Thursday, February 25, 2010


I've been following a trauma patient (T) at the hospital for seven months now. Following his accident, this young adult became paralyzed from the neck down. It's been quite a journey.

For the first few months, I didn't quite know what to do. I would visit for a few minutes and T was out of it. He was on a ventilator and in coma, so I simply prayed silently to myself. Once he began waking up, becoming aware of his environment and learning what had happened, he was angry. He was difficult for me to be around. I mostly prayed for God to give me courage to go into his room in critical care and for forgiveness for my not wanting to go in there. I still showed up.

Then one day, T looked right at me and speechlessly invited me in. He was still on the ventilator. He could not speak but he moved his half-paralyzed arm so that his hand grasped mine. I held his hand as I watched the vital-signs-monitor.

For the first time, he and I watched TV together. After some minutes, I began to leave (as was my custom) and he asked me for something. He mouthed it several times and I kept apologizing for not understanding him, but since he was grasping my hand I had no place to go but keep at it. His perseverance and patience with me allowed me to hear that he wanted me to pray.

I prayed for God’s mercy to heal T in a way that God knows and thanked God for T's patience with me.
I prayed that God would help me know how to be with T so that we could journey together.

When I left the room and de-gowned, I was dripping with sweat.
I felt very embarrassed and inadequate. It was about this time that I mentioned to my supervisor that I didn’t quite know what to do with T. Thankfully, this critical support has opened an abundance of creative lessons for me.

The grasp-point was a milestone in our relationship, me and T. Since that day, I have learned to "be" with him as well as "do" with him. Mostly, there are no words that matter. Only his grasp on which I have come to trust and depend. I felt it again today as he fearfully shared his most recent diagnosis of declining health. How long, O Lord, how long? read the bubble over T's head.

I imagine that God's got a grasp on me. I sometimes don't quite understand what God is saying, but since God's grasping my hand, I have no place to go but to keep at it. Thanks be to God for mutual companionship - with me and with T and with us together.

The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau's heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them. - Genesis 25:25-26

How has God got a grasp on you in this moment?

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