It’s time for another Weekly Link Up from what is fast becoming one of my favorite blog sites, Sweeping Up Joy. My goal is to participate weekly in her Links Ups; I think it will be a good challenge for me, giving me a chance to pause and reflect on what are important topics for our family. This week’s Q&A session is on the topic of prayer.
1. What are your favorite devotions?
This year for the first time our family is learning how to pray the Rosary. I am still a fairly new convert to the Catholic faith, and during my RCIA training, the Rosary was not well taught. So, I am learning right alongside my children! We have a sweet book from St. Joseph Picture Books on the Rosary, and we currently are reading about a new mystery each day, then praying a decade.
2. Have any of your prayers been answered? Do you have any prayers that you are glad weren’t answered the way you’d hoped?
The short and quick answer is an overwhelming yes, to both. I think most of us would answer the same way. How many times do we pray quick simple prayers for healing of a cold, safe travels for a road trip, for the car to make it another year without major repairs etc… We make so many (ultimately) trivial requests of our Father, that are granted, that I don’t think any of us could remember them all. Unfortunately, we often forget about all the prayers that are answered, when we have one that isn’t.
Now for the long answer, the story of our daughter, which really encompasses both questions:
When our daughter was born, unbeknownst to us, she was born with two heart defects. While two of the more common defects, they were still significant and she was in heart failure almost immediately after birth. We were informed very early on that she would be having open heart surgery likely when she was only 3 or 4 months old. Those months were very hard – the greatest suffering in a mother’s life is when she has to watch her child suffer. The fear we lived with daily, worrying about her day to day health, her ever worsening heart failure; but also the bigger picture: Would she suffer a stroke, have a seizure, or suffer other some other significant side effect during surgery that would affect her future? Or, the scenario we never wanted to think about, but sometimes couldn’t stop ourselves from worrying about… would she be among the 5% who did not survive surgery?
Needless to say, we were praying without ceasing for her healing, as were people across the country, really, across the globe, thanks to her CaringBridge page. Doctor after doctor tried to dash our hope, telling us she had no hope of survival without the surgery – her heart failure was too significant; she couldn’t even eat anymore, relying instead on a feeding tube. To further drive the reality home I came across a medical journal online that stressed that the variation of defect she had, does not close without surgical invention.
Her final check up before surgery (roughly 2.5 weeks from surgery) arrived. Despite three different medications, her heart function was poor and erratic, her liver was swollen, she was sleeping almost the entire day, she was always so pale, so cool. The cardiologist doubled a couple of her medications in hopes of stabilizing her for surgery, and we went home to essentially enter quarantine, in hopes of keeping her healthy (a relative term those days) for surgery.
The day arrived and we drove the 6 hours to the hospital for her surgery. We attended the pre-op day, an overwhelming day – 9 hours filled with tests (blood work, ECHO, EKG, xrays) and meetings with various team members, and of course – signing the consent forms saying we acknowledged our daughter’s statistical risk of death, and that she was at a higher risk of needing a pacemaker due to the position of her defect. It was a surreal day.
Roughly nine hours after we entered the hospital that morning, her cardiologist walked in for the final meeting of the day. He said he had just come from reviewing all the tests, and that’s all I can tell you. That’s all I remember. Or, I should say, that’s all I remember from his exact words. But I remember the gist of what he was saying: there had been improvement since he saw her only a few weeks earlier, the defects were improving. He was canceling the surgery, he wanted to post pone it for awhile, to just wait and see what happened with her heart. We cried. The relief we felt was immense. Overwhelming. It felt like our prayers of healing were being answered.
After a couple more appointments the next day, we eventually drove home. Where we soon became discouraged. Her defects may have been showing signs of improvement, but she was still in heart failure. She was still relying on a feeding tube. They had to increase one of her medications again, and then again. Her pediatrician advised that the surgery would likely still have to happen. Then she began to have problems with kidney function as a side effect of one of her medications. Watching her scream and cry as I had to help restrain her week after week for the blood work was draining me. I began to feel bitter, frustrated, discouraged. Why put her through this? Why put us through this? Why didn’t they just fix her when they had a chance? When we were there, prepared for it? Why postpone for what was looking inevitable anyways? I began to pray for the surgery. I wanted an end to all of her suffering, I wanted her fixed, healed, off the feeding tubes. I wanted an end to the medications, the blood work, the constant worry and the unknowns. I saw surgery as the means to that end.
Time passed. Almost imperceptibly we began to see what we hoped was improvement. Her coloring looked better, she was more active. She began to take some from the bottle again. But she was still on three different heart medications, a feeding tube and we just had no idea what to expect.
On December 23, 2010, a day I will never forget, we met with her cardiologist for a follow up. She had another ECHO, and in the end, the cardiologist told us these magical words: surgery was canceled. Completely. Forever. One of her defects had completely closed, one was significantly improved, and he was going to start weaning her off her medications. We cried, again. I asked him how this was possible? We had been told for months that she would have to have this surgery, that there was just no hope. And he looked at me and said, “I don’t know how. It’s a miracle.”
Since that day, we have had several other doctors tell us that our daughter’s healing is nothing short of miraculous. To me, she is a testament to the power of prayer. She is here today because of answered prayer. And, she is here today, because of unanswered prayer – for I am so, so glad that she never went through the open heart surgery that I prayed for. God had his reasons, His timing, and they were perfect. They were what we needed, even though we couldn’t see it at the time.
3. How do you pray with your kids?
We do standard the standard prayers – we pray before meal times and before bed time. We also offer a morning prayer, and pray a decade of the Rosary each morning. I have also taught the children to pray each time they see a fire truck, police car or ambulance going – we ask for the safety and protection for those involved. We pray when we pass a funeral procession, praying for comfort for those left behind. I think more than anything, at least I hope, I am teaching the children the value of spontaneous prayer – praying when you are sad, sick, scared, in need of help controlling your frustration or anger. Offering prayers of thanksgiving for the million blessings we receive every day – from a beautiful sunrise to an unexpected surprise. I want my children to pray without ceasing.