Monday, September 15, 2008

Tender Mercies

(This was started shortly after Katherine left UCLA for Pomona.)

I wrote earlier of the need to come up with something far better than “thank you” to express the heart-wrenching gratitude I feel. I never came up with anything. Then, this morning, after reading the previous blog’s comments, the phrase “Mille mercis” popped into my head.

With no internet access in the apartment, I can’t just click onto Webster’s or LaRousse’s to investigate etymologies. (And there’s no time to run down to Starbucks.) But it is interesting that the French word for ‘thank you’ so closely mirrors ours for ‘mercy.’ I think I remember from my college French that “remercier” is the French infinitive for “to thank.” To give back mercy?

“Mille mercis”...to give back a thousand mercies?

Is that like forgiving 70x7? Code for infinity?

That’s what it will take in this case. I plead Heaven to pour out an infinite number of mercies on all of you who have poured yourselves out for us. The phrase “a drink offering” comes to mind. When we have been dying of thirst, you have offered a cup overflowing.

So before we can completely turn our attention to Casa Colina and the adventures there, I feel that I must first look back and reflect on the past four months with humility and awe at the generosity of spirit (and everything else) with which we’ve been blessed.

Mille mercis a:

...all the saints of The City of The Angels, represented by the body of Bel Air Presbyterian Church...

...all those who kept faithful vigil in the lobby at UCLA for several long months...crying, praying, laughing, and just being with us...

...all of you who have prayed across the miles...

...the many “Baby Whisperers” who cuddled and loved James to sleep while his mommy fought for her life...

...the selfless friends who took him into their home and cared for him as if he were their own...

...the hundreds who brought the food, THE FOOD!!!, the banquets of nurturing food, that descended like manna on us day after long day...

...those who gave us the many lavish gifts of love: from beautiful flowers to soothing music, inspiring books, journals, funny DVD's, meaningful jewelry, pictures, crosses, scripture cards, cozy blankets, lovely handmade things, stuffed animals, sachets, ‘self-pampering’ treats of lotions and such, fruit baskets, wine, and goodies galore...

...the stellarly talented friends who’ve used the gifts God has given them to create inspired music in Katherine’s honor and for the blessing of many...

...the friend who came across country to deliver an inspiring DVD with messages of love and support...

...the Flower Picture Lady and the Purple Hippo Lady...

...the old friend who sent old pictures to remind me that time heals many things...

...my “LA daughters” who treated me with a hair appointment at Beverly Hills’ finest for Mother’s Day...

...those who selflessly ferried family members back and forth to the airport, in spite of the gas prices...

...the errand runners who supplied us with everything we needed, and then some more...usually at their own expense...

...those compassionate ladies who arranged for me to have massages when I could barely walk...

...everyone who took the time to share loving words of encouragement through calls, texts, letters, cards, emails, and comments on the blog and caringbridge...

...those who fought the LA traffic and the UCLA parking nightmare to come for visits...

...those who flew across country to be at our side in the hours of need...

...the amazingly faithful friends who helped us “Katherine-sit” when we couldn’t leave her in the room alone, “sleeping” on the torture chair/bed...

...those who spent hours and hours organizing schedules and communicating for us...

...the teachers who sent beautiful pictures from children to brighten the drab walls...

...those who exhibited the gift of hospitality to family members...especially to the one who shared his beautiful Bel-Air home as a peaceful refuge from the storm...

...members of the medical community who have shared advice...

...the churches who sent beautiful prayer shawls and/or continue to keep Katherine on their intercessory prayer lists...

...friends who’ve come to take us out to dinner for a hospital break...

...AVM and stroke survivors who have shared their personal stories and faithfully continue to cheer Katherine on...

...friends in Athens who’ve taken my mother to lunch and kept her from being lonely...

...and those who’ve taken care of my husband in my absence with delicious dinners, invitations, and calls of support...

...all the anonymous new friends who pray for someone they’ve never even met...

...my incredible buddies (YaYas) of 50+ years who’ve seen me at my absolute worst and love me anyway...who hug me and rub me and put me to bed...

...my wonderful, patient friends who email or call with no expectation of response...

...and especially to my faithful little friend who contacts me (or a daughter) practically every day, helping me feel ‘almost normal’ by sending news from home along with her love and prayers...

...And finally, to Dr. Nestor Gonzalez and the incredible staff at UCLA Medical Center. How do you thank someone for saving your child’s life? To Dr. Gonzalez and the countless other doctors, nurses, care partners, PTs, OTs, and STs...may God bless you all with thousands upon thousands of mercies for the tender mercy you have shown to Katherine and our family. You are tireless, selfless, compassionate, and caring. We will never forget the many loving faces and the gentle hands that were instruments of God’s healing. Words are completely inadequate...but I hope you can read my heart, if not my mind.

My mother has always said, “If I don’t ask “Why me?” in the good times, why should I in the bad?” I agree with the underlying philosophy of that. But in this case, I do ask “Why?” There’s some terrible tragedy every millisecond down here on the fallen planet. The cumulative affect can be desensitizing for many of us...it’s easy to shutdown and numb-out from the burden of overwhelming sadness in the world. It’s difficult enough to deal with the issues we face in our own families, much less anyone else’s. So the question I have in this case is: “Why us? Why have so many people sustained such interest and compassionate involvement in our family’s crisis? Why have people cared so much?” It is stunning, shocking...humbling, convicting. I grieve over lost opportunities to serve others as I have been served in this situation. I resolve not to miss another, knowing in advance that I probably will.

As I write these words, I recognize a little of that payback (or pay-it-forward) mentality. I wonder why it’s so hard simply to receive. If you give me a Christmas present, I need to give you one back. Particularly in the South, we feel the compulsion to pay back casserole for casserole. Maybe it makes us feel empowered in some way not to owe anything to anyone...American independence and all that. But it can’t be done here. I can never repay the thousand kindnesses we’ve experienced. Sometimes the only thing you can do is receive. Gratefully, helplessly...receive.

I’m finishing this several weeks after I started it. In the meantime, I’ve had access to the Information Highway, and found that the word “mercy” is from the Medieval Latin “merced-, merces," from Latin, “price paid, wages.” It points me back to the ultimate mercy. I’ve been bought with a price that is impossible to repay. There is nothing I can do but unclench my tight fists and receive...

***************

I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh every morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore I will hope in Him!”
Lamentions 3:20-24 (NLT)





11 comments:

plilr said...

I'm pretty sure that I'm speaking for all of us when I say that we are all glad that we could help in anyway at all. And we will continue to pray and offer support any way that we can for as long as you need us to.

Much love, Desiree

tatiana said...

"Surley goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:6)

thank u 4 your thank u's! & u r more than welcome.... "luv thy neighbor...." no matter how far they r.... thank u 4 having the courage 2 share/vent/cry w/ us.... & 4 allowing us 2 b a part of your lives & katherine's amazing & miraculous recovery.... & we will faithfully continue 2 cheer katherine & all of u, on....

"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." (Matthew 5:7)

for me, the healing has worked both ways.... u've given me as much as i have tried 2 offer u....

"The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger and, of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all His works." (Psalm 145:8,9)

from my heart 2 yours,
tati

Andrew and Deseri said...

Dear Mrs. Arnold:

I can, at least partially, answer your question about why people who don't know any of you are so compelled by this tragedy. I am someone who doesn't know you- I was encouraged by one of my cousin's wives to check out the blog. She claimed that this event had deepened her walk with Christ.

In the cyberworld we live in, this tragedy is very instructive to many who you don't know. I have followed your blog because, despite times you feel you are sinking, you have refused to give up on or lose faith in Jesus. It is teaching me and encouraging me to hold fast to what I know is true- Jesus walked the earth and died for me. I see you, and your entire family including Katherine, clinging to that fact, and I am rejoicing and being instructed by your example, should something similar happen to me or one of mine. In addition, people who don't have Jesus have to turn somewhere when they face tragedy, right? My prayer is that they turn to people who have Christ to cling to, like you, Katherine, and your families.

Please tell Katherine that I have never seen one of her modeling pictures, but frankly, I don't wish to anymore. The picture you have posted with this blog displays a young woman who had a wonderful, seemingly care-free life, was dealt (by God's permissive will, I agree) a horrible blow, and continues to stand steadfast on her Rock. This woman is more inspiring to me, and others, than one in a modeling picture, no matter how lovely.

Malinda said...

Kim - I am Jay's cousin, malinda, from Texas. I had the opportunity to visit Katherine at UCLA in June. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to meet you.
You should know, though, that most of us feel like no matter what we do, it could never be enough. being so far away, we feel helpless, but we continue to pray daily. (Even my 5 year old daughter still prays for Katherine.) We also contine to share Katheine's story, so the network of prayer will spread, and others can be encouraged by her story.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us - we love having a little insight into yours and Katherine's life.
In Him,
Malinda McMaster
Georgetwon, TX

suzirockett said...

I agree that what ever we have done has been the out pouring of love we feel for you and the courage you show us... all of you really!
If you want to add a ps. and let us know what we can do beyond the praying that might help you in the next while please let us know.
Every night I pray that Kat will swallow...I am waiting for that joy filled day.
Loving all of you Suzi

Brittany said...

Ms. Arnold,
So many of us long to do more than we have been able to... Please tell Katherine that I love her and I am so proud of her.
Brittany

a66iesmom said...

Mrs. Arnold-
we haven't met- I'm from Montgomery- on staff at another church in town- I "check on" Katherine every night before bed- we have two children, our youngest is a little boy, a month older than your James. Kathernine's injury has made me more aware and more thankful every day for my children, and your strength in the Lord is inspiring me to closer my own walk. I plan to meet you both one day- when she is well and comes to town for a visit- (I'm not a crazy stalker.) My point is, I feel in my spirit that she will be restored, and fully enjoy being the wife and mother she wants to be- in the meantime, she is encouraging me not to take one minute for granted. blessings to you--Emily R.

Ginny Evans said...

Kim, You don't know me personally, but I have been a part of a prayer team who has been praying for Katherine and your family since the onset of her journey and tonight I received this from one of our prayer team members. It says what we all feel "Who could not weep at this mother's message ? God surely provided Katherine with the most perfect mother to Sheppard her through this crisis in her life. I am in awe of this family. They, as well as Katherine, are teaching us all to live in faith and glorify God even in the darkest moments. Dannie" So, be aware that Katherine and your family are teaching us more than you will ever know about Faith, Hope and the love of God. Looking forward to meeting all of you some day!!

truth4nothing said...

Every morning, on the doorstep
a fresh basket of new mercies from our LORD!

You said it all so well- I am always so blessed to check your blog and find you have updated. You are such a wise soul.

Blessings to you and your family.

Karen Blickle said...

I love you Kim! I carry and Katherine in my heart all day, every day. The recent pictures are amazing. What a difference from when I saw her in May! You are doing great work...God's work...not only for your daughter but for so many others through your blog. You are truly an inspiration and I'm so grateful to have had you in my life for these 50+ years!

Love,
Karen - BF

Carine said...

Dearest Kim - you and your family's love, kindness and warmth drew me to you and I only want to be able to do more for you all.
You've given me hope and a renewed sense of faith.
Merci a TOI - for what you have done for me and for your love when I needed it most.

Carine Mink
(my mom was in the ICU at UCLA).