Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wife Rule #72: It All Comes Back to Prayer

Almost a year after my father-in-law passed away, I began mentally gearing up for the anniversary of his car accident and death. There had been several very difficult months for my wife initially following his death, but in the last few months, things had begun to smooth over and return more to normal. I wasn't sure what emotions the anniversary would invoke, but I wanted to be prepared to offer extra support and strength again.

Thus, it kind of blindsided me when during this time, my own mom called to inform me that my dad, always health-conscious and ever healthy, had just been diagnosed with a rare, serious form of cancer. Cancer? It wasn't all that uncommon, but still, cancer was something that happened to other people. Kind of like car accidents used to be.

Dad's outlook wasn't rosy. There wasn't a very large body of research about his particular kind of cancer, because it is very rare, but the few statistics we had weren't encouraging. Many patients died within a year, and few survived five years after diagnosis.

So, after visiting Dad in the hospital and learning all we could and crying a little with my parents and siblings, my wife and I did the only other thing we could do in such a helpless situation: we prayed.

We prayed for the whole family, but especially for Dad. We honestly didn't expect an immediate recovery, since even miracles usually take some time and involve some learning for those involved. But we prayed for Dad to be strong, to be courageous, and to be given patience and faith and endurance to face the brutal treatments ahead: surgery on his heart, lungs, and other vital organs; followed by two months of chemotherapy; and then a few months of heavy radiation.

And yes, we prayed for a miracle. We prayed for healing to take place in the Lord's time and in the Lord's way, so long as it did eventually come. We prayed that we would all have patience while we waited for the hoped-for healing to happen.

But always, in the back of my mind during every earnest prayer, were freshly-minted life experiences--experiences which had taught us that there are times when the outcome of a problem simply doesn't match up to our wishes and desires and prayers, no matter how sincere or strongly-wanted. We had lost my wife's father, and no matter how much I couldn't bear to think of it, I knew that we might also lose mine.

The next weeks and months were a whirlwind of treatments and updates. The treatments went well; my father's health-consciousness payed off as his body withstood the disease and responded to treatments better than most. Yet, there were still those grim statistics, and there was the suffering.

The suffering! Oh the suffering! My father-in-law was in a coma and on heavy medication from the time of his accident until his passing nearly two weeks later, so we never really knew the extent of any suffering he endured. But my father, my Daddy, was conscious and alert during his cancer treatments, and subjected to all the physical, mental and emotional torture associated with embracing Pain in order to stare down Death.

After having endured radically invasive surgery that involved sawing his chest in two, he was now being poisoned to the very edge of death, all in the hopes that his healthy tissue would simply outlast the cancerous cells. Chemotherapy is a terrible, slow-motion game of chicken where life--however crippled and diminished--is the prize, and certain death awaits the loser.

So it was that when I would receive reports of my Dad's times of intense suffering, my prayers would exponentially increase in earnestness.

Oh, dear Father in Heaven, the Almighty God who commands both life and element, I plead for my father. I can't help him. I don't know how. I don't know thy will. I don't know thy plan. I don't even know what suffering Dad will yet be called to pass through, nor what the outcome will be. But please, please, give him strength and courage. I know that Thou wilt not always heal our bodies according to our wills, and I accept that. But my dad is a good man. He has faith in Thee. Please honor that faith and heal his spirit. I can have faith in this request. Please calm his soul. Please ease his suffering. Please.

My wife would watch with a tender look of compassion and concern as I emerged from such pleading with wet eyes and a trembling frame.

"I'm so sorry you are having to go through this," she said to me late one night as I collapsed into bed beside her. "I know how you feel. I have felt it before. I just never realized how much more it hurts when it's your own father. I'm sorry I can't feel quite as strongly about this as you do now. I'm sorry."

She meant it. And I knew how she felt. In months past, I had watched helplessly as she cried herself to sleep, mourning her father's passing and worrying about her mother's future. I wished so badly at that time that there was something I could say or do that would lessen her suffering.

Even in what should be the closest of human relationships, the union of husband and wife, there is ultimately a falling-short of ability to fully empathise and thus offer perfect help. My wife and I have learned this for ourselves, through independent experience, and we are all the more grateful now that we are not alone in our union.

Our marriage is a three-way arrangement--a triangle--with my wife and I connected as peers at the base and the God of Heaven connected to each of us above, our superior in every way. Our bonds of love can only grow closer and stronger and the distance between us shrink, as we shorten the distance between ourselves and our God. Thus, when we want most desperately to draw together, to be closer, to be one, we pray.

It all comes back to prayer. It all comes back into the hands of our all-wise, all-powerful, and all-loving Father in Heaven and His son, Jesus Christ. They know us. They know what we are going through. They understand. When we want with our whole souls to understand, to empathise, to help, and to heal, They are waiting for us to call.

And with heavenly help involved, we cope and draw closer, no matter the outcome.

1 comment:

Mom said...

Thank you for sharing how you felt and how you prayed during those dark days. It was a difficult time for all of us. I'm so grateful for the happy ending and the love we share as a family. We are so blessed to still have Dad as our patriarch.