Saturday, March 6, 2010

Things That Should Never Happen

Emma Alice loves princess outfits and parties.  Here she is with a flower painted on her cheek -- gilding the lily -- at a friend's birthday.  Emma is four.  Something has befallen Emma that no four-year-old should ever have to experience.  She has just been diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. 

Emma is our next-to-youngest grandchild and she is very precious.  She has left an imprint on my heart that I can call up any time -- the feel of her solid little body on my lap and my arms around her.  I am conjuring that up now and holding her in my arms for all I'm worth, tethering her to this world and the family and life.  I am doing it in my sleep and while I am awake.  Oh, Emma, how we all love you and want you whole! 

And Emma is a fighter.  Someone called her a warrior goddess, and she is.  She is tough as nails in that four-year-old's body and is fighting this like a tiger.  Her beautiful mother calls her Chuck Norris because of the way she is responding.  She did not cry during horribly painful things like bone marrow draws or spinal taps, but only once because she missed her brother Nate so much.  Now she gets to see him and they can play together in the hospital playroom.  It's a very good hospital, created especially for children, and they understand what a four-year-old needs. 

The worst of this is that nobody four years old should ever have to go through the medical stuff Emma is going through.  It's hard to imagine an adult going through it, let alone a child.  Her mother and father love each other very much and cherish their children and share in their parenting beautifully.  Their situation is strong and stable and eminently functional and they are united in this completely.  Even so, it is going to be rough on everybody -- most of all Emma. 

Some would say they will be "challenged," as if some supernatural force is playing with their lives.  That's just wrong.  They are in a difficult situation, but God is not challenging them to see if they're up to it.  Some would ask why this has happened.  There is no reason.  It's random.  Some genetic bit mutated and Emma's bone marrow started producing too many white cells too quickly and some of them are immature and messing up her immune system.  No one knows why that happens -- could be a virus, something in the air, a random accident of nature.  Nobody knows for sure, and nobody pissed off God to provoke it.   It just happened.

Though God did not cause this, God is very much present in her care: not as an intervening puppet-master, but as the stuff of life itself.  God is in all the interstitial spaces between the atoms and quarks of our existence.  God is in the energy of our breathing and our healing.  When we pray for Emma, we focus that God-energy on her and and on her family, adding some of ours to their own, and we hold them up and help her overcome this monster that has come out from the dakrness under the bed and attacked her.  That's how I believe it works. 

The princess Emma, warrior goddess, will prevail..  Of this, I am sure. 

May the One who blessed our fathers,
May the One who blessed our mothers
Hear our prayer, hear our prayer
And bless us as well.
--Mi Sheberach, a Jewish prayer for healing


  1. She will prevail. By the same power that inspired you to write this beautiful blog entry. Peace, all good, and continued strength and faith!