We almost lost Kara.
She’d just given birth to a lovely baby girl. A pain in her leg nagged on. Suddenly emails and texts and phone calls were rapid fire; prayer chains linked together, and a whole family on their knees pleading for God to spare her life.
We probably all googled “necrotizing fasciitis”, because that was the enemy we were staring down in our prayers, that was the beast wreaking havoc on beloved Kara, flesh-eating bacteria trying to swallow her whole. The prayers were first, “God please let them not have to take too much of her leg muscle”….then…”Oh, God, save her leg”….then…”Oh, God, save Kara”.
Baby came home, mama in an induced coma while surgeons cut away the death claiming her leg, trying to claim all of her. Her husband, Mike, lived in two worlds, at his wife’s bedside and home with his two boys and new baby girl. Meals came in. In-laws moved in to care for the little ones. A cousin and I came down for a few days to help. It was a hard thing to see, fierce sorrow and fiercer love staring out of Mike’s eyes.
Talking to mama over Skype.
What do you say, when a mama who loves long walks in the countryside loses her leg?
What do you say when she asks for the baby to be lifted nearer the webcam so she can see her better and you can feel the ache in her arms to hold her daughter?
What do you say when life suddenly looks so drastically different and you can’t make it all better?
I’ve failed at the words. I’ve tried to fix unfixable things. I’m learning though. We all need to, being always on the cusp of unexpected sorrows in our own lives and the lives of those we love. We need to do better.
Here’s a few helps:
1) Watch this and get this into your heart. It will equip you to extend true and blessed empathy.
2) Apply what you learned in #1.
3) Pray. Let the hurting know you’re praying, that even if their own words are stuck in their throats, raw and raspy, that other voices are interceding.
4) Resist claiming to know what God is up to, why He allowed the hard thing to happen, or offering any conjectures about good things to come from it. Give their pain room to be what it is.
5) Keep close to God, attentive to His promptings. He may have specific tasks for you to do to bless the hurting ones.
“Those who have known pain profoundly are the ones most wary
of uttering cliches about suffering. Experience with the mystery takes
one beyond the realm of ideas and produces finally a muteness
or at least a reticence to express in words the solace that can only
be expressed by an attitude of union with the sufferer.”
-John Howard Griffin