Was it worth it? (31/12/11)
Baby Michael, transferred to a private hospital for life-saving heart surgery, died on Christmas Day.
We don’t really know the details yet – the way we found out was Jennifer, on duty on Christmas morning, receiving multiple calls from their finance department asking us to cover the rest of the bill, double what they had told us for a 36 hour admission, before they would release the body of the baby for burial. It was sad to hear that his surgery had failed in the most final of ways, but the means of notifying us seemed callous and cruel, especially on a day of celebration and joy. Jennifer was incensed, the family was devastated, and when Jennifer graciously waited until the next day to tell me so as not to ruin Christmas for me, I was furious. It has taken a week of phone calls and emails and negotiating for their accounts department to be satisfied enough to release his remains to the family. What had been a journey of hope for us – partners from around the world raising the money to give him a chance – turned into a sudden dead end leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. We still haven’t heard what went wrong.
Was it worth it?
2 year old Mercy, had a brain tumor that was skilfully and successfully removed by our neurosurgeons. Wonderfully, it turned out to be benign with an excellent prognosis. But she died on Thursday in ICU. After her surgery, vomiting had caused a lung infection which had turned into the most serious of complications, ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome). Her lungs failed, our ventilator reached its limits, and she lost her battle for life because of post-surgical, rather than surgical, problems.
Was it worth it?
I really struggle with these questions.
Part of me wants to gliss over their deaths – to say simply and easily, as many of our patients’ families and chaplains do, that this was God’s will. Some may say that God will bring good out of this destruction – I know that He can and I pray that he does, that through the love the family has received from us here, that their grief will be lessened, that their picture of God will be broader. Some may say that God takes to himself those he chooses, that he chose to take these children to heaven, that it was their time.
But I don’t believe in a God like that – who chooses to take children away, to leave the parents grieving and broken-hearted.
I believe that God, like me, grieves pain and illness and destruction and loss.
I believe that God, in giving us the right to choose, has given us a world that through free will and sin has turned out to be messed up and broken and isn’t always a nice place to be.
I believe that there is good, and there is also evil – and that sickness and poverty and violence cause innocents to suffer.
I believe that bad things happen to good people, and that good things happen to bad people.
I believe that there is a realm that we can’t see, that there are angels and demons, and that every day is a battle through which we are walking.
We see these battles on a small scale every day – in harsh words spoken in a moment of loss of control. In children ravaged by the burden of AIDS thrust upon them. In poverty and inequality and small injustices. In children neglected and abused through generational cycles of despair.
We see these battles on a large scale throughout the course of human history. Unspeakable death and destruction – in the name of purity of the human race with the Holocaust, in the name of Allah with suicide bombers, in the name of Christ during the Crusades.
To think that God allows or plans these things is just unthinkable to me – my God is complex, but he is good, and his purpose is life. But his purpose is worked out through the imperfections of a fallen human race whose choices have consequences each day, and will not be ultimately fulfilled until Jesus returns and the earth is fully restored.
We lost a couple of battles this week. I grieve the loss, but it doesn’t mean we stop fighting. We fight with drugs, we fight with food for the hungry. We fight with scalpels, we fight with friendship. We fight with prayer, we fight with tiredness at 3am. We fight with excellence, we fight with committment. We fight with love, we fight with tears.
So even though we lost these two battles, we win others – and it is worth it.
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