“It’s May. The lilacs are in bloom.” I thought. They were my favorite flower. I loved their rich purple hue and strong perfume-like scent. Their fragrance fills the whole house and their presence in any room announces that spring has arrived. This particular spring, however, I could not enjoy them, nor did I think I would make it home to see them before their brief bloom period was over.
My life at the moment revolved around a hospital room on the pediatric floor of Mt. Sinai Hospital. The sight of spring flowers in bloom had been replaced by intravenous tubes and heart monitors. The inescapable odor of alcohol swabs and latex gloves overpowered my memory of fragrant blossoms.
It seemed strange to be thinking about lilacs at a time like that. Our first child, Ryan, at seven weeks old, had just been diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening liver disease called biliary atresia. He had survived a demanding six-hour surgery to build a new bile duct from his intestines and to remove his nonfunctioning gallbladder. The previous seven weeks had been a nightmare of sleepless nights, doctor visits, diagnostic tests, and fear, all culminating in this life-saving surgery.
Still in Shock
While my husband and I were still in shock, trying to recover from the trauma of handing our baby over to surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists, we were given a discouraging prognosis that we had naively not anticipated. We had expected to hear all was well and that our son was on the road to recovery and a normal life. Instead, the doctors were telling us Ryan was not out of danger, in fact, he never would be.
Their words seemed to be meant for someone else as I heard them say things like “incurable, chronic, serious, complications”. They explained that the surgery had saved his life and might have bought him some time, but they gently explained he would always be a sick boy, suffer from infections and possibly require a restricted diet. Chances were good that he would eventually need a liver transplant.
Maybe it was too much to absorb all at once, perhaps it’s the soul’s way of survival in time of crisis, or maybe I was able, on some subconscious level to trust God for a miracle, but I remember thinking to myself, “Everything will seem so much brighter if I can get home and see my lilacs blooming.”
What Kept Us Going
Looking back, I can see it was the simple gestures of those who showed their concern in the ways that came naturally for them, that leave a lasting impression. A card from a teacher colleague read, “My mother’s heart breaks for yours.” Those words are forever etched in my mind. Sally, the nurse, faithfully made Ryan’s crib each morning she was on duty because she knew I liked his little bed to be neat. My sister-in-law brought us simple take-out meals and my mother-in-law twenty dollar bills to my husband to help us pay for gas and parking.
Then there was the vase of purple lilacs from the mother of one of my first-grade students. She couldn’t have known, but God did. She didn’t know lilacs were my favorite flower. She hadn’t heard my thoughts of longing to be home to see them in bloom.
What she did know was the pain of a mother’s heart when her child is sick. She understood the fear of being told your newborn baby is not healthy. She could relate to the anguish, the uncertainty, the aloneness, and the shock of life suddenly taking a turn down an unexpected and irreversible road. Her son had been born with a severe disability and she had walked down this path. She was still traveling that unpaved road, dodging potholes and unmarked curves.
Like a well-seasoned traveler, she didn’t try to give me useless advice, make empty promises or spout spiritual platitudes. She simply brought me a vase of lavender lilacs and a smile. In her actions she spoke to me of God’s love and faithfulness. She showed me empathy, not merely sympathy, and communicated hope–that life continues and that I would find joy in simple pleasures again.
The sight of those lilacs assured me I would adjust to this challenge and I could count on God to sustain me. This fellow mom acted on her heart’s impulse and through the simple gesture of clipping some lilacs from her garden, God used her to remind me that He had not forgotten me. Not only was He still in control, but He also heard the unspoken desires of my heart.
God’s faithful love sustained me through many months of pain and worry, and for reasons I will never understand fully, He granted our family a modern day miracle. My son shows no signs of liver disease and leads a normal life. The doctors’ worst predictions never came to be, and I have never again missed a season of lilacs. God proved to me His grace is indeed sufficient and that no matter what I may face in this life He has promised never to leave me nor forsake me.
He reminded me of these promises in much the same way He spoke to Elijah, the Old Testament prophet when he became discouraged and fearful. Elijah looked for God to speak to him in an earthquake, a strong wind, and a fire, but God instead showed up in what the Bible calls a “gentle whisper.” In much the same way, God did not reassure me of His unwavering faithfulness through the ability of doctors, the whirlwind of sympathetic visitors, or medical technology. Instead, He used another mother and the flowers I longed to see. Through them, He whispered to my heart, “See, I have not forgotten you.”
This was the beginning of our journey in trusting God with everything. There is no greater miracle than receiving life and healing. My son has gone on to live a healthy life with doctors calling him “a miracle.” We vowed then that we would never stop believing God for amazing things and we’d never stop asking him for dreams and miracles! You can read more about our latest dream come true and I hope that our story helps you find inspiration for trusting God with every detail of your life. ~ Mary
This story was originally published in an anthology called A Cup of Comfort for Christians. Click here if you would like to see this book.
~Praying you will find God in the details of your life today. ~ Mary
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