Friday, May 23, 2008


Tonight was such a bittersweet night. It was our third “Vespers” dinner, a night honoring the Seniors who will graduate tomorrow. I knew that it would be hard for me, but it was even harder. I was fine until the slide show. I had steeled myself beforehand, vowing that no “Sunrise, Sunset” violin-playing sentimentality would get to me after everything I’ve witnessed lately. But there I was, making a public spectacle of myself....wiping my nose on my mother’s pashmina before blowing it into the linen napkin.

I usually get teary at these kinds of things. I have inherited my father’s sensitive spirit. (He was a WWII soldier who would cry at the sound of a beautiful symphony or exquisite aria.) Even before Katherine’s brain rupture, I had expected to be uniquely challenged by this particular one. But I didn’t anticipate that such a fierce flash flood of emotion would rush over my dam of self-protection and sweep me into a stall in the ladies’ room, where a compassionate friend held the door as I sobbed outloud.

After ignominiously returning to my seat, I tried to regain my composure. I tried to think about something happy. I tried to think about something boring. I tried to recite Romans 8 in my head, but those images of innocence lost kept replaying until the tears started drizzling down again.

I think if we’re all really honest with ourselves we’ll admit that, no matter how joyful and fun our high school experiences were, there was an emotional underbelly to the beast. Any psychologist worth the price of their degree will tell you how deeply affected human beings are at this vulnerable, fragile age. Some people never get over high school.

I’ve spent a lot of time around high schoolers, and sometimes I know too much for my own good. Last night, speeches were made extolling how close and unified the class of ‘08 it is such a caring, supportive one. I’m sure that in many ways it is. But flashing through the sequence of happy, funny pictures were big-screen subliminal messages referencing for me the underside of high school life. There were subtle reminders of the ubiquitous broken relationships, severed friendships, and lost loyalties of high school....the injured self-esteem, wounded egos, hurt feelings, rejections.....the pretenses, pretending, posturing..... the misunderstandings, misconceptions, missed opportunities for forgiveness. Invisible walls of separation erected by fear, envy, or anger stood in contrast to joyful pyramids of team-spirited togetherness. Although molehills often turn into mountains at this age, I don’t dismiss high school hurts as insignificant. Those of us who’ve been around a while know that life-long destructive patterns can begin in high school...patterns like addictions, eating disorders, trust issues, intimacy issues. Scars carved upon fragile young hearts sometimes take many years to heal.

I think there’s still a little “High School” in a lot of us. There’s a tiny corner somewhere deep inside that still holds on to that hope, those dreams, that nervous excitement, the exhilarating feeling of infinite possibility. But in many of us there also resides that knee-jerk high school reaction to people and events....the quickness to take offense, the eagerness to judge and label, that difficulty in forgiving and moving on. We carry with us a residual fear of failing the test, being left out of the party, not sitting at the cool table at lunch. We are sometimes guilty of possessing the passions of High School....of seeing things as black and white, of not understanding that there are two sides to every story, thinking it’s all about me. But, unlike teenagers, we can’t blame it on incomplete pre-frontal cortex development.

The weekend before Katherine collapsed in her kitchen, I was harboring a little High School myself. I was feeling hurt about being excluded from something, I was angry that someone had been mean to my child, I was worried about people and things that were out of my control.

I can’t even begin to tell you how insignificant all that seemed by Monday afternoon.

In theory, we all know that each time we see someone could be the last. But we don’t live that way.

To all of us High Schoolers, myself first of all, I say this: Let it go. Whatever it is. Lay it down. Stop being afraid of being hurt. Give everybody you know a break. Pass out “Get Out of Jail Free” cards. Just forgive. And forgive. And forgive some more. For God’s sake, for your sake, for their sake.....just let it go.

G.K. Chesterton expressed it beautifully: “We’re all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”

It is my prayer that we all graduate from Life’s school of suffering more loving, compassionate, forgiving, and loyal....and less judgmental, superficial, and self-serving.

The final exam will be a pop test.


(This was begun late Saturday night, but not finished until Monday morning. It was a long weekend, but I'll never have to go through another one! Here's a toast to all my friends who just made it through their last high school graduation, too: YAAAAAY...we did it!!!!! High 5's!)


Friday morning

It’s a little weird to wake up in my own bed. The world is forever changed, but the bedroom’s the same. Leaning Tower-of-Pisa book-stacks everywhere, ominous bags of papers to be dealt with, clothes to be mended...everything sleep experts warn against having in your haven of peaceful dreams. Oh well, that’s life with ADD.

I was lying on this bed when I got the news that life as I’d known it was over. Of course, I didn’t realize the full implications at the time. That Monday, April 21, had been a fairly busy day for me. After a 5-year downward spiral of illness, loss, and family crises, I was finally beginning to make some progress in getting a life back. That day I’d run some errands, met my mother and her college roommate for lunch, and gone for a long hike with a friend . At the end of the trail, we sat down on a bench to finish talking and pray. I shared an experience I’d had a little over a year ago. I told her that I’d been asking God when our “Time of Troubles” was going to be over. I was telling Him that I couldn’t take much more, and that He needed to put an end to the trials and tribulations. Enough was enough. But the answer I’d heard in my spirit was, “There will be one more loss.” I made vague references to something that had happened this year and told my friend, “I think that was it. Now we’re headed to a new place. Little by little I’m getting back up on my feet again. I’m ready for God to give me a new job.” But the strange thing is that even as I was speaking those words, a little voice whispered in my head, “That wasn’t really know the last loss has to do with one of your children.” I shook it off, even though recurrent images of Abraham heading up the hill with Isaac have flashed through my mind for several years now.

The phone was ringing as I walked in the door, but I didn’t catch it. I dragged myself upstairs and plopped down on the bed, totally worn out. In a few minutes, the phone rang again. I thought about not answering it, but something made me pick it up. It was Katherine’s father-in-law, Jay. He spoke very calmly. We exchanged courtesies and then he said, “Kim, I have some news about Katherine.” Slight pause. I’m thinking, oh, did she get a part or something? But my heart starts racing before he even says, “It’s disturbing news.” I go into full-gallop tachycardia as he gently tells me that she’s been taken to the hospital with some bleeding at the base of her brain. Before I can get many details, Jay has to click over to Brooks, who’s calling him back. I am blank at that point, but not unduly alarmed because of the many health crises our extended family has experienced in the past few years. I call my surgeon friend Howard and ask him if a brain bleed is something serious. He tells me that anything concerning a daughter is serious. (Bless him, he also has three of them.) I remember standing up then and starting to walk towards my closet. Before I got past the foot of the bed, a phrase popped into my mind: “Talitha cumi.” I tried to remember where I’ve heard that and what it means. The story of Jairus’ daughter came back. How weird that that phrase should come to me....I had a flashbacky feeling from childhood about it. I dismissed it from my mind, and methodically began to pack in an efficient way that I haven’t been able to manage in years. It was as if someone else took over.

Brooks arrived home and asked what I was doing. I told him I was going to California. He said, “Just wait a minute, calm down. We don’t even really know what’s going on yet. If you still feel like you need to, I’ll take you to the airport in the morning.” I told him I needed to go then. He got on the computer and said, “Okay, if you can be ready in 5 minutes,” assuming that, based upon my previous track-record, it would be a certain impossibility. I beat him to the car.

I don’t remember all the details of that long night turning into day. I remember the cab driver getting lost, walking into a lobby packed with people, going into the Chapel with Jay to talk and pray. At one point, Amie and I were lying on a blanket on the floor of the chapel while Jay sat in a chair looking at some cards. One caught my eye. “What’s that?” I asked. A friend had written out some scriptures, songs, and words of encouragement for Jay when she heard that Katherine had been taken to the hospital. Jay handed me the top one. I got chills when I saw what was written on it: TALITHA KOUM!

When Jay, Sr. arrived the next morning, he asked that a group of us gather around for prayer. I don’t remember his exact words, but a bolt of lightning went through me when he said something like, “Lord, we ask that you will lay your hand upon Katherine and say to her, “Little girl, arise.”

What I had heard in my head at the foot of my bed was the King James translation (from my early childhood) of an Aramaic command spoken by Jesus to a little girl who had died. That girl obeyed him. She did, indeed, arise.

Kat and Jay’s friend JT made necklaces for us with the words “Talitha koum” (a more modern translation) engraved on them. I wear mine as a reminder that although the doctors thought there was very little chance that Katherine would live through that first night, she miraculously survived. I hold onto it as a memorial stone full of promise that she, too, will arise to a new life even fuller and more complete than her former one.

Many of us who are witnessing these things are rising up into newly transformed lives as well.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 3:17-18)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Memorial Stones

"So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, "Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever."
(Joshua 4:4-7)

The Israelites needed memory joggers. God would perform a Major Miracle like parting the Red Sea for them, but then they’d start complaining about the food, worrying about the Canaanites, playing around with demons disguised as gods, running wild in the streets. They were afraid that their God wasn’t big enough, strong enough, consistent enough, or loving enough to take care of them adequately. Mini-Miracles, such as daily provision in the desert, weren’t enough for them. They wanted the big showy stuff all the time. Like too many of us, they were excitement addicts.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m an Israelite. The day-to-day stuff is hard for me. I want God to fix it NOW. But He has showed me that He’s going to do it “little by little” so that faith may increase. It doesn’t matter how much I moan and groan about it, it’s going to be in His time, not mine. Sometimes it drives me absolutely crazy that 1,000 years are like a day to him. I can’t wait until time no longer exists. Until then, it’s going to be “one day at a time, Sweet Jesus.”

I’m going to need a lot of memory joggers on this journey. I need to go back and pick up some souvenirs to remind me of the Major Miracles on days when the Mini-Miracles don’t seem like enough. It’s evidently going to be a long trip, and I have a short memory. There may be days ahead when I’m squeezing stones like my life depends on it. In a way, it does.

...more later...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Not a blog...just wanted you other technophobes to know that I FINALLY figured out how to get the song mentioned in "Suffering" onto this page! GO GRANNY!!! It'll probably take me another couple of weeks to figure out how to get that annoying little cassette thingy off of here, so maybe reread "Suffering" while listening to the's Him speaking to you, too.

(p.s. ok, so I just noticed that it's the 'live' version instead of the one on Kat's ipod, and there's some other song on there, too. Oh well,nobody's perfect. Just click on the little stop button if it annoys you.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Saturday, May 17

I woke up this morning around 5:30 with a pungent teetee diaper in my face. After a happily busy Graduation day, we got to have a little sleepover weekend with Sweet Baby James. (He is currently staying at the home of an angelic friend named Anna.) He fussed a little around 1:00 a.m., so I used that as an excuse for some nocturnal cuddle time.  I slept the rest of the night on about 6 inches of bed, but it was so worth it. I got to sneak little touches of velvety thunder thighs throughout the rest of the night.

I have to confess that Katherine slept in our bed a good bit when she was a baby.  She was colicky, so Brooks would go get her and walk her around the house until we’d finally give up and I’d just let her nurse again.....and again.  We were usually too lazy to take her back to her own bed after that.  Dr. Nancy assured us that people have been sleeping with babies for centuries, and you’d have to be knocked  unconscious not to realize that you were lying on top of one long enough to smother it.  So sleeping with James brings back happy flashbacks of that euphoric first baby magic.

God’s Timing........just go figure.  I ponder many things. For instance,I wonder why James came when he did, several years ahead of schedule. The doctors are stunned that the AVM rupture wasn’t precipitated by his birth. Being the strong, stubborn pioneer woman that she is, Katherine refused all offers of pain relief when James was trying to make his debut. Although it wasn’t part of the original plan, Amie and I got to stay in the birthing room throughout the whole process.  The doctor didn’t want to come in until Kat was dilated 10 centimeters, but that time never came.  Jay and I were enlisted into service, holding hands, lifting legs, administering oxygen, doing whatever the brave nurse told us to do in that interminable interval between her final call and the doctor’s arrival at the hospital. There was quite a bit of purple-faced pushing in there.  Why did the AVM remain intact through all of that, calmly continuing its time-bomb ticking until an inauspicious day in April when James was six months old?  I am confident that there is a reason, even if I don’t have a clue what it is.

It is a little strange caring for James before going to the hospital.  James cannot yet feed himself.  Neither can his mother.  James cannot walk, talk, change his own diapers, or bathe himself.   His mother needs assistant in these areas as well.  James can hold his head up now, something his mother has not yet relearned how to do. But she’s got one up on him in that she can communicate with hand signals. Both can get their points across with tears.  When James cries at night for no apparent reason, I let him get in bed with me and I rub him gently until he falls asleep.  When a tear drips down his mother’s face, I sometimes get in bed with her and rub her, too.

They can learn new things together, God willing.

I guess it’s a good thing that I absolutely love babies.

“And he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”” (Matt. 18:3)

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I’m still feeling a little like I just walked out of a public restroom trailing 10 feet of toilet paper. But the unconditional love that has been showered down on me in the wake of my wave-tossed wailing makes it astoundingly worth it. I am humbled and so very grateful. If you really want to be blessed, skip the blogs from now on and just read the comments. They are profound and deeply comforting.

My youngest child sent me a text message (yes, even I text) 2 days after the seismic shift in our lives. She wrote, “Katherine and the whole family are very loved. Though it is sad that it must come under these circumstances, if you ever had any doubt about people loving you this should certainly bring some reassurance.” Yes, I’ve had my doubts...sometimes I don’t even like me. But there has been a rising tsunami wave of unconditional love that lifts me up far above the storm of doubts and turmoil. Even if I am double-minded, even if I start to sink in the tumultuous sea, this love that passes understanding flows underneath me, scoops me up, and sets my feet back on the surfboard so I glide above it all. I just have to remember not to look down.

I pray that one day I will be able to “comfort others with the comfort I have received.” This experience has made manifest the kind of agape love that changes hearts, lives...ultimately the world. The Darkness cannot extinguish it or stop the flow. It keeps rippling on and on, little streams trickling into rushing rivers that plunge into an infinite sea. Waves of mercy, waves of grace...

I praise God that He is using this present suffering to produce such a love-feast. It is a tiny inkling of the one to come.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Caress of God

After a good night’s sleep, I woke up panicked about last night’s blog. When I went back to it (thinking maybe I could delete before too many people had seen it), I read the comments already posted. They took me back to Blog #1. I am being carried. I may be flailing around on the ground, but the arms of God come and scoop me up from behind, lift me up high, and carry me on towards the finish line. Thank you for being His arms, His hands, His feet, His lips.

I wonder if any of you are familiar with the writings of Simone Weil. I was reading her Gravity and Grace before this happened. Every sentence is something you can munch on for hours. I became interested in her because of this quote:

“If we really love God, we necessarily think of Him as being... the soul of the world; for love is always connected with a body...Each occurrence, whatever it may be, is like a touch on the part of God; each thing that takes place, be it fortunate, unfortunate, or unimportant from our particular point of view, is a caress of God’s.”

I am going to go back to the beginning now and start collecting memorial stones for remembrance.

I will share them with you soon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Even Realer, Rawer

The Crisis adrenalin rush is over.  The crowds in the lobby have dwindled down.   There are others with fresher, more immediate needs.

But I am devastated about my child, who cannot speak, smile, or hold her head up.  This is not a dream.  This is happening.   My God, help me to breathe.

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani??

I believe, help thou my unbelief.  Please.   PLEASE.

Obviously, it’s been a long one.  But tomorrow’s another day...

Lord, come quickly to rescue me.

My friends, I’m not begging for sympathy.  Please just let me get it out so it won’t fester.... “Confess to one another so that you may be healed...”

(I knew this should just be for close friends who love me no matter what.)

  Forgive me if I have offended.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Keeping It Real

I’ve gotten so many lovely emails talking about ‘how strong I’m being’ that I feel guilty. I need to reiterate the comments in “About Me.” Don’t think the Dark Side has left us completely alone during these past three weeks. In spite of the most awesome prayer support in the history of the world, sometimes I lose a battle or two. In an effort to avoid hypocrisy, I’m going to let you see a blog never sent. (Just so you know that it’s really not me.)

Here goes:

Okay, I’ve had enough now. This has been great, playing the part of the brave, faithful mother. But it’s time to go home now. It’s time to get back to what passes for normal. I’ve got a lot to do. I left half-finished messes at home. There are wedding presents to be sent, graduation festivities to be planned, carpets to be cleaned, summer plans to be made. I’ve got to get back to my life now.

I want to sleep in my own bed. With my husband. I’m lonely. I have that feeling inside my chest that some of us had at summer camp when we stifled our sobs with pillows.

Most of all, I want my daughter back. I want my uber-efficient, dynamic, charismatic daughter to take over now. She’d know what to do to make everything okay. She’d pay me back for her happy childhood by taking care of me. She’d tell me what to do about James.

I feel lost. I think we all feel a little lost....and homesick. Homesick for a life that’s not coming back.

I’m so very, very, very tired. had better come in the morning.

I have to count on it.

The morning after writing that, I received this:

1 From the depths of despair, O Lord,
I call for your help.
2 Hear my cry, O Lord.
Pay attention to my prayer.
3 Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
who, O Lord, could ever survive?
4 But you offer forgiveness,
that we might learn to fear* you.
5 I am counting on the Lord;
yes, I am counting on him.
I have put my hope in his word.
(from Psalm 130, NLT)

(*revere, be in a state of awe)

Over the years, I've learned that I can count on few things in life. (The 'death and taxes' thing is actually fairly accurate.) But I've also learned...the hard way....that I can count on the one who is "the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow." Although He doesn't always let me have my own way, He has never let me down.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Mother's Day Promise

I’ve spent a lot of time keeping company with good old Isaiah over the past two years. I never really liked him much before that, but it’s probably just because I got a bad first impression. Actually, I wasn’t much of an OT girl until fairly recently, when I realized that I am an Israelite. Not the 21st Century version; the kind that cluelessly wandered around the desert for 40 years and remained stubborn, stiff-necked, and stupid even after that. Some of us just keep revisiting the same old places, shut ourselves up in the same old prisons. Thank God our Father that He is more patient with us than we are with our children. A lot more patient.

On my way to something else this morning, the Book opened to Isaiah 49. I believe that many parts of scripture are multi-dimensional and contain layers of meaning that transcend time. They may be interpreted on several different levels at once. Although this passage pertains to a specific set of circumstances at a particular point of history, I found a love letter hidden in it. Here are some excerpts:

The LORD called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name... This is what the LORD says: “At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation I will help you...I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out in freedom,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Come into the light.” They will be my sheep, grazing in green pastures and on hills that were previously bare. They will neither hunger nor thirst. The searing sun will not reach them anymore. For the LORD in his mercy will lead them; he will lead them beside cool waters. And I will make my mountains into level paths for them. The highways will be raised above the valleys...

Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands...
This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “... They will carry your little sons back to you in their arms; they will bring your daughters on their shoulders...

For I will fight those who fight you, and I will save your children.”

I’m taking that as a Mother’s Day promise.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


The first time I had a cervical disk bulge out, I was flat on my back for 6 weeks. The pain made natural childbirth seem like a mosquito bite. I could neither read nor watch the idiot box. Ponder that for a minute. Six weeks of staring at the ceiling, thinking about the meaning of life. For at least a year before that, I had been receiving subtle messages to S-L-O-W D-O-W-N. I heeded not. As a wise man said to me later, “Kim, you were given a period of ‘enforced rest.’”

There are many, many lessons to be learned from times such as that. Unfortunately, I have to learn some of them over and over again.

Personally, I think we are a speed-addicted society. (Soapbox Time!) Significance is measured by movement. It doesn’t necessarily matter where, how, or why we move...just so we keep on dancin’ as fast as we can. I stumbled across this alarmingly graphic passage once when I was in a receptive mode:

"Priests and prophets stagger from beer/and are befuddled with wine;they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions;/ they stumble when rendering decisions.
8 All the tables are covered with vomit/and there is not a spot without filth.
9 "Who is it he is trying to teach?/To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, /to those just taken from the breast?
10 For it is: Do and do, do and do, / rule on rule, rule on rule ; / a little here, a little there."
11 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues/God will speak to this people,
12 to whom he said,/"This is the resting place, let the weary rest";

and, "This is the place of repose"— but they would not listen.
13 So then, the word of the LORD to them will become:

Do and do, do and do,/ rule on rule, rule on rule;/a little here, a little there—
so that they will go and fall backward,/ be injured and snared and captured. "
(Isaiah 28:7-13)

I am no theologian, but I got a message from that. Hundreds of years after it was written, it was rephrased through the living lips of Love:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matt.11:28-30)

I suspect I’m not alone in being my own worst enemy. Why do so many of us keep on ‘doing and doing,’ vainly attempting excellence in obedience to societally-absorbed rules, self-flagellating with the whip of perfectionistic performance-orientation? That is not what is required. Relationship, not rigid rule-following, is the desire of Father’s heart. Quality of time, not quantity of tyrannical laboring to ‘accomplish'. Resting instead of working; being instead of doing.

Last night, I was fiddling around with my laptop trying to find forms of entertainment and/or stimulation for Katherine. It suddenly dawned on me that she didn’t give a flip about the bells and whistles; she just wanted me close to her. She is lonely. I got in the standing snuggle position, held her hand, and fixed my eyes about 6 inches away from her good one. I told her what I needed to tell myself. I said, “Katherine, I know how frustrating this must be for you, of all people. But I want you to know that you are accomplishing more of your greatest goals lying here in this bed than you did out of it. I don’t understand it, and I’m sure you don’t either, but God is using you to fulfill his purposes right where you are. Can you see it?” There was a slight pause, then she squeezed my hand. She gently stroked my cheek for good measure. My nearness was all she’d wanted the whole time I’d been messing around with gadgets. I think that’s what He really wants from me, too.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


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.

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

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Healing Touch

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

There are many wonderful health care professionals touching Katherine’s life during this healing process. She is strangely touching theirs as well.

Dr. Gonzales was the chief neurosurgeon during her operation. I met him for the first time in the wee hours following the nightmare night of endless waiting. I had arrived at the hospital around midnight. The lobby was packed with 100 or so watching, praying friends. By around 5:00, it had dwindled down to Jay, Amie, me, Mia, and 3 or 4 of Jay’s best friends. After hours of restlessly awaiting news, we’d each slumped into an uncomfortable chair for a few moments of troubled half-sleep. I heard a faint, accented voice come out of the humming silence. Jumping up with a hammering heart, I saw Jay talking to The Man in a White Coat. He was pale, somber, and looked absolutely exhausted. I strained to hear and comprehend the sort of words every doctor hates to deliver: although he believed they had successfully removed all or most of the AVM, there had been massive bleeding into the brain tissue and spinal cord. There would be “deficits.” I stared at him blankly. No one said anything for a few seconds. “What kind of DEFICITS???” I finally managed. In a low, controlled voice, Dr. Gonzales dropped the bomb of hideous possibilities: partial paralysis, inability to swallow, coma, or “machine.” Somehow, I thanked him before dissolving into Jay’s arms.

I didn’t see Dr. Gonzales again until 8 days later.

During that interim, we had interactions with many other staff members at the hospital. I made a great first impression in the ICU, sob-praying all over Katherine before lying down on the dirty floor. A nice lady came in to coax me up, speaking to me very s-l-o-w-l-y. I think she must specialize in assessing whether or not relatives need a little psych consult. Over the next few days, we got to know several of the wonderful nurses pretty well. They are unbelievably hard-working, focused on the multitudinous complexities of the electronic jungle of life-sustaining equipment, caring for Katherine physically, and trying to keep up with volumes of paper work. We’ve managed to make friends in spite of this intricate multi-tasking. At first, I’d catch some of them glancing our way as we did ‘atypical’ things around Katherine’s bed. Gradually, conversations began. They looked at the pictures we’ve stuck on the walls from happier times in Katherine’s life. (Of course, the baby always provokes comments.... he IS the cutest one in the world, don’t even try to argue about it.) Prayers were observed. Questions were asked. They looked at the websites. They entered into our story.

One told us about Dr. Gonzales’ first visit to see Katherine after the surgery. She said he had tears in his eyes when he saw her move. Another told us that she’d never witnessed such interest in a patient. Someone had printed out a couple of pages about Katherine from the website of Jay’s dad’s church with a tract stapled on. The nurse told us that three different doctors had stopped to read the print-out...and read the whole tract as well. “That kind of thing NEVER happens around here,” she said. A third told us, “They’re very scientifically-oriented at this place. I’ve never heard this kind of talk about a case.”

One day I looked up and saw a young Asian guy with spiked hair, a wild-colored t-shirt, and a backpack, looking into Katherine’s room. I thought he might be a UCLA student, there to see his nurse girlfriend. When I gave him a “May-I-help-you” look, he introduced himself as Katherine’s anesthesiologist. He told me it was his day off, but he’d wanted to check up on her. He had been with her for 16 hours. He said that there were never fewer than 5-8 of them working on her at a time. “Doctors?” I asked. “No. That was just the anesthesiologists.” He told me that he’d never, ever, seen a surgery like it before. He said that he’d been transfusing blood as fast as he could. When I thanked him for saving my child’s life, he said modestly, “Oh that wasn’t me...that was Dr. Gonzales and Dr. Frasee.” Brooks had come up by this point. “I’ll be keeping her in my thoughts,” he told us as he left.

I’ve witnessed 3 or 4 nurses tear up when speaking of Katherine. They’ve told us about several doctors, respiratory technicians, and others involved in her case who’ve been emotional about it. But the most moving experience for me was when I finally got to see Dr. Gonzales again. He looked very different from the previous time I’d seen him. His eyes were bright and kind, and he looked somehow younger. Smiling warmly, he shook my hand. I thanked him again, and he told me that he’d been honored to have been a part of Katherine's surgery. He let me know that hers was the most complicated case he’d ever seen. Many hospitals wouldn’t even have attempted it...there had already been so much bleeding into the brain and spinal cord before she got there. When I said that she’d been in the right place at the right time, he replied, “We were ALL in the right place at the right time.” (It evidently took a village.) As I thanked him for saving her life, he pointed up. “I had a helper,” he smiled. “Most would not have survived.” He told me that although there were still dangers from stroke and infection, he felt very optimistic. “We have done our part. Now it is up to you. The love and support of her friends and family are what will bring her through.” I had heard that he had asked his mother and grandmother in Colombia to pray for Katherine. He told me that his mother prays daily for Katherine and checks the websites for news. (If she should somehow stumble upon this, I want to thank her for raising such a wonderful son.)

Later, a nurse told me that Dr. Gonzales had sought her out to tell her how much he has come to care about our family. She said, “You don’t hear words like “miracle” used around here. But that is what he’s calling it.”

They still happen.


(p.s. I was told that Katherine was not expected to live at the time of the surgery. The prognostication was that if she did, she would be in a “persistent vegetative state.”

She squeezed my hand the first day.)