Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I can't tell you a lot about the situation - that would be illegal. But it happened in the hospital where I am serving as a chaplain as part of a year-long residency. Suffice to say - a particular patient was having a terrible time of it. He had been deteriorating alarmingly for almost two months, to the point where even the experienced staff were asking "what can go wrong next?" I had been doing what I could to visit him, but he always seemed disconnected. He didn't really respond appropriately to what was said, but he would grimace, or shrug, or scowl, or give a thumbs-up, and sometimes it felt like there was some small connection.

Last Friday, I spoke to this patient. He was sitting up in his bed, watching DVDs, lucid. He was even happy, thankful, looking hopefully toward the future. He was gracious to the nurses as they re-dressed a wound or did dialysis. He talked excitedly about the ice chips he was getting to put in his mouth - the first things he'd had in his mouth that wasn't a tube in about a month.

He doesn't remember the last two months of his life. The last thing he remembers is making an appointment for surgery and driving to another hospital with his daughter. He doesn't know how he can to the hospital where I work, doesn't remember what must have been incredible suffering he's gone through since then with constant pain, irritation, difficulty breathing, noise, interrupted sleep...he was like a new man, as far as I could tell. He didn't remember meeting me at all.

I've seen his chart, and I'm not a doctor at all, but there seems to be no reason why he suddenly recovered. His treatment did not change. It wasn't a slow recovery, but was instead rather sudden. And why would he not remember the past two months? No one seems to know.

Anyone would want to claim this one as a miracle of some sort - but it isn't easily attributable. If anything, it is a kind of generalized miracle.

What it reminds me, once again, is that there are things at work in this world greater than our theological imaginings or our dogmatic categories. Greater and more subtle. Sometimes, you just accept that a good thing happened, which was unforseen. I don't know if it was because of the prayers of the righteous, or because this patient suddenly joined the right religious team in the depths of his heart.

What I do know is what I feel coming away from this whole experience - a sense of gratitude and of hope, on the one hand, and sense of humility on the other. The world is what the world is. God is who God is.

Neither one owes me the courtesy of fitting into my categories; good things do not come because we understand them.

1 comment:

Viola Larson said...

A wonderful story Doug. However it happened praise the Lord and thanks for the post.