The Matters of Life and Death, and a Tale of My Own

It can be said that healing and prayer are the same functions.  After all, both seek to bring something we want into reality through God.  It may seem that they are the same, but they are not.

Healing is an almost infinitely profound concept, whereas the mechanics of prayer can be delineated.  A unique factor of healing, that differentiates it from prayer, is that you can heal into life.  And you can heal into death.  In truth, there is no difference.

Another distinction between prayer and healing is that prayer is just simply what it seems to be: a petition to God for something that is on our hearts.  Healing is an actual ridding from the body and mind a potentially enveloping darkness.  Of this subject I will wait until another time.  For today, I will focus on the matters of life and death that present themselves to us when we pray for healing, for ourselves or for others.

I can’t number the times that, while participating in a small group conversation that involves God somehow, I have heard someone, exasperated usually, sigh and say how God must be upset that so-and-so died, or that some tragic event, involving some human deaths, has occurred.

Never have I given in to my urge to ask, why would you think, as a Christian, that God would be upset if one or more of us has left our bodies?  I didn’t want to be looked at as a person who sees God as some kind of cruel beast.  I don’t.  I see God as love.  But I also see God as the one who loves us whether we are in our bodies here on Earth, or no longer in our bodies and with him.

To me, we are one with God no matter what state our bodies are in.

When we pray for healing, we must be aware that a release from what is afflicting us could be accomplished by having it removed from our Earthly body, or it could be accomplished by having our body removed from the affliction.  One image that I have had of this is of a person going through a kind of worm hole — going through a process that does not guarantee a certain outcome.

Think of people like Jim Henson who felt somewhat ill, went to the hospital, and died.  Just like that.

And then think of people who were slated to die, but somehow didn’t.  Somehow lived.  For the most part, I’m that kind of person.  A person who keeps walking away from her own death.

I had just returned from a trip to India — another story altogether — and I noticed that I did not feel well at all.  There was a creeping weakness infiltrating my body.  I read about little intestinal creatures that a person can bring back as a souvenir from such a country as India, so I settled in for a period of recovery.  Except I didn’t recover.  The condition just kept getting worse.  I was feeling so badly that I even considered no longer working.

And then I became pregnant.  First with my son, Nathaniel.  Throughout this first pregnancy, I felt horrific.  When I mentioned my relatively recent trip to India, the medical personnel clucked their tongues and said, no wonder.  But that was that.  No tests.  No treatment.  Just resignation on their part.

Years went by.  I found that having a child was a benefit to feeling so sick all the time: I could take naps, and gentle walks, and read to my son at the library.  Years went by.  My daughter, Lila, was born.  Through this pregnancy, my body got increasingly worse.  Fortunately, Natty was in school, so taking it even easier was possible.  For the last few months, because my body was giving signs of not being strong enough to make to term, I was bedridden.

I survived.  Lila survived.  But afterwards I was barely able to walk about.

So I started digging into the medical profession that seemed to want to pat me on the head and say, you’re fine.  You’ll get over it.

The first reaction I received from those doctors to whom I insisted that I was ill was that I was a hypochondriac.  Wonderful.

The second reaction I received from those doctors on whose doors I continued to pound was that I was insane.  Really.  You are not sick.  You are making up all these symptoms for some unknown, obscure reason.

So, I decided to veer off the normal path of medicine and talk to a homeopathic doctor.  He got it right away.  You’re sick, he said.  But he also said, you are really, really sick, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  He suggested that I turn myself over to the Johns Hopkins Experimental Medical Lab and become a guinea pig for them to do experiments on.

Gosh, no, I thought.  This really did not appeal to me at all.

But this conversation did something for me: it made me face death.  Not that this was the first time, but now I had two small children and a household for whom I was responsible.  This time, this facing of death made me mad.

So back to the “regular” doctors.  I was aimed and loaded.  I wanted results.  Fortunately, I found one.  And then another.  And then another.

I went to a liver specialist.  He was so educated that the framed degrees and certificates that he had earned literally papered his walls from ceiling to floor.  Yes, I was impressed.  By his potential, that is.  His reality was something I found rather shocking.

At first he told me that I had a rare and tropical disease.  Sounded right to me.

After meeting with him a few times, with and without my husband accompanying me, the doctor with the certificates asked me, why isn’t your husband with you this time, doesn’t he care that you’re dying?

Just lovely, don’t you think?

I stammered.  I knew from the homeopath that my condition was not good.  But this comment was just a little too bleak for me, and merciless.  I gaped.

Then he said, you have hepatitis non-A, non-B.  Hepatitis means infection of the liver.  I had officially an unnamed version of it.  So how did he know, with certainty, that I was going to die?

Well, because my liver enzymes were elevated.  It’s what happens to a person who drinks so much alcohol that they die from it — the alcohol drives up the level of enzymes in a person’s liver.  In a healthy liver, there is no liver enzyme activity.  Why I had enzyme activity in my liver when I only drank a glass of wine a dozen times or so a year was a mystery.

But what was happening in my body was a certainty.  My liver enzyme activity was increasing, and it was nearing the point of no return.  According to this doctor with certificates, I did not have long to live.

When I got home, I was really, really angry.  I loved my two children.  I loved being with them.  I loved hearing their voices.  I loved how they smelled after they came in from outside.  I loved putting their clothes away in their drawers.  I was not going to let these things go.

So, not telling my husband what the doctor had said, I somehow found a weekend prayer retreat.  I was scheduled to go into the hospital to die at the beginning of the next week.  I didn’t have much time.  So I signed up for this retreat.

It was intense and intensive.  In silence, people stayed with you and prayed over you.  I let myself be prayed over.  I let myself go.  Suddenly, in the midst of a prayer, the image of my father came into my heart and mind and I was overwhelmed by feelings of anger for him that I had never known about.

The people around me asked me share with them my thoughts and feelings, and I did.  I can’t remember now what it was that made me feel so intensely for my father, but I do remember how this healing session went through the afternoon and into the evening.  I felt like a different person after this.

Late on Sunday afternoon, I returned home.

Not alarming anyone about what was really scheduled for me at the hospital, I packed my bag again and said that I had to go in for some tests.

One of the first things the doctor with the certificates did was do a biopsy of my liver.  It would give him an indication of how long I had to live.  I think it was my imagination that I saw this man salivating when he spoke of studying my liver after my death.  It was not a comfortable situation for me in any way.

I laid on my side after the biopsy.  And I waited.  My husband and Natty came to see me.  I still had not told them about what was going on.

After a while, the doctor with the certificates came into my room.

“WHAT DID YOU DO?  WHAT DID YOU DO?”  He was screaming at me as though I had broken into his office and destroyed all those certificates.

I just looked at him.  And some of the doctors had accused me of being insane.

“WHAT DID YOU DO?” he kept repeating.  “DID YOU EAT SOMETHING? WHAT?!?!?”

I have no idea what you are talking about, sir.




The last thing I was going to say to him was, I prayed.

So I just smiled.

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