Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Have A Little...

Faith.  A simple word with complicated meaning.  It is a seed buried deep within our spiritual cores, ready to be nourished and blossom with the sprinklings of tragedy.  It is a belief that things will work out, despite our lack of vision for fate's secretive reasons of the bumpy journey we must endure.  It is an inherent hope that has either sustained us or has failed us miserably.  Yes, to me, this is faith.

We all have known faith.  Embraced it.  Bargained with it.  Coddled it within our breaking hearts. Placed it on a pedestal of worship. I have, too.  With undertones that may be religious, spiritual, or meditative, we lean against its pillars of reassurance.  Sometimes, as they say, it is all we have to cling to during desperate times.

Working in an emergency room for 16 years, I have seen faith present its various faces many times.  It may be within the circle of a grieving family, their hands clasped in prayer.  It may be in the young mother's eyes, watchful of her sick child lying in a hospital cot.  It may be in the older gentleman's anguished cries as I share the devastating results of his wife's testing.  It may be in the silent strength of the obvious love of a dying man's partner.  It may be in the ER staff's comforting whispers.  Faith cannot be contained, especially in tragic circumstances.  I tend to think it is a part of the coping fabric that threads all of our lives.

Why do I think that?  Because, those moments of my life where I had to believe in something more, where I had to dig deep within the rubble of my soul to scrape a little bit of sanity, were during intense, personal moments.  My son's illness.  My mother's death.  My grandmother's death.  A life-threatening injury to my father.  I swear, when my mother and my son were both simultaneously enduring chemotherapy, I stared faith right in the face and bargained with it.  Threatened it, even.  "If something happens to my son," I uttered to invisible universal ears while pulling at my hair, "I will never forgive you for it." Yes, I know faith.  It has been my best friend and my worst enemy.

After my son's initial diagnosis, I stood in the hospital corridors outside of his pediatric room, disheartened and in disbelief.  Cole had just returned from the OR where a mediport had been placed in preparation for an aggressive initial round of chemotherapy.  My spiritual guidance, Father Tom, stood beside me, recognizing my slipping faith.  "Why Cole?" I asked, over and over, tearful and angry.  "Why couldn't it have been me?  What kind of world do we live in for a child to endure this?"

Father Tom, in his infinite wisdom, answered my pleas with words that I still carry to this day.  His words, to me, exemplify the true nature of faith.  "Jim," he said, his voice husky and comforting, his arm wrapped around my trembling shoulders, "I can't answer your questions.  I wish I could, but I can't."  He paused slightly, choosing his words.  "I can only pray that at some point in Cole's life, on his journey, the answers of 'Why?' will become more evident.  That the reasons will be more clear to all of us of why he was chosen to endure this illness."  In other words, in staring at a big, suffocating fog of nothingness, Father Tom was telling me that I must have faith.

How does one do that?

At my rock bottom, the openness of my mind was staggering. I listened to any words of support and encouragement, my hopes and faith hinging onto any little hint of a better tomorrow. I'd walk away from family and friends, my mind reeling and spitting out their words to suit my recovery, my belief system.  Ultimately, I learned to believe that all things in our lives happen for a reason. I had to arrive at the belief that Cole would survive and thrive, that the years we will have together would be many.  To not arrive at this point would have meant a certain death in an unattainable part of my core.  I was learning to survive by walking the path that my faith created.

Cole survived.  And as I type these words, I whisper a silent thank you to those universal ears of faith that fulfilled my every request.

Every day, though, followed by every week, every month, and every year, there is more profound sadness, more tragedy, that requires us to dig deep and rediscover our faith.  To recommit ourselves to examine our morals and ideals while we cope with a crisis.  A few years back, another setback occurred in my life, plummeting me even farther into my spiritual well.  Cole had veered from remission while my mother concurrently fought a losing battle against leukemia.  And I was back to the same dark place that I had turned my back on just a few years earlier.

Again, though, my faith sustained me.  It wasn't easy.  But now, with things going well, especially after my very own first health setback, I sit here and appreciate the moments of goodness in my life.  I have learned, from these various experiences, to give my attention to faith during the good times, too.  My faith has been tested and tried and, fortunately, has sustained me in my times of need.  It is my time to feed some nourishment back, during the good times, to those who have surrounded me with smiles and encouragement and and unwavering friendship and love. A phone call. A card. A lunch date. A smile. Some kind words.

It is a two-way street that I have learned to travel with faith.

Where does your life sit right now, on this very day?  Are things going well for you?  Are you facing crisis?  Are you recovering from or approaching a trying moment?  Are you engaged in the environment surrounding your life? How is your support system?  And, most importantly, how is your faith?  Do you think maybe that little seed patiently waiting to sprout within you, in a moment of need, might appreciate a little attention now?  If so, give it some.  Sow it.  Water it. Feed it.  Coddle it.  Embrace it. The effort taken now to examine and understand your faith will reap you rewards when you most need them.

All around me, including dear family and friends, including strangers and patients in the ER, I see daily struggles occurring.  At times, I feel helpless and out of sorts, my seat on the sidelines but a useless location to witness another's misery. But I know, from continuing to grow as a compassionate and kind person, that good times will prevail if one can just hang in there. So, please, just hang in there.

And have a little...                     

26 comments:

CT tech said...

My father died last month after a long illness. He was old, it was time. He did not believe in any sort of afterlife. As far as he was concerned, when you die, you just cease to exist. About three weeks after he passed, he came to visit me while I was sleeping, to tell me he had gotten there, and it was a good place. I had faith before, now it is steadfast.

DocBastard said...

As a father of two small children, I fear and pray for their health every day. I value their lives even over my own, and I can not imagine the pain you've had to endure watching your child suffer through this. Children just don't deserve to be sick.

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i also cannot imagine how you must have felt to get through your son't illness. you know my husband died in january after a long battle with three different cancers, all caused by his exposure to agent orange. he was retired military. for the last 20 years he took a reduced retirement so that i would have an income if he died first. it was called an annuity and i was the sole benefactor. our congress in all it's wisdom decided that since he was a 100% disabled veteran and i would get some income from that benefit that i cannot get his pension now. they decided this but did not tell us. they continued to take the money from him every month until he died. i have NO FAITH in our government. none at all. zip, zero.

spiritual faith? i am trying and struggling some days.

good to hear from you doc.

smiles, bee
xoxo

Liz said...

i remember a quick prayer i once prayed-- "god, if you let something happen to my boy, i will kill you." ridiculous, in some way, but totally heartfelt.

thanks for posting, dr. jim. i'm glad your little one was okay. i'm sorry for the pain you have suffered, and i pray you continue to keep the faith.

Katie Axelson said...

Hey, Jim! I've been thinking about you periodically over the last few days as I've been learning infinitely more about the healthcare system than I ever dreamed (or wanted to know). Today, as we were two minutes from going into a meeting actually about healthcare, my coworker said, "Do you ever wonder what you big thing will be? They seem to happen to everybody. Major accidents, disease, something." Off he launched this huge, profound conversation and I had thirty seconds to respond. A man of faith, he was more worried about his wife and son than anything else. It was sweet, deep, and random.

One of the biggest things I always remember when facing trials, "Imagine what your faith would look like if you WEREN'T going through this." If trials are growing experiences, then imagine faith without them.

<>< Katie

lilacs1130 said...

I am so in love with your spirit and soul. Some of your posts make me well up in tears. Your post on "faith" is one of those. I am going thru one of the most difficult times in my life and am holding on...barely. I needed to read this tonight. Thanks so much doc.

Sharon said...

The existence of a pediatric oncology ward is precisely why I don't believe in gods.
If a child's chemotherapy/surgery is part of "god's plan" he can go screw himself.

G-31 Toastmasters said...

Hebrews 11:1 - Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. (NRSV)

Your writing expounded on Hebrews 11:1 in today's terms most eloquently, in my opinion.

Keep the faith, Dr. Jim.

G-31 Toastmasters said...

Hebrews 11:1 - Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. (NRSV)

Your writing expounded on Hebrews 11:1 in today's terms most eloquently, in my opinion.

Keep the faith, Dr. Jim.

Anonymous said...

How ridiculous. An ER doc to believe in such archaic, backwards, sexist, misogynistic teachings. Ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

as a 40 something year old virgin, I can not imagine what it is like to be a father. I can not imagine the highs or the lows that you experience. I often wonder if I am being spared from heart ache or tragedy by never having kids. I can't help but think better to have loved and lost then not

Marie said...

Wow. I have not visited your blog in some while, but you popped into my mind this morning. And there was this timely message.

Since being diagnosed with MS six years ago, I have gradually lost more and more. My career, my independence, my financial security, even one of my children, who has inexplicably stopped speaking to me.

I have been struggling to try and find some spark of faith to nurture, but I have been coming up empty. I needed to see your message today. Maybe, for just a few minutes, I can believe.

Starjack said...

I think it's amazing that, having seen the worst life has to offer you still have faith. I can't say I'd be that strong.

Anonymous said...

I hope that you will soon be able to let us know that you and Cole and your lovely family are all ok. You are such a joy to read.

Anonymous said...


ARe you ok? You have not posted in a while. This always worries me!






Anonymous said...

How are you doing? I have not seen many posts lately, Just wondering if you are ok?

Anonymous said...

I´m writing from a distant country but your words meant a lot to me. I am an hospitalist doctor, mother of three, and do feel the same about life and faith. Yes, there have been very dark moments and yes my faith is very, very frail. But thanks for your words of wisdom about our attitude as doctors and persons nomatter what. Please keep writing, wish you (and your son) well.
~inĂªs, lisboa, portugal.

G-31 Toastmasters said...

Hoping all is well from RI. Happy Solemnity of ALL SAINTS (including your mom, I'm sure)!

G-31 Toastmasters said...

Greetings from RI. Hoping all is well with you. Happy Solemnity of ALL SAINTS (including your mom, I am sure).

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you are doing well. Hope you continue to write.

G-31 Toastmasters said...

I am officially worried by five months' silence. Hope you and the family are well, and that you continue to keep the faith.

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Anonymous said...

Please come back and blog again. I am always on the edge of my seat reading your posts. Wishing you the best in the New Year!

Anonymous said...

please write more....or if you are not planning on it, please let us know. I know you are going through a lot right now.

Ruthie H. said...

All I can say is WOW!!! I too am going through some very trying issues in my personal life. At times, it is extremely hard to keep the faith and other times it's all I have. But in the end, HE always pulls me through, and that is MY faith. My prayers are with you and your family!

LadyLin said...

Dr. Jim... you blog came up randomly today after I'd finished posting to mine. I read three of your posts and realize that I need to keep reading and will mark your blog as a favourite. I have just been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer with bone mets. Your post about faith seemed to be written directly to me, and I need that kind of positive energy in my life. Thank you.