Friday, September 16, 2011

Requiem

Working as a chaplain at the hospital, I was regularly summoned to be present for traumatic events: removing someone from life support; delivering news to waiting family that a loved one did not survive a surgery; responding to a multiple-car wreck ambulance call... and the worst kind of all: fetal demise.

Just thinking about having to endure any part of those situations is emotionally difficult for many people.  Medical staff, emergency responders, and law officers are trained to deal with them, but most folks just crumble when they think about it.  Of course, those situations are devastating for the families and individuals who have endured them.  Many times, a family member would comment to me, as everyone was leaving to mourn in their own way, "Chaplain, I don't know how you do your job."  It is easy, in a way, to remain compartmentalized in my thinking, my feeling about grief and loss.  Today, however, there was no way I could keep from feeling the enormous sense of sadness and emptiness that accompanies the death of a child.

This morning, we learned that the daughter of one of Amelia's lifelong friends died in her sleep, likely of hypoglycemic shock, or low blood sugar, and complications with her Type 1 Diabetes.  I was stricken with grief on several levels.  First, my heart broke as a parent, for our friend and her family.  Second, anxiety and fear for my own children, two of whom have T1D, gripped me and wouldn't let me go.  I shifted into crisis mode to make it through the day.  I went to my wife, to offer comfort and to be with her in joint grief as partners/parents/friends and we wept together.  Amelia took the rest of the day off work to tend to her grief and her friend.  I went to see my mom, because that is what moms are for.  Where I felt I needed to be strong for my wife, I felt I could just be a scared boy with my mom, so I got some more of my anxiety out.  Then I went to work, where I tried to be productive.  While I was helping other families deal with their dysfunctions and crises, I was fine, but I couldn't focus to do any of my paperwork.

I spent the evening with my kids, going to a play practice and then a homecoming football game, but now, as we get ready to put kids to bed, I'm faced with doing battle with a wicked team: Diabetes and Anxiety.  Although we live daily in the shadow of the specter of Diabetes, we are protected by an illusion of normalcy that allows us to believe that we have things under control.  Tonight, the veil we rely on to help us function has been ripped away by the death of our friend's daughter.  Tonight, we can't ignore or pretend that this reality doesn't exist for us: Death is always at our doorstep.  No matter our vigilance, our precautions, our education, our habits... Diabetes stands ready to claim the lives of our son and our daughter.

Earlier today, I asked a dear friend and fellow T1 sufferer, Sarah Ray, for some advice.  She has lived with the same issue, the same disease for many years.  She helped me to be able to come to terms with today:

"...Sarah, just wanted to let you know that _________'s little girl, _____, died in her sleep last night. I am not sure if you know them or not, but ____ was Type 1 and she had difficulty with seizures and such from her lows. _______ and Amelia have been friends since they were little girls. We are all pretty sad right now. Haven't told the kids yet, as they are at school, but would appreciate prayers and maybe even some pointers on how to help MH and Ethan not have anxiety over going to sleep.
love you,
jeff..." 

Sarah Ray
"... I am praying and very sad as well I had seen posts on Amelia's wall about her but had never gotten to meet her and I believe u guys have talked about her to me. Not sure how I did not connect with her. I am sorry its so close to home and I will try to think of some thing for MH and Ethan but I am just as scared some nights all I can have is faith that God is not done with me yet. I know having the Cgms will maybe help for MH and Ethan to feel safe sleeping. It scares me too,
Love Sarah..."

Sarah reminded me, helped me remember what my grief and fear caused me to lose sight of... God is in control.  He is in control not only of the life and death of my children, but of everyone's life, including my own.  I am not saying I believe that God caused the death of this precious child, rather, that God is ruler of life and death.  I agree with his servants the prophets who declared that his ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts, our thoughts.  I take comfort knowing that despite the tragedy we experience living in this broken world, God is a god of redemption.  He works to redeem not only people, but situations.  Tragic, awful, devastating situations.  Nothing is beyond God's ability to redeem for His glory.  So, while I mourn for my friend's loss, I rejoice knowing God is at work.  While I grieve for our sadness, I also sacrifice my anxiety on the altar of faith.  I think tonight, as I struggle to sleep, I hear God's voice whispering to me, "Dear child, things will never be the same, but trust me... it will be alright."  Come, Lord Jesus.  I'm ready for some tear wiping...

4 comments:

Jenn said...

No words, just tears. I hope you get some sleep.

Bicky said...

I loved when you wrote, "I sacrifice my anxiety on the altar of faith." Powerful. And also very, very difficult. Praying for you as you strive to continue to do so each moment. Heart hurting with all of you.

Wendy said...

I found Sarah's mother's blog and that's how I got here.

There are some T1 families in my online and local communities that I think of as family. I love them. I love their kids.

The shocking reality that this could happen to any of us, at any time is overwhelming.

May God bless our T1 loved ones...and may God bless this family and their road ahead.

OpheliaRedstar said...

One of my greatest worries was that my friends with extra sweet kids would not sleep. The reality still has not settled in, yet. I really wish I had read this before now. You and Am mean so much to me. Your shoulders have carried much of my load, whether you know it or not.

The one thing that Sarah would want for the kids, is for them to live life as kids who happen to have diabetes. Not, kids who let diabetes rule thier lives.

I love you, guys. Thank you so much for everything.