By Jolene K. Hodder, Commissioner –
I received that call every child fears—come quickly, your father is ill. I dropped everything, jumped on a flight and rushed to the hospital. Standing next to my father’s bed, holding his hand, everything around me faded away and I was left with my father’s pain and my sense of total helplessness. While I know there is a glorious place in heaven being prepared for my dad, it is his painful transition that burdens me.
It didn’t take long for the routine of the hospital to become as natural as a day at work. Arrive, robe up, greet Dad, talk to doctors, needles, painkillers, IVs, consultations, nurses, visitors, home to grab a few hours of rest and back again. I learned that there is comfort in routine, but fear hovers over that routine as one slight change in his condition can send him home to his family or home to his Creator. He is ready, but I am not ready to let him go.
Gradually my attention turned from my mother and father to those around me. I prayed for the woman crying down the hall and for the young family in the waiting room. Walking the halls, riding the elevators and even in the cafeteria, my eyes would lock onto the eyes of others. No words needed to be said, for there was an understanding among us, a deep connection. We were all fighting the same monster. Cancer was stealing our loved ones, and we were all in a fierce battle to save them.
God gave me a sudden, deep understanding of why he felt it necessary to send his son to live among us and to die a painful death. It is so we would know that he understands suffering, that he himself has endured it. In fact, God’s son even cried out, “Why has thou forsaken me?” This is something cried out in hospital beds all around the world.
In John 10:10b, Jesus declares, “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” God has not forsaken my father and others who are hurting. No, he planned for this moment in their lives, and in mine, when he sent his son to experience that same pain and eventual death. His message today is that he is with us, and that this temporary pain leads to life and eternity with him.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 declares: “Praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”
Slowly, I began noticing the kindness being extended to me by complete strangers. The woman who served me free coffee had that look in her eyes. Her warm, lingering hug lightened my burden. One woman, without saying a word, taught me how to put on my plastic gown and then walked down the hall and sat by her husband. In the elevator, when my tears threatened to spill, a woman told me a joke and then winked at me. Suddenly I saw God’s hand all around me, and I wanted to be a part of it, too.
Looking at my father once again, I clearly saw God in him and marveled how God was using him to witness to others. God continues to work miracles in my father, and he is now back home. He is still fighting cancer, but it’s OK, because God understands.