This has been a week for doubts.
Last Saturday night, my 79-year-old mother was taken via ambulance to the emergency room. It’s an almost impossible admission to make to myself, not to mention to the anyone who might read this, but I hadn’t spoken to her in a couple of weeks – every day I’d think “I need to call Mom,” but when that thought came to my mind, I was never in a place or time where I could do it just then. And then I’d forget – only to remember when I was lying in bed – much too late to call. Damn. Tomorrow I’ll do it… and repeat.
So last Saturday comes, and Mom gets admitted to Northside. She’s super weak and uncomfortable. Sunday she’s doing better – getting IV antibiotics, some pain meds, and physical therapy. Monday things start to deteriorate – shes confused and weaker, she can’t speak clearly and even when she does, she can’t grab all of the words from her brain and put them out into the world. By Thursday, she’s sleeping most of the day – they've done an MRI and we’re waiting for the neurologist to come do an exam and tell us what it showed. Because we’re waiting, and we need Mom to be alert enough for the exam, the attending doctor doesn’t want to give Mom anything strong for pain. She’s pissed – I mean really, furiously pissed– and we all have a terrible night. The one good thing about that night was that Mom was pretty clear in her ability to speak – the words were angry and accusing, but at least she could say them without losing her train of thought.
In the middle of that awful night, doubts flooded my brain. I tell myself that I’m a terrible daughter. I beat myself up for not making it a priority to talk to and see my mother on a much more regular basis. I’m praying. Pleading for her pain to be relieved. But all I hear is Mom asking for help. All I see is her face contorted in anger and pain. And I see my sister, who is the one who always holds it together – the one who is best at the business of figuring out what needs to be done – I see her break down. In the middle of the night, we are, all three of us, broken and crying.
And where is God? I know that with a wave of His hand He could fix all of this. So why wasn’t He waving his hand now? Why isn’t He answering my pleading? Is He really here at all? Is He just here for other people? I know He answers other people’s prayers and gives them comfort – why not me? Is He the God that created the world and then washed His hands of the whole mess?
And now I’m not only a bad daughter, I’m a terrible person for questioning the existence of the God . Oh – and add in the moment I snapped at Mom’s nurse who had been wonderful all day, and I’m pretty sure I"m the most awful person you know.
You can tell me that I was under immense stress and all of these doubts in the middle of the night are normal, understandable – maybe even expected. And that went through my head that awful night, but it gave me no peace. All I could see was doubt.
Mom woke up Friday morning and was much more herself and has gradually gotten better enough to be discharged to a rehab facility. She still has moments of confusion, but overall, the light is showing at the end of the tunnel. And for this I am immensely thankful.
So what happens next? I still feel terrible about the kind of daughter I allowed myself to become. And I still wonder where God was that night. The first issue is pretty easily fixed because in spite of what my neglect might look like to others, I love my mother with all of my heart. I won’t allow myself to fall into such self-absorption again. My siblings deserve a better partner in the care of our mother. And most importantly, she deserves better.
The solution to the second issue is less obvious. But, as I have told the kids in my Sunday School class many times, faith waxes and wanes. And I tell them that’s normal - even human, because I truly believe that it is.
Continuing to say the words of our corporate prayers helps. Because as I say them I remember what they have meant to me. And as hard as it might be to admit, maybe it’s not up to God to show Himself to me, but for me to open myself to Him.