Yours truly’s favorite form of adoration
April 16, 2012
The very best thing about this sweetheart of a dog is that he doesn’t talk. To an introvert, that is a solid recommendation for partnership. His sweetness comes through unmasked, he’s happy almost all the time and he never requires that I explain life to him. He takes life on life’s terms. When Katherine was sick those last few years, Sebastian (that’s his name) would just “be there”for me. In ministry they have a name for that—“the ministry of presence”. It’s brilliant and I’ve seen it time after time be the closest thing to a balm outside of Gilead.
When Katie was first in the hospital at age 4 months, we had a lot of time to kill before surgery the next day. We had driven 6 hours out of state to the regional hospital in Iowa that had the most eye specialists around. What did we know, we just followed directions.
Right away we had an appointment with the head of the department. It was a bustling place, full of people walking fast going somewhere intentionally. We asked a nurse-looking woman if she could tell us where to find Dr. —-‘s office. She knew right away and said, “sure, I’ll go find him”. We sat down in the waiting area and in no time we were greeted by a man who called us “the couple with the baby from Nebraska”. He had a lab coat on, he looked old and distinguished, he knew us enough—it must be our doctor. No introduction. No ushering us into a small office with leather chairs. Right in the middle of the busy thoroughfare he pulled out a small flashlight from his white coat, quickly waved it over Katie’s eyes while I still held her in my arms with my purse, diaper bag and coat in tow and said “oh, that will have to come out. See my nurse, she will get you scheduled and tell you what to do”. And then he left.
It was all we could do to sit down in the waiting room. Our instincts were to flee. And fast. But as soon as I played that scenario out, we would be back in the parking lot with a baby and a tumor and no place to hide.
So we were checked into the hospital. A mere 24 hours before, we had a wide open future ahead of us filled with all its various dreams of young people building a family. Now we were a pitiful mess of wretchedness. Parents carrying a baby with cancer who would lose her eye in the next 24 hours. We were frozen full of dread and confusion, with anger all over it. The absurd irony was that we still had this normal happy bouncing baby to entertain in the meantime. She didn’t know the “news”. The only thing we could think of was to call an “older brother” long time friend in a nearby city. He had no more expertise than we did, but he became an important anchor in our new consciousness now full of shifting tectonic plates. Better than that, he was an anchor who could tell jokes. Garry was always inherently clever and as a graduate student in psychology, he always had a knack of making meaning out of chaos. But there was no meaning to be made here. This was Life of the Absurd. All we needed from him was to know us from before the insanity began and be a refuge in our storm. Not just any refuge. Garry’s whole demeanor had always been a walking standup comedy act. The balm he brought us that night before surgery was merely his presence. And the healing medicine he poured over us was laughter. Nothing of import, nothing to reconcile disaster and tragedy—he came and delivered us his “ministry of presence”. I’ll never forget him for what he did for us that night. He made us feel normal, he made us laugh.