How quickly a ride in the park can turn on its heels and take you in another direction, down a dark tunnel where you cannot see the light.
After a companionable family gathering on Thursday, I got a call while still out on Black Friday. “A mass in her brain . . . being admitted to the hospital . . . it’s very serious.”
Entering my house, I tell what I know while I fumble about with the insignificant, still trying to assimilate in my own mind what I’ve just learned. When unexpected trauma appears I ask the same question, “How can this be happening?”
I put on my coat and scarf, gathered Maisie’s collar and leash to go walk. I aimed for the end of our lane where an old cedar post used to stand. It was a place my dad went to pray when trouble blindsided our family.
As I reached that spot, I paused to remember.
My cousins’ parents and mine moved to this piece of undeveloped property in the 1960s. We grew into adults on this lane. We added spouses and then houses sprung up, all of us living in proximity to one another. As our children were birthed, one by one, the sounds of childish play roamed these 40 acres, all the neighbors being our kin. It was unusual for sure, and it was beautiful beyond description.
I think of all the prayers our parents prayed for us, sometimes when we knew it, but more often when we had no idea.
The family leaned on my dad as our prayer warrior, his habits and customs unusually disciplined and structured. It was his agreement between him and his God. He called all our names in prayer daily, nightly, and he interceded when we were in trouble. He stood at that cedar post at the end of our lane on several occasions that I can remember to speak to the One who knew us well.
Dad had a list with family names on it. It grew longer through the years as we increased in number. After mother’s death and his remarriage, he moved away from this lane into the house of my step-mother. Though miles away, he had a nightly ritual of going outside and turning toward the south, where we still lived, to pray for each of us one by one.
I returned from my reverie of memories to the present. The old cedar post that stood as a memorial is gone. I looked about my surroundings. The fields that used to surround our homes are filled with subdivisions, privacy fences and apartment complexes. Other people live in the houses that used to be home to my family members. Things are different now.
While standing where my father stood, I reminded myself that my God is the same, never altering from His awareness of us, not any less compassionate and kind. Though our parents are gone, their prayers are not. The Lord stores them and remembers the faith of our fathers and mothers. All of those words of petition did not vanish into thin air. Instead they are treasured in heavenly vessels.
As tears rolled down my cheeks, I prayed too. The words that came were simple: “Lord Jesus help!” I knew He heard me just as He heard my ancestors years ago.
He is a God who leans down to listen. He was not surprised by a devastating diagnoses like we were. His intention and purpose are already in place.
Our family has a traditional day-after-Thanksgiving evening meal of Hot Browns to finish the leftover turkey. I asked my cousin, who hosts us, if she still wanted to do this. She answered “I think we are better together than apart.” I agreed.
Sweet William and I entered the house and the atmosphere was somber, so unlike the day before when cheerful noises greeted us at the door. This night we are quiet, faces solemn. The axiom, “when one hurts, we all hurt,” is true.
Before the meal we were not really hungry for, we joined hands and lifted our praise to our God who has been faithful to us through the years; who has seen us through troubles great and small; who has shown Himself huge and performed miracles we didn’t deserve; who has given grace to walk the hard places; who has never left us alone to ride out the stormy gales.
We asked Him for mercy, for healing, for strength, for wisdom, for His comforting presence. Our hearts are assured He will answer our cries.
This is what my family does in times of crises. We gather and we pray.
Today I turn on music to soothe my heavy heart. This is the song I wait for:
When trouble comes, family gathers. We are better side by side than trying to stand alone We hasten to God’s throne with full of assurance of His loving welcome.
We will trust, believe, and wait to see what God will do.