinking of Star Wars and Twilight references here, but I’m going to abstain from my typical music/movie references even though I love them. It’s amazing how acknowledging our fears and letting the light shine on them can change our perspective and help keep us moving forward. Hope y’all didn’t mind me acknowledging mine.