Traditional church practice has been to celebrate the lives of saints on the anniversary of their death, seeing this date as their new birth date in Heaven. Thus we join in their celebration, rather than mourn our loss of their company on earth.
August 23rd was a Friday that year. On Monday night we had visited Carol in her hospital room. We showed her a movie on the laptop computer we brought along. Carol had hoped to visit a friend who had a horse ranch out west that summer but had grown too weak. The movie we watched was a documentary about Buck Brannaman, a real life horse trainer and “horse whisperer.” Carol smiled as the movie finished. She said it was nice to have a “normal” evening watching a movie with friends.
On Thursday, I and another OSL prayer team sister were making home visits. We wrapped up our visits early. As we passed the hospital, we decided on the spur of the moment to stop and visit Carol. When we got to her room, Carol’s husband, Tony, let out a sigh of relief. He needed to run an errand but didn’t want to leave Carol unattended. Carol was sleeping, so we didn’t visit. We just stood watch and prayed until Tony returned.
On Friday, Melanie and I were scheduled to head out on a vacation at the beach. Carol had wanted to be allowed to go home and Tony had made those arrangements. We arrived at the beach house and got settled in. Melanie set up her lap top to work on a book idea she had. It was to become her book of daily devotions.
Her cellphone rang. It was Tony. They had gotten Carol home and she died at evening time, in her own bed. I watched Melanie from across the room as she spoke quietly with Tony. Then she hung up and wept for the loss of her friend. No doubt Carol’s feast had just begun.
My birthday was the next day but I don’t remember it. I had one more before the stroke and tomorrow will be my second birthday where I am now home bound myself. I have had frequent mental battles of how to pray. I quickly signed a DNR at the hospital the day after the stroke. I’d rather be in Heaven than spend another day on earth like this. And if I receive healing now, I still have to face the deterioration of my body again when my days here are over. I have glimpsed a new prayer, a prayer of patience and endurance, to pray for my peers who are also facing the last miles of their journey. At these times I think with envy of Carol and other family and friends who are already enjoying their feasts.
Shortly after midnight, early this morning, Melanie and I both found ourselves awake. She got up to pour water in my stomach tube. She also got an ice pack for the pinched nerve in her hip. Before the stroke, I used to retrieve those for her. Now she had to limp down the hallway to the kitchen herself.
When she got back to bed she was wide awake. She picked up a novel she was rereading, a long time favorite of hers by the Victorian author and pastor, George MacDonald. After a few moments, she said she wanted to read a long paragraph to me. Here it is:
It was then first, I think, that I received a notion–anything like a true notion, that is, of my need of a God–whence afterward I came to see the one need of the whole race. Of course, not being able to make ourselves, it needed a God to make us; but that making were a small thing indeed, if he left us so unfinished that we could come to nothing right;–if he left us so that we could think or do or be nothing right;–if our souls were created so puny, for instance, that there was not room in them to love as they could not help loving, without ceasing to love where they were bound by every obligation to love right heartily, and more and more deeply! But had I not been growing all the time I had been in the world? There must then be the possibility of growing still! If there was not room in me, there must be room in God for me to become larger! The room in God must be made room in me! God had not done making me, in fact, and I sorely needed him to go on making me; I sorely needed to be made out! What if this new joy and this new terror had come, had been sent, in order to make me grow? At least the doors were open; I could go out and forsake myself! If a living power had caused me–and certainly I did not cause myself–then that living power knew all about me, knew every smallness that distressed me! Where should I find him? He could not be so far that the misery of one of his own children could not reach him! I turned my face into the grass, and prayed as I had never prayed before. I had always gone to church, and made the responses attentively, while I knew that was not praying, and tried to pray better than that; but now I was really asking from God something I sorely wanted. “Father in heaven,” I said, “I am so miserable! Please, help me!”
Pray for us also, St. Carol. On your feast day I am wondering, What if this new joy and this new terror has come, has been sent, in order to make me grow?
[You can find the complete text of MacDonald’s 1891 novel The Flight of the Shadow at the Literature Network web page.]