Most of us are familiar with this poem and like it for its spiritual and uplifting message. Humans have a need to believe that when things are really, really tough some benign power will come and reach out to us. Even a sworn atheist will be tempted to call out for help from a higher power in times of crises. And I mean real crises: car accidents, severe illness, a mental breakdown.
But is it true? Are we actually carried across the abysses in our lives? Or do we summon some supernatural power in ourselves that make it possible to do the impossible: cope with extreme situations.
I have had to deal with such a crisis in my personal life in recent months and its culmination was scheduled for last Tuesday. My daughter had to undergo a dangerous and life-saving operation that lasted more than ten hours. It took place after eighteen hospitalised weeks, full of anxiety, despair and total enfeeblement.
There is no way you can prepare for such a day as a parent. As it drew nearer, I knew I would have to face one of the blackest days of my life, possibly the blackest and my only real armoury would be my rosary and my prayer book.
But there was more.
We had a wide web of well-wishers.
There was my Facebook support group who was holding an online vigil all day long, praying, burning candles, sending positive thoughts from all over the world to my family and me. Also hundreds of colleagues, friends, family members, neighbours were thinking of us in their own way. Closer to my daughter was an extensive group of hospital staff and doctors, who have nursed her for months and have become very attached to this wonderfully brave young woman. Right in the middle was the family in the hospital, both my daughter’s in-laws who are Muslims with their prayer books, beads and head scarves and my own Catholic family, each praying in our own but similar ways. The intention identical, the actual worship slightly different. Circles within circles, everyone embracing us in his or her own way.
But was the human factor enough? And was it all?
There is a saying that we only get as much as we can take and although I would rather drink a beaker of poison than go through that day one more time, it was do-able. We were carried through it until the last couple of hours when the surgeons were supposed to have re-emerged from the operation room and the waiting became unbearable. The worst scenario was starting to doom up in our minds and we almost lost it. But even then a doctor appeared out of nowhere, at exactly the right time, who was able to phone the operation room and tell us they were almost finished and the operation had been successful.
The patient is slowly recovering and so are we in our own way. Exhausted and mute in the face of so much suffering… but surviving.
So were we carried?
Oh yes! I can whole-heartedly say to you that we were carried throughout the entire ordeal, even in the darkest hours. Both by humans and by God.
There is no way one tiny human being such as I would have been able to do this on my own. Such stress can only be endured with Divine Grace. I felt it going with me wherever I went as a constant lightness, an unwavering faith in the midst of darkness, omnipresent, all-knowing, the real organising power of the universe.
I would like to say a tremendous THANK YOU to everybody, who was with us in spirit. I will never forget your help.
Life, vulnerable, breakable, wounded Life is Holy. I will continue to kneel for It in reverence.