My first overriding emotion was embarrassment. When I heard one say to the other, “It was a domestic dispute,” I felt the blood rush to my face. The emotion following immediately behind was anger.
“No! You don’t understand. My dad has a brain tumor. He’d never hurt us or our mom!”
The kind paramedics looked at me inquisitively and then back at him. They couldn’t tell from the outside that he was battling a large, inoperable tumor, and that the effects and the steroids the doctors prescribed had suddenly caused frightening behavior.
My sister and brother and I awoke in the middle of that night, now decades ago, to noise and yelling, followed by the bell ringing over and over, and our mom saying firmly to us as we stared wide-eyed at the door, “Do not, I repeat, DO NOT unlock it!”
Dad, in a state of complete confusion and agitation, had chased her through the house and out. She ran from him in the yard and back into the house, and immediately locked the bolt. After giving us those not to be disobeyed instructions, she phoned our aunt and uncle to please come quick, and next called an ambulance.
If there had been a way to turn the situation upside down, if my dad had somehow gotten better and it hadn’t been his final days, he and his contagious sense of humor would’ve turned that scene into a story we’d have cracked up about. Remember that time the medicine made me wacky and I ran after your mom through the house? That was crazy! He’d have imitated himself with eyes crossed and we would’ve laughed until we cried.
But no, that was the last time our loving and strong but very sick dad was home. They took him away that night and he died in the hospital weeks later.
The thing that you imagine and fear as a child as the worst scenario that could ever possibly happen, happened.
Watching the man who fiercely protected and cherished his wife and four kids become overtaken by a mass in his head was something out of a horror movie. This was the dad who, like Superman, had put out the fire traveling up our mom’s robe sleeve after it caught a flame while cooking. This was the dad whose actions prompted two strangers to arrive at our door with gifts of home-baked treats days after he had stopped on the tollway to help them with their broken down car, and then drove them all the way home.
No, A parent’s illness and death was supposed to happen in other families, not ours.
It was scary, surreal, and devastating, and we moved blankly through the motions afterwards, not knowing how or if we’d ever be the same again.
It was years before any of us recognized and understood that God had His arms wrapped around us every tearful day and night.
He still does.
There’s no doubt that this time in history is scary and surreal, too.
It’s a first for most of us, that the freedoms we’re accustomed to, and often take for granted, are being greatly limited, and that an invisible but potentially deadly virus is seeping into our communities, and we can’t be certain who will fall ill next.
This is supposed to happen in science fiction movies, not in any of our real, true lives.
The Holy Bible assures us in Psalm 46 that God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.
In that chapter, the Lord also reminds us, “Be still and know that I am God.”
As the activities outside our homes greatly decelerate, let’s take numerous moments throughout our days to be quiet and unmoving, and acknowledge God’s omnipotence and omnipresence, even when the worst appears to be happening. As predictable as the sun rising and setting, our heavenly Father’s love and compassion never changes.
Let’s pray to Him with our whole hearts – for our world, our country, our leaders, our neighbors, our churches, our friends, our families, ourselves.
That His will would be done, and that we would become better people and better citizens because of the challenges that stand before us.
Pray that He would help and heal us, and that we would feel and see Him at work in the generous and loving actions that arise when people come together in unity, empathy and kindness through unprecedented circumstances.
Pray that when this difficulty is behind us, that we’d be blessed with clear illumination and a broader view of who our God is – as understandable as the profound knowing that a deep, secure, paternal love forever betters the hearts of a wife and children, even when the dad, the giver of that indescribable gift, can not be there anymore.
Most of us are not sure what kind of stories we’ll be telling years from now after this virus makes its way through our country. Will we be laughing, or will we be crying? Will we talk about all that went on, or will it be a painful time we don’t want to remember?
I pray that this current threat and the obstacles in our way will become a story for the ages as one that changed and transformed our inner selves, reordering us in all important measures, to accomplish the Lord’s purposes.
That we’d never, ever be the same again.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
And the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
Though it’s waters roar and foam
And the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad
The city of God,
The holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done,
The desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
He burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Be well and remember, God is in control.
May your heart be filled with love and peace, joy and laughter. Amen