Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Suffering

I don’t understand suffering. I don’t understand why life has to hurt so much...and why we make it hurt even more sometimes. Of course, I could spout out a pseudo-intelligent-sounding theological explanation concerning the consequences of The Fall, but that provides little heart comfort. There are some things that simply will remain clouded in mystery until we have new eyes.

I’ve read Lewis’s The Problem of Pain and countless other books on related topics. I’ve taken philosophy courses at Emory, been in a myriad of Bible studies over the years, and am currently enrolled in a class on Healing Prayer. Still, the questions remain. But I have learned not to allow myself to start down the pathway of “Whys?” Although I have an amazing lack of self-discipline in most mental arenas, this has not been difficult. I will know ‘why’ later, if it even matters then. I still remember an Emily Dickinson poem that pretty much sums it up:

I shall know why when time is over
and I have ceased to wonder why
Christ will explain each separate sorrow
in His fair schoolroom in the sky
He will tell me what Peter promised
and I, for wonder at His woe,
I will forget this drop of anguish
that scalds me now
that scalds me now

There is no pain which burns more scaldingly, scarringly hot than that of a parent helpless to alleviate his child’s suffering. I’ve seen many sane people do insane things in the attempt... myself not excluded. In my early mothering days, I was haunted by self-doubt. In a particularly harrowing train of thought, I would imagine my child in imminent danger and wonder if I would be able to override the human instinct of self-preservation in order to save her. Would I be able to throw myself in front of the speeding train if she were playing on the tracks? Would I amputate my legs for her? Thankfully, I was never put to the test when my three were small. Later, though, there came a time when I was deeply troubled about one of them. In wrestling with her, myself, and God, I came to realize very clearly that I absolutely would jump off a cliff for her, if need be. It gave me great peace to realize finally that there would be no struggle in the sacrifice. The sacred instinct of protective parental love would easily circumvent the merely human one of self-protection.

Now, there is little I can do as I watch a most precious child suffer. Before every prick, pull, probe, or push, the nurse says, “I’m sorry, I know this really hurts,” but Katherine makes no protest. She just lies there like a little lamb and squeezes my hand. A couple of times yesterday she squeezed so hard that I was the one yelling “OUCH!” as the catheter was pulled out of her vein, the scraping was done on her eye. But as bad as the physical pain must be, it is almost unbearable to imagine what’s going on in her mind right now. We know that she is there mentally. Sometimes a tear slides down her cheek for no apparent reason. Is she scared? Lonely? Despairing? Missing James? She must be hurting in ways I can’t even imagine. The day before yesterday was pure torture, trying to get an IV line in before a CT scan. One vein burst after the next just as the IV was inserted. At one point we were alone in the room, and I lay my head down on her chest. I was kissing her hand and telling her how proud I was of her. I looked her in the eye and told her how much I wished it could be me instead of her. I said, “You know I’d do anything for you.” She squeezed my hand before her eyelid fluttered and closed over an emerging tear. I continued lying on her chest for a minute and segued into a state of unarticulated thought/prayer. A knowledge deeper than words seeped in: Your love for Katherine is a shadowing of my love for you. But I was able to take your place.

At that moment I became aware of the music in the room. Jay has set up an Ipod with Katherine’s ‘birthing playlist’ on it. It plays pretty much continuously, but at a very low volume. A haunting melody wound its way from my ears down to my heart. These are the lyrics it took along with it:

"I'd do anything for you
I'd do anything for you

I did everything for you
I did everything for you..."*


I’m not making this up.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVZcAzXWciQ

(*Sufjan Stevens, from “For the Widows in Paradise”)

8 comments:

apple of his eye said...

Words cannot express how I have felt since I heard about your daughter. I am a student at Pepperdine Law and I don't really know Jay or Katherine, but I do remember them speaking at a Married Student Association meeting when I was in my first year of law school. Katherine stood out, her passion for God was evident((as was her undeniable spunk) even though she must have spoken only 5 minutes. I want you to know my family, church and myself have been praying for Katherine. Though we do not know each other, we are family in Christ and I thank you so much for sharing with us. Katherine's struggle and your words draw me closer to God everyday.

astackhouse said...

I thought about a gift given to me while Isaac was in the hospital and I could not remember where it was...at 1:00 A.M. central time Wednesday I remembered. The gift was a small book of bound card stock with healing Bible verses on each page entitled "His Healing Touch". I located the book and started praying each page as I read each verse. (It got me through many nights with Isaac, God and the darkness.)
I remembered how Isaac wanted the breathing apparatus out of his way and felt compelled to pray for Katherine and her comfort. When I closed my eyes at 3:30 A.M., my final plea to God was that there be word on her breathing today by the time I turned on my computer. Not an ultimatum...a plea.

At 2:30 P.M. I smile at my Lord and say thank you.

May the day go well and may there be longer and longer times she can breathe on her own and keep the saturation levels high.
Bless you all.
Love, Amy Stackhouse

Jessica Billings said...

I am so glad to hear of Katherine breathing on her own! From the time I first heard about Katherine I was thinking about how you, as a mother, must feel. Though my daughter is only 18 months old, I find myself trying to imagine what you're going through and I just can't. Every time it brings tears to my eyes... I have never been able to understand suffering. I am sure it must be hard to see your daughter so helpless and not be able to have her tell you how she's feeling. You are such a strong person - even if you don't feel that way - but I don't think I would be handling this situation like you are. I know God is holding you up and I will pray that He will continue to speak words of comfort to you. I am also praying that He will comfort Katherine and that she will not have to suffer much longer. Through reading your blog and reading the updates on how God is continuously working miracles, my faith is becoming stronger and I am just amazed at the power of prayer.

Katie said...

Kim,

What a blessing to hear that you too are being blanketed in the reality of his grace for us. Know that my heart and prayers beat for all of you - Katty, Jay, sweet baby James, yourself, Brooks, Amie and Grace. While being far away from Katherine, know that my heart is also being challenged and transformed by who she has been in my life, and how she fights today. I am so grateful for my years at Samford with Katherine, her own example of what it meant to be a bold woman of God were so formational for me. I pray that you would be carried through these days by the countless prayers of those who love each of you so dearly. Thank you for sharing your deepest emotions and experiences, we all are being transformed by the miraculous reality of Christ in Katherine.

peace,

Katie (Hall) Bentley

Kerin said...

I don't know Katherine or your family. I came across the caring bridge site through a Beth Moore blog and have been praying for you all ever since. During one of my morning readings, the memory verse was Zep. 3:17. I believe you used the exact same verse the same day I read it. I'm amazed at God's power and glory. I pray for Katherine's full recovery. She is God's delight, his daughter, he has plans for her. "Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." (Eph. 6:24)

AS said...

oh kim, i'm just sitting on my couch, crying. thank you for being her mother. thank you for speaking for all the mothers. i love you and miss just chatting with your sweet daughter and dear friend, but have TOTAL FAITH for God's plan to use her sacrificial life, and to just be able to chat again. it's the simple things i just have taken for granted, and never want to again. love, abby p.

Shawn said...

Dear Kim,
You are in my prayers so often. Though I do not know you or your precious daughter, my husband, children and I are praying for you all. During this Mother's Day weekend, I am especially praying for a Mother's Day miracle for both you and Katherine. May the Lord bring you something special on this day. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult this entire journey has been for you but I do know that your words, your faithfulness and your willingness to share your journey with others have touched the lives of many. Know you must be covered in prayer 24/7 just as Katherine is....praying for you all without ceasing. The Coles from Montgomery

Kristen said...

Dear Katherine-
a friend sent me the email about Katherine. I have tears in my eyes for you and your family. I have recovered from a ruptured aneurysm that happened on Feb. 24th. I was airlifted from Morocco to London, and am recovering here in the U.S. I will pray for your family because I have felt the prayers of God's people and seen Him work--though it isn't always easy. I have a blog called Kristen's brainstorm which you are welcome to look at, and also the Brain Aneuyrsm connection has been a great discussion group that I found on the Brain Aneuyrsm Foundation website.
God bless you today. Kristen