Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the siren turns the minutes to hours?
As detailed last week, Sabra suffered a stroke completely out of the blue on a recent Saturday afternoon. She called 911 and the emergency dispatchers called me. I arrived at the house just in time to see her being wheeled out and followed the ambulance to the hospital. At first the van with the big red crosses and “emergency vehicle” stenciled on all sides drove at the speed limit but suddenly the sirens and lights came on and it took off at full speed.
“Did she go into cardiac arrest?” I asked myself as I made a decision to not tailgate all the way to the emergency room. “It’s only a few miles and I know the way, so better to hang back and let the professionals do their job,” I thought. “I’ll get there legally soon enough.” But as I drove I couldn’t help but think of the lyrics to the Gordon Lightfoot song about the wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald.
For the record, I believe there is a god– I’m just not sure which one he/she is. It just doesn’t seem likely that there is only one true god– be it Christian, Muslim or Flying Spaghetti Monster– and the people who choose wrong are missing the boat to heaven. It also doesn’t seem likely that there is no God– there are too many wondrous, spectacular, unexplainable things in my life to attribute to just dumb, random luck.
So I said a silent prayer to God not knowing what he’s called, “please let her be okay.”
And that brings me to the topic of this week’s column: prayer.
Praying, to me, is a little like trying to solve a self-referencing equation: A equals B plus C times A. Try programming that into a spread sheet on a computer and you’ll get an error message every time. Asking God to let everything be all right is similarly problematic: wasn’t it the man upstairs that let her have the stroke (it wasn’t a heart attack as we originally thought) in the first place?
Praying also doesn’t make sense to me because often it’s a net-zero proposition. If you pray for your sports team to win a game, or your country to win a war, doesn’t that mean somewhere else somebody is going to lose?
There are no atheists in foxholes, so I prayed.
Over the next week it was interesting to read the cards sent while Sabra lay in a near-coma in a dark intensive care unit room, tubes and wires sticking out every which way. Most said they were praying for Sabra. One woman who we’ve known for some time without realizing that she was deeply religious offered that she belonged to a prayer circle and people all over the world were praying for her safe and speedy recovery. Another offered that while she couldn’t pray, presumably because she didn’t believe in God, she was sending positive thoughts Sabra’s way. While we are not affiliated with any church, we know prayers were offered up at in at least two different houses of God. And– this is my favorite– a friend who teaches in a parochial junior high– said she marched her students to chapel and instructed them to pray for Sabra.
How could she not recover?
And recovering she is.
After two weeks at the university hospitals she was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital in Cedar Rapids where she soon became a star on the floor because she was in such good condition. Too often there, a nurse explained, they have patients that can’t walk, talk or care for themselves and it was a delight to have someone chomping at the bit to walk down to the gift store to get thank you cards to send to everyone that sent her a get well card. I pointed out that people getting thank you cards might feel obligated to send a thank you for the thank you but that didn’t deter her.
As of today, it looks like the U.S. Postal Service might stay solvent for at least a few more weeks, and she might make a full recovery, even if she’s still feeling weak and tired now.
I’m praying that is the case.