Rest in Peace, little one.
My stomach has hurt most of the day. I want to blame it on the shrimp I ate last night, but I think it's probably more than that. I'm sad. Very sad. Sad right there at the core of my being. Believing in a Power greater than myself doesn't mean I won't feel the gamut of human emotions.
After a 4 1/2 month fight against all odds, Sophia lay in her mommy's arms then crossed over to sit in the lap of her Creator. No more needles and tubes. No more respirator. No more tests and people poking her tummy. Hard as it is to accept that she did not survive, it's very easy to imagine her with the angles and "doing Jesus" for real.
I can't imagine how her family is feeling today. For as long as Sophia has been sick, her entire extended family, has been praying. Sleeping a little, eating a little, but always praying. Last week I attended a prayer vigil for Sophia. I admit I did not know what to expect. Knowing I would be in the midst of what some might call Charismatic or Evangelical Christians, I figured I'd be a little out of my element. To the extent that I didn't know how to pray as fervantly as the other people, I was right. Still I think my heart was in the right place and my silent prayers accepted by the Divine Listener.
I've heard the word "beseech" before, but never witnessed it until I stood in a circle where each person believed and beseeched as earnestly as the next that a miracle would take place. In spite of all the doctors' reports this group of pray-ers refused to let go of their faith or hope for a miracle.
Like others in this country, I have "confused God with Santa Claus. We believe that prayer means making a list of everything you don't have but want and trying to persuade God you deserve it. " * There have been times in my life when I've gotten down on my knees and begged for a favorable outcome
... please let me win the lottery
... please let him love me the way I love him
... please make the rain stop before I have to cross the slippery bridge
... please let my size 12 (okay 18) butt fit into these size 10 (okay 16) pants.
However I also believe what Rabbi Harold Kushner says, "God's job is not to make sick people healthy. That's the doctors' job. God's job is to make sick people brave." In the case of the Perez family, He not only made them brave. He gave them strength and courage beyond what seemed to me to be humanly possible.
When I left the hospital, I couldn't help but wonder why. Why would a loving God, put this family through such heartache? Why does a little girl with a full life ahead of her have to die, when a 93 year old man, who claims he is ready to go, linger on? Sweetie thinks why questions are pointless. When we ask why of God we are really just second guessing His/Her infinite wisdom.
Several years ago I read When Bad things Happen to Good People . Of course I can't remember what was said, but I do remember it had an impact on my belief system. In an interview published by Time in 2006 Kushner was asked: "What about the book (WBTHTGP) gave it such a strong resonance?
Kushner responded: "It makes people feel better. It doesn't explain, it comforts. This is what people in times of difficulty need. They need consolation, not explanation. Too many books, especially ones written before mine, didn't understand that. They try to tell people why it isn't so terrible. People want a book that says it is terrible, but you can handle it. That's the first reason. The second reason is my own personal family experiences gave me the right to write that book, the authenticity. People have to listen to it because I've been there."
Then there's the question of good vs. evil. While I do believe there is an evil force at work in the world, I don't think cancer or earthquakes or or sink holes are caused by the Dark One. Acts of nature, like s*#!?t, happen. Again, I believe in an all-powerful, Benevolent Being that stands by us in our most troubled times and surrounds us with a blanket of whatever it is we need - courage or hope or strength - as we regroup and face an uncertain future.
The answer to my "why" question is simple. For reasons beyond our ability to comprehend God had already prepared a place for Sophia in Heaven. All He needed for her was a place of peace to be able to run and play and chase butterflies. I suspect it's going to be a little more complicated for Luther. He'll have to have slide rules, and engineering manuals, and Scrabble boards and NY Times Crossword puzzle books. At the very least he needs time to prepare St. Peter for some heated arguments at the Pearly Gates.
SP: Welcome, Luther, it's good to see you.
L: What do you mean by good?
SP: You know, good as in we're happy.
L: Then why didn't you say that?
SP: You're looking a little thin.
L: Thin is relative. It depends on whether I have my clothes on or not.
SP: Would you like an orange?
L: You mean an Arn-ge?
SP, shaking his head in frustration: Go on over there, PattyCakes is waiting for you.
Tonight my prayers are for Sophia's family. I can't imagine the pain they are in.However, I do know, with time, their faith will heal their hearts.
Praying for all of us who have loved and lost,
*http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1545682,00.html, Q&A with Rabbi Harold Kushner, by Jerry Caplan, Thursday October 12, 2006