Photo credit: Daves Portfolio, Flickr Creative Commons
My patient held her baby today, like every mama here does … except her baby had only lived for 16 weeks and could be held in one of her hands. We took pictures and gave mementos. And the family was there and the chaplain came. And I continue to be amazed, at the bravery of women in the face of losing a very part of themselves. Their ability to endure the process of labor knowing that there will be no reward for the pain they experience. It is the pain itself that will be the only gift. Pain that will linger for all time, changing the fiber of their existence with its ravaging presence.
And I heard him, the father of the patient, utter it with his very lips. Through his shaking voice he offered holy words–he gave thanks. The giving of thanks that this loss was now, and not at term, or at age 2, or at age 10. Oh the wisdom … to focus on gratitude amidst the raw suffering–all of them only having known this news for 48 hours–and the room together agreeing with his words.
He spoke of memories of his mother and how she had endured loss, and how she had been strengthened by the suffering she had faced. Having had one child for only 14 years and one for a brief 2 months. And after many years had passed, how she would cry when reminiscing of them–the children to whom she had said goodbye. And he told of how she had modeled to Him tenderness and the proper placing of grief. And how he wanted that this day for his sweet daughter.
This grief that always is, but doesn’t control.
That exists, but doesn’t define.
That lingers, but doesn’t always sting as strong as it once did.
And the questions beg where the pain resides:
What will we allow it to accomplish?
What choice will we make?
Will the pain make us angry and bitter, jaded and cynical … us losing hope altogether?
Or will we allow it to refine our rough edges and melt our hearts?
Will we be better because we suffered?
More understanding of others when they suffer?
With more of a richness to our character as a result?
What a privilege to care for this family; to witness their hope amidst pain. And I am coming to learn there is this, that is certain: we will have pain in this life. Suffering is universal, and inevitable. But I am also learning that it is not its existence that has to define us. We can choose our response. We can choose to trust, and to hope, and to give thanks to God who loves us so–in the midst of it, in the depths of it, and through the years of it. It is our response to the suffering that hallmarks our journey.
And as followers of Jesus, amidst our suffering there is always hope.
He is with us in every moment.
He hears our cries,
and bottles our tears,
and loves us with a love that has no end.
In your times of suffering, may you feel His covering, His protection, and His comfort … and may you one day, be able to see how He used it for good, in and through you, is my prayer.
Are you in the midst of suffering?
How can I pray for you today?
Tuesdays Unwrapped, Chatting at the Sky