Friday, February 29, 2008

They line them up, beds, machines and little faces toward the nurses' station: the gunshot wound, the baby heart, the car accident, the skull fracture. The names and stories change, the theme does not.

We are not alone.

Within a few feet of me are a half dozen lives stopped short by the unexpected, the unacceptable. And connected to those lives are all the families and friends, living life as usual until the phone call, the heart-stopping trip to the hospital, the words "this is more serious than we thought."

This blog is not meant to be a soliloquy on our experience as if it were somehow extraordinary or unique. If nothing else, the past two-and-a-half weeks have reminded me how amazingly ordinary we are. The most heart-wrenching stories involve children, of course. They're not supposed to suffer. They're not supposed to die. But all of us will face it, sickness, death—in our families and, inevitably, in ourselves.

Some of us are successful at postponing or denying the inevitable. But two weeks in the pediatric ICU rips off all the blinders . See parents return here to honor anniversaries, to take comfort in the conversation of nurses who cared for their children in the final days. Hear stories of weeks spent comatose from car accidents, of repeated hospital stays and lives shortened by birth defects, of tiny babies who have never known the quiet of their nursery cribs. This is not how it is supposed to be.

So, in the face of this inevitability, what is there besides repression, denial or complete despair?

I admit, I come to this question with biases of my own. I believe in God. My faith has shaped me. Without it, my family, my life, my plans for the future—nothing looks the same. Given this disclaimer, my faith had never truly met this test. To be told your child will die. To look ahead and not to know. To look back at everything you thought was providence and promise and to wonder, is it all for nothing? Is this what he has come for?

These are inevitable questions, no matter what the age—whether we face death ourselves or in those we love. In such moments, perhaps really only then, do we realize our futility. We are grass. We are dust.

So, in this time, what does faith supply?

All I know is my experience. And what I know is that I have not so much clung to it as it has clung to me. The less I have to muster, the more it has to offer. The strength at hand seems bolstered by my frailty. The darkest night has brought the greatest peace. Faith, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, emerges from the promise as diamond-hard, rock-solid truth. I may be dust, but faith's cable fixes me to a reality far greater than myself. Like Job, I know that, "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

I am still emotionally tender. I get frustrated at our circumstances and feel twinges of anxiety at the uncertainty of Levi's future. But the truth delivered offers context. It is grounded in the promise that this life is not forever. Beyond death, beyond sorrow exist eternity and joy. Peace offered is not simple condescension, shallow comfort from the distant gods. It is knowledge that suffering, as we chose it long ago, does not have to end in emptiness. His suffering, in fact, delivers joy and the expectation of a reality that will one day reduce these past weeks, this life, to a needle prick of memory.

So, somehow within grace, there is room for sorrow and for joy. Sorrow in the life we have been given, joy for the glory that is promised. For me, it has never been so real.


Anonymous said...

Hi Larisa and Matt,
I really understand your latest blog. Having worked as an RN (many moons ago) but mainly from the aspect of being the daughter and sister of three people at different times staring death in the face in a coronary care unit and oncology unit who were all given extended lives by the Lord.
It makes us realize we a nothing without God. His mercy and His love sustain us. It is He who numbers the days of our lives and holds them in His hands.
I pray for the days numbered for Levi Timothy to be a great number and for his life to be full. As Mummy Mandy who begged God for a family for him I have to say what he has had in his life since last July has warmed my heart to tears as you have given him what we could not give at Welcome Home and that is a loving family with a mum and dad. Even if he had gone home when he was so ill, those months with family would in itself have been a huge gift to him.
Thank you for having the courage to walk into such an unknown with him.
Looking forward to hearing of many miraculous encounters with the Lord as you continue this walk with Levi.
As you get to take him home soon I am sure being around the kids will help him bounce back to his old self. You will have to put up a sign beware of Levi as he has a strong heart now as well as strong will. He is a beautiful gift as are all children.

nancy wheeler said...

Matthew, Larisa, and Be'
We miss all of you in our routines.
God has opened our eyes further though this experience. I am now praying for children I know and children throughout the world. Asking our LORD to provide safe places for them. I began after seeing the little girl next to Levi. Angels are everywhere in that hospital as well as other places. The childrens angels always behold the face of GOD.
He will care for HIs lambs.
Rest well tonight and kiss that boy for me.

Anonymous said...

Your words are tender and true and the thought beautiful. Ah, yes, Hebrews 11:1...don't I know it! Wishing you and yours blessings and many sunny days ahead with little Levi. Deanne brought me a picture of him to work and I have it on the wall above my desk. It reminds to pray for him and to count my blessings. It makes my heart smile. God bless you, dear hearts. Dawn Moore :0)

FJMyers said...

At the beginning of the Sabbath, your words bring special meaning to this day of rest and worship. You paint a picture of a very present Savior still living in the midst of His damaged creation, vending peace and hope and security. He is a Friend worthy of our praise.

"In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us...I am convinced that neither death nor life...neither the present nor the future...will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." You are loved.

You have blessed me - He has blessed me - through you, and Matt, and Levi. I have been moved repeatedly by your words, by your bedside faith, composure, trust. Thank-you. You are loved.

Rest and worship. You are loved. Dad

Anonymous said...


I am one of Mindy's online friends. I thank you for this blog & allowing strangers to share in your intensely personal journey. Levi has brought me to the throne room of God many times in the past weeks & he reminds me that miracles come in all shapes & sizes. Your latest entry is a testimony to your intimate relationship with our Savior & thank you for sharing

Heather ( HLA)

Anonymous said...

Dear Larisa and Matt,
Milton and I both read your Friday evening entry just before going to bed last night. We were both in tears for your words of intimacy and raw emotion that you shared with family and friends who have always loved you, as well as newcomers to your circle who have fallen in love with you for your courage, your abundant love...but most of all your faith. One of the most important things that I have learned about life as a Christian is that our example as it reflects our Heavenly Father is both character affirming and uplifting to those we come in contact with on lifes journey.

Several years ago we learned first hand the importance of a persons example from our 27 year old son. Our "blinders ripped off" when everyday for 11 weeks, we stood at his bedside as he faught the leukemia that ravaged his once robust body. Everything that medical science knew to do for him, at that time, was done. Again and again he was taken from the bone marrow transplant unit to ICU. Again and again he hung on for a few more days. Peace came only when we could say to each other and to him that God would not allow anything to happen to us, to him, that He did not provide the strength to endure. We realized, only after he died, what his courage...his faith...and his grace amidst impossible odds, had meant to us, but of more importance, to all of his care givers and to the people that were praying for him across North America and South Africa. Like you, our story was not unique. Every room on the transplant unit was filled with children fighting for life, clinging to hope. But like you...our story is what we share to encourage others who are going through the valley of uncertainty.

We have no doubt that you will never look at life quite the same again. Your children are a precious gift. Cherish every moment of their sweet lives that God has entrusted to your care. The faith that has helped shape you will carry you through whatever times may be ahead. There will be family and friends who will listen, who will share, who will pray. And a Heavenly Father who is always by your side.

With continued prayers and love, Milton and Ann