‘He’s brain dead,’ Soft Speaker choked back her sobs. ‘The doctor told me to gather the family around and decide if we want to pull the plug on the support systems… I don’t know what to do.’
There were no words I knew then to say how I felt. It was all too sudden. Just 7 days ago, her father was getting ready to watch the soccer match when he suffered a severe stroke. Soft Speaker was in her bedroom trying to sleep but heard unusual muffled sounds coming from the living room.
‘He was gagging and flailing his arms when I came out, and wasn’t responding to my voice. I called the ambulance and by the time they arrived, he was still.’
They rushed him into intensive care and his condition stabilized but on Sunday, his brain began bleeding again.
‘From that moment on, I felt as though he wasn’t around anymore. His body is still warm but… where is he?’ Soft Speaker said, ‘and I miss him so much… I can’t imagine not having him around the house.’ Her face crumbled as she hugged herself tightly.
‘I want to believe that he’ll be okay but everyone around me seems to have accepted that he’s gone.’ Looking up at me, she asked, ‘Will you believe with me that he’ll be okay?’
And there in front of the glass case that sealed her father shut from the world, we hugged, clinging to each other for strength. Together, we willed ourselves to see past the wires, tubes and machines that surrounded her father. We chose instead to see the man who easily laughed with his family, grumbled when things didn’t go his way and cooked for his family.
‘I didn’t even talk much to him that day he came over,’ she said as we pulled away.
‘Don’t… don’t start regretting the moments that have passed. Be glad instead that he was close to you, that he had the chance to be with you and play with your son. You guys had, and will still have, great moments.’ I tried to encourage her. I wasn’t sure if I even believed what I was saying.
We donned our surgical masks and sanitized our hands before entering the glass room called the intensive care unit. It was cold but I wasn’t sure if it was the sad people that filled the corridors, their desperation for a religion to make a way of hope, the clinical and cold look of all the nurses or the silent, unmoving air all around.
Looking down at her father’s face, the tears began to well up in my eyes as I heard a song echo in my mind.
‘Breaking the curse of our condition, perfection took our place
When only love could make a way, you gave your life in a beautiful exchange’
– Joel Houston
‘We have hope,’ I whispered, ‘because we have a God that traded places with us at the cross. Let us not be awed by the death or hopelessness in this storm. Let us be mesmerized by the One who stilled that storm with one word, who raised a dead man with His voice, who says that He’s the God of our moments – our here and now. Let’s see Jesus.’
Soft Speaker nodded, her gaze sweeping over the machines the beeped rhythmically before coming to rest on her father’s face. She finally looked at me and smiled.
‘Thanks for coming down. It means so much to me.’
‘How could I not come?’ I answered, ‘you’re my friend.’
‘The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.’
– J.R.R. Tolkien
In history’s darkest hours, a man kneeled silent in a garden. Under tremendous pressure, torment and pain, He cried out for a way, any way but that which His father had asked Him to take. It wasn’t easy and twice, He returned to His friends to ask for support… except that each time he went to them, they were asleep. They couldn’t stay awake long enough to be there for him. There was no one to turn to. This was a choice He had to make on His own.
‘Beneath the rubble of a fallen world, He pierced His hands. In the wreckage of a collapsed humanity, He ripped open his side… He gave His blood.
It was all He had.’
– Max Lucado
His very act on the cross re-wrote history.
Today, as I traveled home, I thought back to that scene. That singular moment in the dark made me realize that we need not have our dark, lonely moments. When Soft Speaker needed people, they came forward. When she needed hope, there was reason to believe. All these things… that man in the garden didn’t have. He gave them up so that years later, we could hope.
I will keep my promise to Soft Speaker. I will believe with her that life can blossom in the dead earth. I will stretch forth my hand and hold hers, as the Dream Maker embraces our world.
I will believe.