Suffering and Sadness During Christmas – part 3

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If you are reading these posts, this is where the story began, 4 years ago at Rush Copley.

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Cheryl’s room in ICU is just to my left, and at the end of this corridor reads a sign above the door . . .

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. . .”THE SERENITY ROOM” . . .

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. . . of which the post below is all about.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Psalmist moaned, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” When we read these dirge-drenched words we too quickly leap-frog from Psalm 22 to the cross and leave the psalmist wondering if you and I even heard his groaning. Though Christ quoted this in his agony, David really did feel it first – and if you and I are willing to admit, we too have felt the dirge in our hearts.

I empathize with the lament psalms for there have been many things in my life that cause me to groan – just like your life. But what is curiously new for me is something deeper and tormenting than just lament – it is an acute awareness of God’s abandonment and yet an overwhelming sense to be near him who has abandoned me. I want to introduce you to a real place that I have recently visited but without my consent, a place where I have been dragged kicking and screaming with both feet, leaving finger-nail scratches on the frame of the door – it’s called THE SERENITY ROOM. If you ever enter this room without consent it will feel nothing like serenity; the very name is mockery. This room is filled with haunting aloneness and weeping into the night, carried along with the fear of what dreadful thing may come to pass. I’ve never been so far down into this Psalm 22 room until now. Is this simply a metaphor or allegory for some intangible explanation or experience? I wish it were, but it’s not just in my head and heart. In fact, you can visit this real room if you’d like – without the dreadfulness of it.

The Intensive Care Unit at Rush Copley Hospital is a brand-new, fully furnished healthcare facility that for healthcare professionals is surely a tour-de-delight; you get to help save lives with some serious high-tech stuff! The unit is a cul-de-sac of adrenaline spurred by the desire to do some good for a stranger. The staff is caring and top-notch; the rooms are advanced and very personal to the patient’s needs. But behind all that really nifty gadgetry are bodies in dire condition and family members literally brought to their wit’s end over the brokenness of their loved one. As you keep walking past these fancy catacombs, tucked away in a corner is a slender, lowly lit place that at first glance, does not look very threatening and appears safe. Above the door is a marble-like sign that reads in all caps: THE SERENITY ROOM.  This is the room that after midnight, after all that I could do for Cheryl, would become my retreat for some quiet and rest.

After spending all day absorbing the seriousness of her situation, this, hell-hole – “uhum”, excuse me, THE SERENITY ROOM became for me, a torture chamber. I was alone. I found myself on the floor weeping and sobbing, crying out closer to Psalm 22 than I ever have:

“My God, My God, why do you abandon me. Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.”

There was nothing serene about this room because I felt that God was not there with me. In fact, “THE NIGHTMARE ROOM” would be a more appropriate name because, in there, you are alone with your fears that what is happening to your loved one is completely out of your hand and you can’t do anything about it but turn to the God who put her there in the first place – that’s nothing short of creepy. And right there is the strange torture of it all. You feel that God is a million miles away ignoring you and yet you want to be near him. He has forsaken you and still you cry, “do not be far off . . . come quickly to my aid.” I hated and loved that room at the same time.

So the room is real. Some of you have one – somewhere in your life already, and if not, in the future you might find yourself there for a moment, a day, a week, or longer. The important thing to do when this place is upon you is to cry out the Psalms to the God who seems to have forsaken you. If you don’t, you won’t know the deep comfort that you so desperately desire. It sounds strange and wrongheaded, but it is true:

“I will tell of your name to my brothers: in the midst of the congregation I will praise you . . . for his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 22:22; 30:5).

It’s a bitter-sweet place when all you’ve got is the Lord who seems to have abandoned you. If you are presently in this room right now, keep crying out to the Lord. He will satisfy your affliction with praise:

“For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him” (Psalm 22:24).

When you leave this room, there is a communion with God that draws you back night after night. Not because it keeps you safe from your fears, but because God ends up being bigger than your fears.

What Happened Today

Dr. Wheeler, Surgeon and Professor of Urology here at Loyola, who accepted Cheryl’s case was in our room, along with his attending physician. After discussion, they want to allow the Infectious Disease Control guys continue to “cool down” the infected kidney for the next several days, hoping to get the white cell count down to 10,000 by Monday. Today, it was down to 21k from yesterday’s 23k. That’s good news. Also, he let us know that the Cardiology Team has ok’d her surgery; the stress echo test came back negative. More good news. On Monday, a Renal CT will be done to check how both kidneys are doing. He talked about the option of how to determine to keep the kidney and remove the infected staghorn stone and the option to remove the entire kidney, saying that both were “formidable” because of the size of the infected area, keeping it from escaping into her blood stream. Another professor was in today with his urology student to learn about Cheryl’s unique case: endometriosis/menses monthly induced right lung collapses (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catamenial_pneumothorax) who just experienced a 105.3 stroke level temp that was caused by an infected three-times enlarged kidney with a rare stone that shot up a white cell count that is on the level of leukemia. Cool – for a student, that is!

As of now, they are aiming for surgery either on Tuesday or Wednesday next week. Best case scenario: Out of the hospital on Jan. 2 or 3.

Cheryl and I are encouraged                                                                                                 1. She is alive and progressing by the hand of the Lord;

2. Transferred to room 6331 – aahh, much better; last night was the best night of sleep that we’ve had in 8 days;

3. I prayed a Psalm today with a crying man in the hallway;

4. Many of you are telling us that you are praying for us; acts of kindness and compassion keep coming our way;

5. God’s Spirit is comforting and giving us hope as Jesus Christ is lifted up in our eyes, our Sweet Savior and Faithful Friend.

Tomorrow is the Eve of Christmas – I’m going shopping!

Until Tomorrow

Now may Jesus Christ who was forsaken for your sake, give you peace by the time morning comes. Amen.

Ivan

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