Summary: A lesson on handling the fires of life as faithful believers.
Someone has so rightly said, "Life is ten percent of what happens to us and ninety percent how we respond to it". During my year residency in CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) at Children’s Hospital in Detroit, I learned as an eyewitness and a Pastoral Care Giver, the contrasting responses of those who sought or had no faith system for the fires of their trauma’s or tragedy’s, and those who had a faith system already present for the their trauma’s and tragedy’s. Those with a faith for their fires did not experience a lesser degree of pain and misery, or neither was their grief period shorter, but their response to their grief was quite different. I was assigned to the Renal and the Intensive Care Units as a Pastoral Care Giver in the Hemo-Dialysis Unit, this area was reputable for their work in the care of children with End Stage Renal Disease. Transplants were done with frequency and had a high rate of success at Children’s.
One of my most memorable experiences involved a little angel of a girl whose name was Tina (name has been changed). She was about four or five years old, and the seventh child born to this family. She had six other sisters, their love for each other and their love for God and Church knitted this family together. Tina had been under the watchful care of one of the best Nephroligists in Renal Care. She had several excellent matches from her family, her father was one of them and he decided that he would be the donor of a kidney for her. The family was present for the surgery, other members of the family accompanied them as well, and the transplant itself went well. They were told by the physicians that she would spend at least four to five days in ICU as all transplant patients did, and the father would recuperate in the Renal unit until his release.
Tina’s first couple of days were as expected, but during the third night something happened, an aneurysm in her brain developed. The family prayed and hoped for the best, but the aneurysm took her at the close of the following day. When we told the family that we had lost her, the tears and hurt was overwhelming. The father was still sore from the operation; therefore, he was limited to move around. He wanted to be with her, he wanted to see her, other members of the family had been in the room with her, but he could not go. We pushed Tina out of her unit to his room, and cleared the room so all the family could be there together. I heard him say, "Daddy loves you, and Daddy did all that he could". I watched as his other daughters surrounded his bed, and the mother crawled up in the bed with her. They brushed Tina’s long hair, I remember hearing one of them saying, "Tina, you’ve been with us, now you are with God". As I held two of the sisters, I also remember the older one crying saying, "God help us, God give our family strength". Then there began the soft moaning of a familiar hymn that I had learned to love and appreciate while pastoring the Missionary Union Baptist Church in Columbus, Mississippi. "Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His word, just to rest upon His promise, just to know, "thus saith the Lord." Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er! Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Him more!" I literally could not believe my ears, this family was actually moaning this hymn in the midst of immediate pain and loss. What a remarkable display of courage and faith they displayed.
And on another occasion, I had a young girl who was 16 years of age. She had been in and out of the hospital for several months. Latisha (name has been changed) was in a stage of Renal Failure; her mother was struggling with an addiction to drugs and alcohol. She was doing the best that she could with her life and her daughter’s life. Latisha was the apple of her mother’s eye. When Latisha was well, she watched her little sister and brother; taking on a mother’s role for them. When her mother was using drugs or drinking alcohol, she managed the home life. But now, her body was deteriorating; she developed a serious infection. She was placed on a respirator, and for over a week she lingered. One night Latisha started to fade rapidly, her mother had been there all evening, she decided to step out for a few moments with a friend. Latisha died while her mother was out; two of her Aunts were present. Her mother returned within a few minutes of her death, I had to tell her that the Physicians wanted to see her. She sensed the worst, and when she saw the aunts she had an intuitive feeling that something had gone wrong. The staff entered and she was told, suddenly, she screamed, she began to curse God, I remember her saying, "Out of all these other children here God, you took mine". She said, "I hate you God, I hate you chaplain (preacher), I hate all of you." She threw a chair across the room, beat the walls and ran down the corridor. She even asked God, "Why me? Why me? How could you be a loving God". She was in pain; she had lost the child that she gave life to. She was angry and hurt, she had not only lost someone who not only helped her, but also enabled her.