Wednesday, June 11, 2008
When the phone rang one recent afternoon, I let the machine answer it. A woman's voice stated her name and then why she was calling. Her twenty-five-year-old daughter had been in a car accident, she explained, and had suffered severe brain injury . . .
That's as far as she got before I picked up the phone.
We get these calls from time to time. I understand completely, because I was the one making these calls twelve years ago. As she told me her story, I identified with so many of the details. The doctors who offered no hope. The endless decisions that have to be made when you have no clue what to do. The joy that rises with each good sign. The waves of grief that swamp you the very next moment.
Like Jacob, her daughter has defied all predictions and made amazing progress. But now she's coming "home" to live with her parents, and they've turned a corner into new uncharted territory. I offered a few practical suggestions, but mostly I listened and encouraged her not to give up. The longer we talked, the deeper we went, and soon our conversation shifted from medical realities to spiritual ones. That's when she shared this story.
The day before the accident, she and her husband decided to discontinue their land line service and use only cell phones. As a result, emergency personnel had trouble tracking them down. The hospital finally reached their older daughter who called them. Then they had to drive to a hospital in the next town. When they arrived around 4:30 AM, they were instructed to call the doctor, who told them their daughter's injuries were fatal and offered no hope for her survival. However, since no one had been able to reach them, she'd been hooked up to life support.
Miracle number one.
After receiving the devastating news, her husband went back to their daughter's bedside, but a nurse took the wife aside. "The doctor has to say that, because that's what he believes," the nurse said. "But he doesn't know God's plan."
Miracle number two.
They checked into a hotel to try to get some rest before facing the doctor the next day and making their first round of decisions. The wife took a hot shower to clear her head, and when she stepped out, the mirror was fogged over. Whoever had stayed in the room before had written a message on the mirror, and the fresh steam had made it reappear.
Miracle number three.
By the end of this story, her tone had changed. Fear of an unknown future gave way to trust in the One who's brought them this far. She still doesn't know what to do, but she knows God is near. He's not asleep. He sees. He cares. He has a plan.
And--oh, the joy!--when our hearts are broken into a thousand jagged shards, and we don't think we can take another breath, much less another step, He sends messengers in the form of whispering nurses or steamy mirrors or talking donkeys or stones that cry out. One way or another, He speaks.
And then He listens.