Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Live Within the Circle of God's Care

Dear Friends,

On September 9th, 1963, I stood at my father’s hospital bed. He was encased in an oxygen tent, following his collapse and exploratory surgery. The doctors were not hopeful of his survival. I stood on, praying, waiting. Dad did survive and lived normally for another fifteen years. Months after this medical crisis, Dad told me what happened in that time under the tent. “I found myself walking up a long flight of narrow stairs. The higher I went, the colder it got. At the top of the stairs was a locked door. I knocked, wanting to get out of the cold. A man opened the door and said “You! We are not ready for you yet. Go back down.” He shut the door. Dad turned into the cold descent… to live on. Heaven was not ready for my father.

I thought of Dad even as I think of and pray for Brittany Maynard, the 29 year old newly-wed who has told the world that she will die by her own hand on November 1st, several days after her husband’s birthday. She has an aggressive brain tumor and death has been predicted soon. She is using the power of the Oregon suicide-assisted law, because as she says, she wants to die “on her own terms.” To quote Pope Francis: “Who am I to judge?” Having said that, what else can we say to Brittany in these remaining days of her personal schedule? Send her thoughts such as these as the week draws on:

“Brittany, your husband and mother will be with you, whatever you choose. They don’t want you to suffer indescribable pain in an empty way, but pain need not be empty. Without your even knowing it, your suffering is woven into the suffering of Jesus who died on the cross. He truly died and he was truly raised up, as you will be. God sorrows with you, stands with you. God wants you to be whole. We are tempted to think awful things about God in the face of our own dying, youthful or not. But God holds you close, Brittany. Can you trust God more than the ones who tell you how your cancer will play out?

Who knows what you can become in the time left to you, Brittany, beyond November 1st, if you allow for it. Who knows who you’ll touch, what courage you’ll give your husband and mother and to a world praying with you. People surround you who hope you know the one whose image you bear. Your terms, and the image of God you are, are not in sync. But they could be if you accept the time left to you to learn your depth and go there. Stones in a fast-running stream become smooth by rubbing against each other. So too with people as they suffer together becoming better for seeing each other through pain.
within the circle
of God’s care for you.
Let this care touch your sorrow,
quiet your pain, heal your brokenness.
(Psalm 25, 13,17, 18)

Brittany, the day you choose to cross over is in Christian circles, the Feast of All Saints. All of them awaited God’s time, God’s call for them, my father among them.  You, too, I hope.

~Joan Sobala, SSJ