Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Rainbow Followed Me Home

One night recently, I was out doing an errand and as I was driving home getting ready to get on Route 695 (the Baltimore Beltway) I looked up and saw a rainbow. I was reminded of the passage from the book of Genesis where God makes a covenant with Noah and promises him that he would never again flood the earth and destroy all life—Genesis 9:12-16. It was comforting to think that maybe God was somehow sending a message to me through the rainbows I saw as he did Noah. The loss of our 2-day old daughter Hope and my mom's recent illness has been very difficult on our family and Laurie and I certainly hope that better days are ahead—we could certainly use a rainbow or two right now.

As I drove around the beltway that evening, I continued to get different views of the rainbow. Sometimes I had to twist my head around to find the rainbow but it was still there—almost as if it was following me home. Sometimes I could see the rainbow across the whole sky, other times parts of the rainbow would be obscured by dark clouds and I saw just a small part of the arc of color but it seemed to move with me as I drove. Of course the reality is the rainbow never really moved… I did. The rainbow remained relatively stationary in the sky but my perspective continued to change because the clouds above me kept moving and I was also moving.

My experience with the rainbow the other day seemed like a fitting metaphor for how my relationship with God has felt these past few months. In the midst of the maelstrom that has been our life these past few months it is fair to say that God as at times felt elusive and hard to see. The roiling clouds of life swirl over my head and obscure my view of God at times. In the aftermath of losing our daughter, and now my mom's illness, I am unable to see clearly where God is. I sometimes feel like a blind man stumbling around in the darkness searching for answers to life's hardest questions. I cry out: Why God?! And I get no answer. I've had try and "twist my head around" trying find at least a glimpse of God's presence during these dark days.

But I also have to remember to ask myself: Who moved here? That is to say, did God move or did I? The reality is that God has not moved… I have. I have been forever changed by what he have lived through recently and it inevitably affects how I relate to God—it changes my perspective and perhaps alters my view of God if you will. I have to learn to relate to God from my new viewpoint and adjust to my new reality—a reality that must forever include the tragedy of losing a daughter and the reality of a seriously mentally ill mother.

There do appear to be little rays of sunshine peaking through the gloom and clouds that have permeated our life recently. And of course, sun peaking through a thick deck of clouds and raindrops is precisely the conditions that give rise to rainbows—chances to catch a glimpse of God's presence breaking through the clouds. And as time goes by, I think I start to see more of these glimpses... but it definitely takes time and patience.

Last week, we got some good news about Brady. He visited the neurologist for a follow-up on the seizures that he has had (one last August, and three more in May). There was some concern that his EEG was "irregular", but we were relieved to have the doctor tell us that she thinks the seizures are febrile seizures and she doesn't think any medication is needed at this time. She said that the EEG was really only slightly abnormal and after consulting with us she really believes we are dealing with febrile seizures. (Of course I wish he didn't have any seizures to worry about, so I guess things are relative.)

Laurie and I really felt like the seizures were most likely febrile seizures but our pediatrician felt the follow-up with the neurologist was prudent given and we took her advice. Brady has not had seizures apart from being sick but at the same time, we were worried that it might be more serious (e.g., epilepsy). We were both relieved to hear the diagnosis; we didn't know if we could stand one more thing being "wrong" in our lives right now.

Meanwhile, my mother remains at Sheppard–Pratt. She is by no means back to normal—which I guess is a relative term for someone in my mother's condition anyway—but she at least seems to be a little better than when she was first admitted. The doctors and staff continue to work with her to try and help. If we can keep the insurance companies and doctors from sending her home too early, maybe she can get the help she needs and at least have some dignity and quality of life for herself without completely wearing out my father—who is her primary caregiver when she is at home.

Perhaps the most significant glimpse of God's presence lately is that our family has been talking more openly than we ever have about mom's illness. For years, we were all conditioned to ignore the elephant in the room—i.e., don't talk about mom being sick because it might upset her. Suspend disbelief... Hold on to the myth that mom is okay.

I think now that veil of pretense has been shattered once and for all: Mom isn't okay and she hasn't been for a long time—not for most of my life! She's managed her illness to a degree over the years and did her best to function and raise her children and she should be commended for that. But the fact is, my mom has had serious struggles with mental illness over the years, and this time she got so bad that we could no longer pretend that everything was okay. She could no longer "keep the children in the dark" about it as she did to a large extent with her past hospitalizations—we're big boys now I guess. And I think in general that this has been a good thing.

My father, my brother, and I (as well as our spouses) have had some good conversations about mom and the reality of her situation that we have all been living with for many years. In some way, mom's hospitalization has allowed for some much-needed dialogue and maybe, just maybe, allowed some long overdue healing to begin. My mom's long illness has wounded each of us—myself, my brother, and my father—in different ways and we all need to experience healing and restoration.

A few weekends ago, Laurie and I were down at my parent's farm visiting my dad and my brother and his family were there. We were sitting out on the porch enjoying a nice summer evening. My brother's two teenage daughters were out playing on the lawn with our son Brady. It seemed a perfectly normal thing for a family to do, and yet it struck me that that kind of normal scene seldom played out at our house over the years. I don't know how to describe it exactly but there was a heaviness that was lifted from my mom not being present with us. I almost had the sense that some form of spiritual oppression had been removed from that house—at least temporarily. (It feels a little bad to have to admit this about my own mother, but it's also liberating to admit.) Somehow, my mom not being "in the room" seemed to free us all to be more at ease with one another, free to relax and play and rest. My dad later remarked how much he enjoyed having us all there together that evening and Laurie and I also enjoyed ourselves. It was just a nice time with family and it felt good.

It's somewhat ironic that the stunning beauty of a rainbow can only be seen when clouds and raindrops exist simultaneously with sun. And yet isn't that really something of a metaphor for our life here on Earth? It certainly seems to characterize my life lately. Grief and suffering almost always exist simultaneously with joy and celebration. I think the writer of Ecclesiastes appreciates this reality of life [Ecclesiastes 3:4] as does the Apostle Paul [Romans 12:15]. Some people mourn at the exact moment that others rejoice. Some people, as Laurie and I know all too well, do both almost simultaneously.

In a couple of weeks we will gather to baptize our daughter Rebecca in the same sanctuary where we gathered just over three months ago to say goodbye to Hope. We look forward to that day as we celebrate our daughter's life while continuing to remember to keep alive the memory of her twin sister. Rebecca's baptism invitation states it beautifully: In the face of Rebecca we will always see HOPE.

Get Windows Live and get whatever you need, wherever you are. Start here.

Pondering the Patterns of God's Garden

Creation is messy… Creation sometimes appears random. Until you look more closely… I have the largest flower bed on our cul de sac—ma...