Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Unpromised Tomorrow

I was driving in the pouring rain when one of my staff members called me on the phone very early one morning.  I pulled over and tried to understand her between her sobs.  I heard words like "still can't see" and "MRI" and  "brain" and "swelling."  She was talking about her only child, her 7-yr-old in the ICU and I felt my body tremble as my own tears drenched my face. She cried, "My heart hurts, please Miss Anna Marie, help heart hurts!"

Somewhere between closing my door and running across the street in the pouring rain, I lost my car keys.  I had never done that before but I felt half lucid and the early morning news had caught me off guard.  I had just been in that hospital room the day before, watching her daughter rest, wondering what it was that caused her to suddenly lose her vision.  I had prayed over her little body and every member of the family in that quiet room cried along with me.

I remember asking God, why. Why?  Why when that was her only daughter? Why when her whole life as a single mother revolved around her child, when she worked full time while finishing college, forgoing sleep and rest for the sake of the unpromised tomorrow for her and her little girl. Why?

"She woke up Saturday saying she had a headache.  I gave her medicine.  Then she went back to sleep.  When she woke up, she couldn't see."

Just like that.  One day life is routinely normal.  The next, tragic.

Because I can often only really relate when I'm able to associate an event in my own life, I kept thinking of my son, Aaron.  One day he was healthy. The next, a life sentence with diabetes.  I thought of my Alanna. One day running around singing Yo Gabba Gabba.  The next, fighting for her life.

The next day a friend called me and asked if I had heard about a girl we both knew.  She had taken her life just hours before.  She was young and married and had friends.

I must admit I drove in a stupor for several days, heavy hearted, clouded, and my soul somewhat empty.  I thought of the young lady I work with and her child.  I thought of the hardship of the test results and the diagnosis.  I pictured her tall, thin body trembling as we stood by radiology waiting for her daughter to awaken from anesthesia, tears streaming down her broken face.  But we were praying, we were hoping.


"The thing about suicide is on the one hand it's so selfish.  On the other bad could it be in your mind that you don't think things could ever, ever be better?" said a young friend.  We were both on our way to work, carpooling, and reflecting on the sudden loss that had taken placed just days before.  I thought about the grieving parents, the relatives, the husband.

That's just it, I told him. You never know what tomorrow will bring.  You can be on the top of the mountain today and find yourself at the bottom of the well in the morning.  You can be at the bottom of the well today, and tomorrow you can find yourself on the top of that mountain.  I told him I'd been studying the book of Ecclesiastes.  Everything is temporary.  The joy, the pain, the ease, the suffering.  We will experience them all because there's a time for everything.

"You can't say it's hopeless because you don't know what tomorrow will bring.  You can't say you got it all together either...because you don't know what tomorrow will bring."

Three days after that rainy morning and that phone call, I got a text.  That precious little girl got her vision back.  The swelling had decreased and her brain, slowly but surely, was healing.

This afternoon, although her daughter is still in the hospital, my co-worker graduated from college and celebrated a great victory of perseverance and sacrifice.

And so I'm thinking of right now. Today is here. And as I write this, tomorrow is fast approaching. I'm learning a lesson on things that have no permanence.  Happiness is not guaranteed but pain and suffering will also pass, sooner or later.

The Jewish scholars say that the Virtuous Woman was Bathsheba.  Her life was full of gains and losses.  She lost a husband and a newborn son.  She gained the heart of a king and inherited a kingdom.  But because she was a woman full of virtue and wisdom, I like to think that when things were good she didn't take them for granted.  And when things became tragic she knew they weren't final.  She was, after all, the mother of the wisest king that ever lived who claimed that there is a time for everything and to everything, there is a season--that life is but a vapor and that suffering is temporary.  Nomatter how long it may take, it will pass.

It is no wonder Ecclesiastes echoes repeatedly with this admonition: eat, drink, and enjoy the fruit of your labor.  The son of the Virtuous Woman knew that there are so many unpromised tomorrows. There are no guarantees.  There are no certainties.

What we do have is right now.  And for that, I am grateful and I must, to the best that I can, live every second of it to the fullest.