Sunday, April 15, 2012

And His Mercy Endures Forever

Thursday was a day of great trial. It was one of those days when nothing seemed right; disaster was upon us, and if there were some ray of light to be seen, it was a tiny the slit under the barred door. No, we could not help but wonder if any lights we may see were only our imagination, or but some faint hope. The room seemed dark indeed.

The day started when I picked up my friend Barb’s daughter, and again drove to visit Barb, --- in the hospital, still.

When we arrived, she was not conscious. The various drugs used to fight her illnesses and pains had even further weakened her body this day. It was not one of her better days. Only for the briefest while did her eyes open, and we knew she was aware of our presence. And so I began to read to her. I read her stories of miracles --- I wanted to remind her that anything was possible for God. We prayed some, and I read her some meditations that I had recently pondered, including this from Psalm 37:

If you trust in the Lord and do good,
then you will live in the land and be secure.
If you find your delight in the Lord,
He will grant you your heart’s desire.

Commit your life to the Lord,
trust in Him and He will act …
Be still before the Lord and wait in patience.

Calm your anger and forget your rage;
Do not fret, it only leads to evil.
For those who do evil shall perish;
the patient shall inherit the land.

I stopped suddenly. “Barb, “I yelled, “’The patient shall inherit the land!!’ Since you’ve been in the hospital for five months now, if you are not ‘The patient’ I don’t know who is!!”

She didn’t move in response to my outburst, but in her heart I believed she smiled at my weak attempt at humor. I liked her smile. And as I had said the Divine Mercy Prayer with her any number of times, I believed that she now said it with me: “My Jesus, I trust in You.”

But this past Thursday, even as Barb, her daughter and I prayed and trusted in a good outcome, we almost couldn’t see what that might be.

Barb’s daughter had asked me a number of times: “Why doesn’t God take her, and end her pain and suffering?” The doctors had said recently that although her condition was terminal, the end could be a week, a month, or even a year away. But the events of Thursday were much more immediate than that.

By Thursday, all the efforts of Barb’s daughter to get her into another facility --- ANY facility --- had ended. No nursing home, no private care facility, no hospital, and no hospice would accept her --- not even for hospice home care. And of the one facility in the state which would accept her, everyone said “Please!!! Don’t let your mom go to that horrible place!!” And so her daughter continued efforts to create a private, totally unique situation, a place for her mom to die in peace ---- maybe. After weeks of searching, Barb’s daughter had found a home to rent, the one nursing agency that would commit to her 24-hour care, supporting personnel, agencies for complex equipment and medical supplies, and even one to supply a backup generator for the home --- and she was contracting for all these services. Plans were made to sell Barb’s home and liquidate all her assets. And her daughter considered the selling of her own home also --- all to let her mother die in peace in a hospice-like setting, as she had asked.

But on Thursday, the result of all those weeks of calling and planning suddenly seemed in doubt. The hospital Barb was at stated that their policies required that they release a patient into “competent” care --- so all the personnel, all the equipment, and all the contracts were to be checked over, in person, by its hospital staff. And so a huge meeting was set for this next Monday where everyone would make the two hour drive to the hospital, to be evaluated by its personnel. But while this complex affair was moving forward, other things were happening on Thursday …

Someone became aware and perhaps felt a panic: the limits of Medicare coverage for Barb’s hospital stay would end next week, and so (coincidently, I’m sure) the hospital declared that Barb’s condition was stable, and so she would be transferred the next day (Friday) to the one hellish place which would take her. And then Barb’s supplemental insurance company called, also becoming suddenly aware that with Medicare payments ending, it would have to assume primary responsibility for Barb’s future costs. “We need to work out a plan,” they told her daughter. The daughter explained how they were far, far too late in calling; there were no alternatives to be discussed. Plans were set. And when the daughter asked just what would they cover, the discussion became very iffy, and so she asked for a copy of the policy for review by her mom’s lawyer, which they promised to send. Sometime. But time was passing.

The hospital discharge nurse counseled yet again: “Perhaps this transfer tomorrow is for the best. I’m not at all sure you comprehend all the risks of your private plan, risks to your mother’s health, and even to your own.” And then she offered that “Well, you could appeal this transfer, which might delay it for a while.” The length of “a while” could not be defined: an hour, a day, a week? And so Barb’s daughter filed papers for the appeal.

As Thursday ended and I drove Barb’s distraught daughter home from the hospital, she again wondered aloud: “Where is God in all this?” I said I trusted in Him and in His mercy, but “I don’t know” where He is at this sad day. And she voiced all her worries and guilt: “Did I cause all this? Was I overconfident in trying to do what they said couldn’t be done? Was I wrong in not quitting work and spending these last months with my mother --- would she have recovered if I were there at her side and praying more for her? Despite her wanting to fight her illness, should I have told her to turn off her breathing ventilator and just die quickly, as so many suggested I do? Did I cause my mother all this pain?” she asked. I looked heavenward for counsel, words to calm her fears, but I found none.

Thursday night was a very dark, and sleepless night.

Friday my plans were to care for my mother, as usual. Barb’s daughter planned to go to her office, to await, perhaps, a response to her appeal to block the immediate transfer of her mother, and further confirm logistics for Monday’s now hoped-for meeting. I had finished my morning prayers and Divine Mercy Chaplet when my phone rang. It was Barb’s daughter; the hospital had called her. Only it was not the expected call; they called to tell her that Barb’s condition had worsened. This woman who was “stable enough to transfer” likely would not survive the day. Crying, Barb’s daughter asked me if I could again drive her to the hospital. As I drove I made arrangements for my mom’s care, and I called friends, asking for prayers, for Divine Mercy, for Barb and her family.

When we arrived at the hospital two hours later, her daughter spoke into her ear: “We’re all here now, mom. Everything’s going to be okay. We love you, always.”

And approximately two hours later Barb was able to accomplish something she had been asking us about for over four months: “When can I go home?” We could never give her a plan to take her home, but God could. In His Mercy, on Friday He proved He could do anything. And His mercy endures forever.

Once there was no mercy for you, but now you have found mercy. 1 Pt 2:10

Receive the joy of your glory, giving thanks to God, Who has called you into the heavenly kingdom, Alleluia!

In your darkest hour, my friends, do not forget that He does not forget. His mercy endures forever. Do not be anxious. I give thanks to all those saints I have called upon: Fr. Solanus Casey, Padre Pio, Pope John Paul II – the Great, and my earthly and departed family and friends. I know all their prayers were heard. And I give thanks, now and forever, to my God, who loves and hears all His children. Even me.

One final note: As we left the hospital Friday, a call came through for Barb’s daughter. It was the hospital’s appeal board: “The doctor who had authorized the transfer of Barb had called and informed them that her condition had worsened, and the transfer would not occur. Therefore, they would not proceed with reviewing her appeal.” --- Our wonderful hospital system at work. Can it get worse??

Don’t answer that.

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