One way to help people who are waiting
The dad had been keeping vigil for a couple days. His adult daughter was in the bed, in rough shape. There had been tests and assessments and visits from various doctors. And he was tired.
“I understand that things take time,” he said. “I know that people are busy and that there are lots of people here and that tests need to be processed. But I would like to know what I’m waiting for.”
He wanted to know, simply, what the tests will explain. What the medical professionals still will not know after these tests, or the next ones. He wants to know in simple terms the plan for where everyone around his daughter is going.
I’ve thought a lot about his words. He knew that the outcomes were not likely to be good. No one needed to protect him from those. But he needed to know how to talk to the rest of the family and to his own heart. And when those of us who are trying to figure out what is happening say, “We just have to wait”, we are leaving him unable to speak anything to others or himself.
How hard would it be for us to find something more specific to say? What are the answers we can offer?
“We are going to come back within thirty-six hours. Sometimes people in this situation – with these symptoms, with these injuries, with these values, with these habits, with these struggles – sometimes people get better. About 1 in 10. And you might be that one. But we also know that people who spend all their time worrying end up not being any better prepared to handle the results. So here’s a path.
“We’ll watch for these medical things. Because we are trained for this. Our encouragement for you is that you get prepared for whatever. We recommend that you get rest and eat. That you talk about what it would look like to come home. That you talk about what it would look like to not come home. That you talk with someone who can help you talk through regrets and hopes and wishes and fights. That you ask for help. That you give us permission to be honest with you and with ourselves about the wishes and dreams of the person, family, enemies, and God. That you know that you are injured by this, too.”
The dad pursued conversations with a number of us. And I’m grateful. He was filling the waiting with preparation.
And preparing my heart for my next conversations.