Monday, February 20, 2006

God's Presents

A couple of years ago, my wife suffered from chronic chest pain. It would strike at different times but especially in the evening. She would be reduced to soaking in a hot tub, trying to get the pain under control. It was hard on her and on the rest of us, too. We ruled out heart trouble fairly quickly, although that seemed like a reasonable idea. We didn't know quite what to do. And then Crystal's birthday rolled around. I don't recall exactly what we did for a birthday party, but I do remember what I bought as a present for Crystal. It was a cast-iron tea kettle, complete with cast-iron trivet and infuser. It was a beautiful item, and I knew that Crystal would absolutely love it. So, after the party, Crystal had to run an errand. While she was out of the house, I arranged the tea ceremony that I had planned, brewing tea in the new kettle, getting everything ready. I was right. She loved it. She was so very excited. And then the pain set in. In fact, it was the worst that she had ever experienced. The romantic evening was lost beyond recovery. But, there was something about her description of the pain that rang a bell. It was located in her back, not her front. How very odd. A couple of Internet searches, and I had it nailed. Crystal was undergoing a gallbladder attack. We returned to the doctor, and he confirmed the diagnosis. A month later, and Crystal went into the hospital to have her gallbladder removed. She hasn't experienced any pain since. At the time, Crystal's gallbladder attack was a hard providence to accept. But, in retrospect, it was one of the best things that happened to her. Now, we both see it as God's birthday present to her: a diagnosis of an ailment that was plaguing her for months. Why do I write all this now? As I was driving into work this morning, I received word that a co-worker's daughter had died last night. She was sick, but still no one had expected that this would happen so soon. She was only three years old. Just barely three, in fact. Her birthday was last Friday. The family was going to celebrate her birthday, but she was struggling with respiratory issues, so they postponed the party. Now, they will never celebrate it. We gathered together at work to pray for this family. I was in tears, as were many of my co-workers. A common prayer was, "Lord, You know why, even though we don't." And it's hard. It's really hard. Bryan said it best, "Parents aren't supposed to bury their children." And yet, I think back to Crystal's birthday present from God. It was not a pleasant one, but it was really what she needed. And now we can give thanks to God for it. This little girl suffered greatly from her sickness. Now she is free. Her spirit is perfected, and her body awaits the Resurrection, when she will receive a new body which will be perfect in every way. Her sorrow is over. Her suffering is over. Her pain is ended. How is this not a beautiful present from God? I find myself remembering something that I said to my father when my mother died:
When we returned home, I served wine. Everyone gathered in the living room, where I held aloft a goblet of red Fredonia wine and read from Isaiah 25. I explained what we were doing and why. “Mom loved wine,” I said, “and the next wine that she will drink will be in the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And then I turned to my father. “For you, this is a cup of bitterness,” I said, “but remember that for your wife, it is a cup of joy. So drink.” And I gave him the goblet. With tears in his eyes, he drank.
For all of us, most especially her parents, this is a cup of bitterness that we must drink. Yet for this little one, this day is a day of joy. For the first time, she awakens to an endless day of glory. Happy birthday, Hannah. Enjoy your present. We will all be with you soon.


Blogger Derek Thorp said...


Thank you so much for posting about this. Hannah is indeed free, and we rejoice with her. One thing that several people have said to me is that while Hannah is with Jesus, she is also with my mother. A couple have had pictures in their minds of the two together, reunited. One was of them embracing. Another was of them dancing. There were others. While it was difficult to lose my stepdad and extremely difficult to lose my mother, neither comes close to comparing to this. This runs against the natural order of things and the anguish is indescribable. But Hannah can see clearly, she can hear fine, she can walk and talk and dance, and she can breathe without difficulty. And she breathes in the very presence of God with every breath. Incredible. I will never be the same after this experience. Don't be surprised if you see me doing weird things over the next several months, because I am so fully aware that every moment of life (even the routine and unpleasant things) is so precious. Thanks again for posting this. During this process, I have thought many times about how much I would give to have her back here with us. Then the thought occurs to me how awful that would be to bring her back to this insane world full of sickness and sin. Seth, I want to join with you to wish Hannah a very happy birthday. By the way, just to clarify, we did get to celebrate Hannah's birthday at a restaurant on Friday eveving. By God's providence, I remembered my video camera and caught a few minutes of her opening her presents. Thanks again, brother. Talk to you soon.

Derek Thorp

2/22/2006 07:27:00 AM  
Blogger Seth Ben-Ezra said...

Don't be surprised if you see me doing weird things over the next several months, because I am so fully aware that every moment of life (even the routine and unpleasant things) is so precious.

I understand this completely. I felt the same after my mother died. The reality of impending death makes life all the more wonderful.

And I had heard that Hannah had her birthday party. That makes me feel better somehow.

2/22/2006 09:37:00 AM  

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