Where do I begin to tell today’s story? In the midst of the pain or with the news of the victory? That is so often the question.
The last few days have been hard. Preparing to preach on Sunday unlocked a whole lot of details that my mind had mercifully left in a jumbled box labelled “To Be Filed”. I found myself missing my daughter desperately - my capable, brilliant daughter. The one who keeps me updated on world news, and problem solves her way out of complexity; the one who is my third hand and my second mind, and often my first mouth. (She has a tendency to give instructions to the others a bit too readily!)
And as I miss her I find myself unable to join in the excitement of all of you who are celebrating this miracle. I sound horribly ungrateful, I know, but some of my thoughts take a few days to be filtered through the grid of truth. These are them at the beginning. We’ll get to the end, I promise. As I said, do we start with the pain or the victory? It can go in cycles sometimes, a bit like the chicken and the egg.
So I’m feeling sad and disconnected. But mostly I have this overwhelming feeling of loss. I long for the child that made me a mother. I just miss Kiara so much. And this beautiful girl in front of us is lovely in every way. She is sweet and kind and gentle and exceedingly affectionate. She is also a bit needy and there is a little part of me that was relieved to get a break from her when the grandparents stepped in and insisted I take some time out. I am like a new mother, thinking that her existence is tied to mine, and relearning how to lean on the village that raises the child.
I realise the problem is that we are not yet allowed to grieve. Because we don’t yet know what we have lost. If we grieve for what we no longer see, and fall in love with the girl that we have, are we giving up on the complete recovery of everything we had before?
In ministry, we have this term - a holy discontent. We plant our hope in the future, but we are continually pulling the future hope into today. Our dissatisfaction is not all bad - it is part of our fight to get all of her back.
Just in time, a word comes from a friend. Very brief, it says only ‘Remember to celebrate’.
Celebrate. Remember to celebrate. Celebration is not settling, it’s setting up milestones of victorious battle remembrance along the journey to a victorious end of the war. Every wise general, in and out of the bible, understood the value of celebrating the wins along the way. And so we start to celebrate. Richard and I open up the files of her CT scans, and we marvel at the impossibility of this healing. It is astounding to see the damage, and to see how far we’ve come. We sit around the table as a family, and we rejoice that we are together. Kiara says grace before our meal, and we remind ourselves what a miracle this is. We’re living in the midst of the impossible. Heaven is already invading earth, future hope being pulled into today.
Kiara sings as I help her in the bathroom, and she sounds just as awful, and just as happy to be awful, as she always did. I laugh, and we splash a bit more than usual because the abdomen wound is practically healed. She wants to enjoy the semblance of a bath before she is opened up again next week.
She is excited to go back in for surgery. She is her mother’s child. The thrill of learning something new, experiencing something new, outweighs the fear. “I’ve never been into theatre before! Well, not awake, anyway! I want to see what it’s like!” She doesn’t want to take pre-meds, because she wants to be wide awake for as long as possible.
And then today, we try something crazy. We try giving her a maths test that is at her age level. An end of Grade 7 challenge. She doesn’t do many questions - she works for just a few minutes. But she gets it! She remembers that vertically-opposite angles are equal. She does a few more calculations and solves the angle x. The next one is -0.2 + 7/10. She asks for a reminder on decimals, and then solves it on her own. The next question is complicated, but she picks up the method quickly.
I burst into tears - I’m not sure she’s seen me cry. She cries, too, and I know I haven’t seen her cry. She stands up and we hold each other. “You’re going to be okay!” I say. Our watery embrace is all celebration and we laugh and cry, and I say how proud I am. The other kids are smiling, or looking confused, depending on their age.
We fight and we celebrate, we ache and we are strengthened as we praise. Our war-cries are cries of praise, and our praise is the sound of victory. And I get all of you who are ‘so excited’ for us and I’m excited, too. Well, most of the time I’m excited, and when I’m not, I am reminded to celebrate. Because we may be still in the midst of a war. But the victory is already assured, the future is known. And we will praise and celebrate and dance and laugh and fight a little harder. And you just watch this space, as we pull our future hope into today!
Please join us as we pray.
It looks like we‘ll go back in for surgery on Tuesday. They will begin by opening up the abdomen to see if the skull is infection-free. If not, they will clean her up and delay the surgery until they can get a prosthetic skull.
We are praying for:
1. No infection.
2. That her skull piece will be usable.
3. That her scalp integrity will withstand another surgery. The suture wound is still a thick scab, which is not ideal.
3. That she will respond well to the anesthetic.
4. No hemorrhaging or swelling.
5. No adverse effect on the brain.
6. That the artificial brain membrane that they put in would be well-knitted and the brain would be protected from infection.