From a November 8, 2012 blog posting:
“The small light in the kitchen has been on for seven months now. I don’t know what’s the matter with me. David always shut it off before he went to bed, and now I leave it on all the time. When I come downstairs in the morning, there it is above the coffeemaker; glowing and greeting me in the darkness of the house.”
‘That’s one of your rituals,’ my friend casually observed, as if it were perfectly sane to leave a light on for seven months.”
I never did shut the light off, and at some point, it seemed as though I actually couldn’t. I fully expected it to go off on the one-year anniversary of David’s death. When it didn’t, I got close to shutting it off myself, reaching behind the coffee maker twice during the day, and then, inexplicably withdrawing my hand.
The light began flickering wildly on the afternoon of June 24th, my grandson’s 8th birthday.
“The kitchen light is going out,” Dan announced in the doorway, and I got up from my desk chair and joined him in the kitchen. We just stood there for a moment in silence. I considered the timing.
Why this particular day after more than 450 days of burning brightly for twenty-four hours a day?
“Stop it. I know what you’re thinking, and it doesn’t mean that Jacob’s light is fading, or anything like that.” my son Dan warned as we stood together, staring at it.
In the week since his eighth birthday, Jacob has been experiencing pain in his chest and side, and some difficulty breathing. Yesterday the doctors prescribed morphine and oxygen for him. They advised against draining the fluid in his chest since it would inevitably return, probably within a week.
I can barely stand to type these words, imagining the pain that inhabits my daughter’s heart. I could hardly breathe when Elizabeth called to tell me that the doctors weren’t going to drain the fluid. “Jacob is asking questions,” she told me. “He knows that something is different.”
Each question brings her fresh pain. I imagine Jacob’s questioning brown eyes, the same eyes that can light up an entire room.
“Is Jacob going to die?” my grand-daughter asked me yesterday while I babysat for her.
“We’re all going to die,” my thirteen-year-old next to me blurts out, and there is the undeniable truth in her response.
Each day, each hour, a child somewhere dies; from cancer, from hunger, with injuries suffered in a car accident, in a horrific fire, at the hands of an abductor, from a gunshot wound in their safe classroom. Firemen die bravely fighting a fire. A beloved husband and father dies, sitting in his recliner three days after he came home from the hospital following a heart stent surgery.
And then there are the everyday miracles, the against-all-odds stories; the woman whose pancreatic cancer disappears, the sole survivor of a plane crash, the child who escapes the clutches of a maniac, the man who sees heaven when he is clinically dead and is brought back to life, a young father whose doctors told him he would not survive a brain tumor, still alive years later.
Am I delusional or unable to face reality if I stubbornly continue to pray for a miracle for our Jacob? I acknowledge that all things point to the outcome the doctors have predicted, and yet I cling to this unreasonable hope, the knowledge that our God is bigger than this; whatever this is. Fear? Worry? Sadness? Cancer? I feel a dim, flickering light in the darkness that threatens to overtake my soul. My recent past experience tells me that light remains, that there is a meaning behind all this that I cannot even begin to understand, that I don’t need to understand.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?”
This morning, in the still quiet of a house full of sleeping children, I searched for answers. I prayed. I picked up the library book I’d set aside a couple of nights ago. Help, Thanks, Wow, by Anne Lamott. I opened it to the page I’d discontinued reading, book-marked with a cash register receipt, page 15, and I read:
” Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through…
…There are no words for the broken hearts of people losing people, so I ask God, with me in tow, to respond to them with graciousness and encouragement enough for the day. Everyone we love and for whom we pray with such passion will die, which is the one real fly in the ointment, so we pray for miracles-please help this friend live, please help that friend die gracefully- and we pray for the survivors to somehow come through.”
and then on page 16:
“In prayer, I see the suffering bathed in light. In God there is no darkness. I see God’s light permeate them, soak into them, guide their feet. I want to tell God what to do: ‘Look, Pal, this is a catastrophe. You have got to shape up.’ But it wouldn’t work. So I pray for people who are hurting, that they be filled with air and light. Air and light heal; they somehow get into those dark, musty places, like spiritual antibiotics.”
I ponder these words, contemplating all that has transpired in my life in the last two years. I think about the woman I was two years ago, and the woman I have become. I can clearly see how God has worked in my life. I know without a doubt, he still has work to do in me. I remember my husband’s words the day before he died:
“Why would God allow a little boy to have cancer?”
A shake of my head was my only response, and David’s next words;
“If I could go, and he could stay, I’d go in an instant.”
And my prayer this morning becomes:
“Dear Lord, I had hoped when David died you were honoring his wish; that Jacob would then be able to stay with us. And now, when all things point to that not happening, I cannot help but feel disillusioned with your ways. You have repeatedly shown me this past year that you are there, in the smallest of things. I ask that you continue to show us the same in this very big thing. Hold my daughter and the son of my heart in your arms as they navigate this journey that no parent can face alone. Hold our dear Jacob close to you. Please allow him peace and comfort in the days to come. I thank you for the people you have brought into our lives through this. I give thanks for the opportunity to speak your word even as my heart aches. And, yes, Lord, I continue to ask you for a miracle of magnitude for this little boy. I pray for strength and courage for each of us who love this little boy, as we accept that we cannot possibly know or understand the future. Most of all, Lord, thy will be done. I have no doubt you are working in all of this and that there is a meaning behind it. This little child has touched the hearts of multitudes already.”