Today I started re-reading one of my favorite books, Peace Like a River. It opens with the narrator telling the story of his birth. Permit me a long quote, and remember I’m reading this while sitting 2 feet from my daughter’s hospital bed.
I was lying uncovered on a metal table across the room.
Dad lifted me gently. I was very clean from all that rubbing, and I was gray and beginning to cool. A little clay boy is what I was.
“Breathe,” Dad said.
I lay in his arms.
Dr. Nokes said, “Jeremiah, it has been twelve minutes.”
“Breathe!” The picture I see is of Dad, brown hair short and wild, giving this order as if he expected nothing but obedience.
Dr. Nokes approached him. “Jeremiah. There would be brain damage now. His lungs can’t fill.”
Dad leaned down, laid me back on the table, took off his jacket and wrapped me in it—a black canvas jacket with a quilted lining, I have it still. He left my face uncovered.
“Sometimes,” said Dr. Nokes, “there is something unworkable in one of the organs. A ventricle that won’t pump correctly. A liver that poisons the blood.” Dr. Nokes was a kindly and reasonable man. “Lungs that can’t expand to take in air. In these cases,” said Dr. Nokes, “we must trust in the Almighty to do what is best.” At which Dad stepped across and smote Dr. Nokes with a right hand, so that the doctor went down and lay on his side with his pupils unfocused. As Mother cried out, Dad turned back to me, a clay child wrapped in a canvas coat, and said in a normal voice, “Reuben Land, in the name of the living God I am telling you to breathe.”
You can imagine how this fueled my will to pray for Eliza. I decided I really wanted today to be a day of forward progress, not just waiting, and so in the name of the living God I prayed for energy, for life, for the will to fight to come forth in her body. I prayed for heart and lungs to turn the corner and strengthen, and for less need for meds and machines.
Later in the book, Reuben warns “Beware those who reside beneath the shadow of the Wings,” and so I reminded our Enemy that he has no claim on Eliza: that she dwells in the shadow of the Almighty, that she is his by creation and baptism, and that no weapon formed against her shall prosper. If Jesus says she lives, then she lives. Cancer or not, no one can snatch her from his hand.
Wouldn’t it be a great story if she suddenly came around, didn’t need the ventilator anymore, stunned all the doctors and nurses, and we got to come home this weekend? Well, it didn’t happen like that. A doctor did come in, and said “Everything is the same as yesterday. We hope it will be better.” Later she clarified that the respiratory stuff was a little improved from yesterday, but not much.
But the day was young. Before long another doctor came in. She said things are progressing slowly, but we have to remember that E’s body is weaker because of chemotherapy, and she’s just had a huge operation. Everything is normal. Then E had an ultrasound, which revealed lots of good things: no fluid buildup, no problems in any of the major organs, good healing. One area of one lung isn’t really functioning, but it’s close to the incision, was probably damaged in the operation, and just needs to heal. Still normal. Doctor #1, who’s pretty reserved in her praise, said all the pathology numbers are “very good.” Doctor #2 answered all our questions about the lung spot, then brought us back to the big picture and said “This is all good news. Everything is going well.”
Later in the day we found out E’s respiratory performance was improving– I assume throughout the day, since in the morning they said it was “only” a little better. So while they won’t take the tube out for 2-3 more days, they will bring down some of the breathing assistance she’s getting. And when Melissa and I came back from lunch, they had decreased her morphine, with no effect on her heart rate or blood pressure (both signs of discomfort).
Sometimes God answers us in big, dramatic ways; most of the time it’s in slow and steady ways. But he always hears, and his answers are better than ours, even when they are hard. Today we’re grateful for slow and steady (which, as we know, wins the race). But we do ask you to join us in praying boldly and strongly: “Eliza Hunt, in the name of the living God I am telling you to breathe.”