I walk and I pray. Brushing my teeth, I pray. Going to the bathroom I pray. I drink my coffee and throw away trash and pray and pray and pray. I ask God to help me to trust Him, to be reminded of His goodness, that I do know so well, that I have seen over and over and over. I think back over the last two years and I am awed to see how He has walked me step by step through a number of very hard times. He allowed me to wrestle and flail, to cry out in frustration and despair. He patiently kept silent while I looked for Him and sought to hear His voice. And then He answered me, over and over and over, He has spoken to me, using His Word to guide my heart and to soothe it and to hold it up. The journey that preceded this journey, has aided me in walking these days. I have seen God’s faithfulness in the now, right before me and I should not be surprised, because hasn’t He met me where I so desperately needed Him all those other times?
So as I tremble and my hands get hot and sweaty and the buzzing of nerves hums in my lower back, I pray and ask Him to help me trust Him again. I imagine that it is Christ Himself who hands me the sheet of paper that my eyes will scan, rushing past the many lines of long words until I get to that one all important line, “Absolute Blast Count.” I imagine that it is His mouth that forms the words of the number. For I know that it is God who determines that number. I anticipate my fear and disappointment if the number has gone up. I examine the fear and answer it. With each of these now few days prior to transplant, I know a higher blast count may declare the end. My heart slams against the possibility of her death over and over. I gag. I will my eyes upward and out across the expanse. I remember that this day and my life and Allistaire’s life are not in a vacuum. We dwell in this small space of time and place, but the truth is that we are connected, linked to vast histories of humans across this globe and above and below the layers of time. I call upon my imagination to fly up and out over her small form in the bed and I see the whole hospital and my gaze rises to see the hundreds of houses and the heights of the buildings downtown. I see now the curvature of the earth and see the lands to the north and east and south, the great Pacific behind me. Our small, finite lives are intertwined with people’s hearts and stories across that great ocean. And I let myself wonder how the actions and events of these small June days will echo through time. And as I reach for that piece of paper that feels as though it determines the course of my life, my eyes meet His eyes and a smile grows. It is the Lord of Heaven and Earth that has given me this day – He who spans all time and covers the earth.
“The stars so thick and close you could walk right into them. Those times she thought that if she could just remember the stars, she would be all right. Things might get very bad, things might be worse than she ever imagined, but the stars existed, and that was something.” Amanda Coplin, The Orchardist
Indeed. The stars. How many times have I called upon the stars to give me hope? How many times have I craned my neck that I might take in as much of that thick white gauze of the Milky Way? My heart goes soaring through space gathering all memories I can catch of what I’ve learned about those inviting lights. I am racing and racing, the electromagnetic spectrum and pillars of gas a blur. I dive down, down into the sea to grab hold of that abalone shell whose hexagonal cells give it untold strength that man envies and tries to emulate. I slow and I laugh as I listen again to the anesthesiologist who tells me that they do not know how anesthesia actually works, they do not know where the centers of consciousness are in the brain.
I gather up and hoard the word of God that declares His faithfulness, His presence, His unwillingness to let us go. Round and round my mind goes taking in these truths. Nature declares the spectacular glory of God. His Word declares He faithfulness and goodness across all time and all people, all the way into eternity. My little life bears His mark over and over as He has pushed into me.
Now I can extend my arm and grasp the paper and read the black shapes. Sometimes my eyes rise to meet Him with untold thanks and glee and joy. Sometimes they rise in sorrow and weariness and questioning. Sometimes my breath cannot be found and I sense impending collapse. But here, all around me are my weapons of defense. I have gathered them, all these gifts piled up around me that I might take this blow in the context of all the rest. It may still be a blow or a hot knife cutting into my chest, but – it will not be fatal. Everyday I cling to Him and ask Him to help me hold this pain spilling out over the hollow of my hands and see that it dwells in the midst of an immensity of truth and reality. I never, ever take the paper without first calling upon all these precious truths to gird me up. There are times that news comes rushing in unexpectedly that knocks me off my feet. The shadow of the doctor’s legs behind the curtain or the hospital number on my phone and suddenly the knife cuts and catches me off guard. The thick, hot blood seeping out and I strain to open my eyes, I concentrate on hearing His voice. My trembling muscles stretch out and pull back what is also true, what is also real. Slowly the stream is slowed, the bandage applied. The wound begins to heal. It rips back open and eventually scars all ragged.
Yesterday I asked the nurse what Allistaire’s blast count was and she said, “408.” And I thought, no, that can’t be right, that’s what is was the day before, can she check again. Four hundred and seven on Friday and four hundred and eight on Saturday. I didn’t go down and that could mean it might just be going back up. Gather, gather, gather. Gather the truths that press hope against the wound and stop the flood of tears and fear.
This morning, I gather, pulling round me my remembrances of His faithfulness, my reminders of His control over creation, His declarations of faithfulness and provision. I ask the nurse for the Absolute Blast Count. Tracy’s sweet voice says, “Oh it’s down, it’s 260 and her LFTs are good too.” Both liver function numbers that have to be 100 or below, are! The one that had been over the threshold allowed for the transplant has dropped from 114 to 87 and the other dropped from 87 to 62. Elation. Heart light and soaring and thanking, singing round Christ’s face, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”