Christmas morning. As our girls tore into their stockings hung by the chimney with care, the phone rang. The phone call that changed everything. From now on, life will be defined as either “before” the call, or “after” the call.
My 45 yr. old sister had been rushed to the hospital after waking up with right-sided paralysis, vomiting and headache.
We’re a tight family. Without a second thought, we trashed our Christmas plans and bolted up to the hospital as well. And by “we” I mean, everybody – Grandmas, aunties, uncles, brothers, sisters, kids, and cousins. Someone pointed out how we must have looked like the Bravermans in the final episode of Parenthood.
Together, we exited this comfortable and familiar world called “normalcy” and were forced to enter a foreign galaxy called: “Neurology ICU”. Here, no English is spoken. Here, the air is thin and breathing is difficult. Here, minutes are hours and waiting becomes your livelihood. Here, appetite’s no longer exist. Here, sleep is stolen in 10 minute increments – in chairs – next to strangers who smell as if they haven’t showered in days. Here, you don’t remember if you’ve combed your hair or changed your underwear or brushed your teeth – but also, you don’t care. Here, you cry a lot.
ICU. IV. CT scan. MRI. Decadron. Dilaudid. Emesis. Norco. Emesis. Toradol. Emesis. Hemmorhage left parietal lobe. MRI. CT scan. PET scan. ICU. Tumor in eloquent area of brain. Differential diagnosis: Glioma. MRI. Surgery. MRI. ICU. EEG. Seizure? EEG. MRI. Diagnosis: High-grade Glioblastoma.
Welcome to our newest Galaxy: Brain Cancer.
And the common denominator of all those gathered in this galaxy? We are lost. None of us know our way around here. None of us know what to say, what to do. None of us know what we want, what we need. None of us know what questions to ask. None of us want to go home, none of us want to stay. None of us can eat.
None of us can pray.
None of us feel God anymore. We are told He inhabits this galaxy, too – but it doesn’t seem possible. There is so much pain and suffering and heartache and anguish here – this feels more like hell. God cannot inhabit hell, can He?
We wail and cry and mourn in this galaxy. It’s the only thing that comes naturally. And our cries turn into screams. And we scream into what feels like nothingness…
And yet….. our phones were lighting up from all the saints – the incarnate Jesus people – saying they were praying and giving us scripture to hold onto. All the things we could not do.
Screaming into nothingness was all we knew to do. But the Jesus-people took it from there:
- If you’ve ever hit “like” on the Facebook post for the hospitalized person simply to show you’re out there and you care – it mattered.
- If you’ve ever typed the simple word, “praying” on a carepages post – it mattered.
- If you’ve ever dropped off bar-b-que on the porch of someone going through a crisis because you know they’ll eventually need it – it mattered.
- If you’ve ever just showed up in the ICU waiting room with a basket-full of munchies and a tray full of subs – it mattered.
- If you’ve ever awaken in the middle of the night and thought of someone in a crisis and then prayed for them – it mattered.
- If you’ve ever felt God supernaturally gave you scripture to be shared with someone in crisis – it mattered.
- If you’ve ever just hugged someone – really hard and really long – because the deep pain of the situation left you with nothing to say – it mattered.
- If you’ve ever brought food to the home of someone in crisis even though they said they didn’t need any more – it mattered.
- If you ever sent a “thinking of you” card – even a lame, dusty, covered-with-pink-grandma-style-peonies, cheap one that you resurrected from the bottom of your “card drawer” – it mattered.
When lost in the galaxy of brain cancer – or lung cancer, or breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter; or divorce, or reactive-attachment disorder, or death, or job loss, or the rejection of adult children, or alzheimers, or heart failure, or marriage infidelity, or financial ruin, or ALS, or any other crisis that launches you from earth – you cannot find your own way back. You truly are lost. And you cannot pray.
And the thing is, you’d stay lost in that galaxy forever – screaming into nothingness forever – if it weren’t for the Jesus-people who stepped up and prayed. In a crisis, the Jesus-people aren’t praying with you, they are praying for you.
I wonder if the Holy Spirit speaks through the prayers, the actions, the cards, the hugs and the bar-b-que, of the Jesus-people and if that’s what this scripture means:
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.” Romans 8:26