Time crawls when you are a child. The days from one summer to the next pass agonizingly slow. The wait for Christmas seems interminable. A month is viewed as a major portion of life. I remember when I was a child, I expected to grow up, get married, have children, and die. I had no concept of life after twelve, much less forty. Without the benefit of longevity, a child is unable to see possibility beyond the present moment or hear wisdom in “this too shall pass.”
I can only imagine how endless the year after his mother’s death must have seemed to my twelve-year-old grandson Spencer, who remained in his father’s household, or how difficult it must have been for him to endure reoccurring, month-long stretches of solitude in his room as punishment for disappointing grades. On infrequent occasions when we were allowed to speak, I heard the monotonous drone of lost hope in his voice. Panic rose that Spencer might resort to the unthinkable--self-injury--as a solution to suffering.
It is difficult to grieve for the departed. It is unbearable to fear for the life of a child as you watch, desperate, but powerless, to rescue.
“He’s not going to make it. He’s not going to make it,” I cried, rocking back and forth in anguish, my arms clutched across my body in a comfortless self-embrace. “We’re going to lose him, too! We’re going to lose him, too! I can’t get well. I can’t get well,” I wailed.
“Bunny, stop,” my spiritual director said gently. “Let’s pray. Let’s pray about it right now.”
I had prayed my daughter Tara would live. I prayed her baby Alden would live. Both of them died. Asking for the outcome I desired seemed pointless, and praying aloud in the company of another felt awkward and uncomfortable. But I was in no condition to protest. I choked out words between sobs.
“God, please,” I begged. “God please. . .please let Spencer come to us,” I cried.
It’s odd the things that go through a mind in times like that. I knew my prayer was heartfelt, but I suddenly wondered if it were proper. Self-conscious of my words, I struggled to stifle emotion. “What I mean, God,” I said, “if it sounds like a good idea to you--it sounds good to me—if you think it is a good idea, too, please let him come. Please let Spencer come home.” That was as close as I could come to “thy will be done,” before my feeble attempt at decorum failed, and I relapsed into shameless petition.
“And God, please, please let it be his father’s idea,” I begged. “I can’t take anymore. I can’t take anymore.” I said, collapsing into uncontrollable sobs.
I confess I had no hope of intervention. I suppose I should feel guilty about that, and I would, had not my spiritual director later told me that when I got to the part about “let it me his father’s idea,” even she thought, “I don’t think that is going to happen.”
One week later:
Sam answered the phone. Sam never answers the phone. He says it is pointless because it is never for him, but that day he did. In hindsight it seems like one of those unexplainable, serendipitous, preordained coincidences. I wouldn’t have stayed as calm.
At first when Sam remained silent, I thought the caller had dialed the wrong number. When Sam spoke, my breath caught. "Yes," he said calmly, but firmly, "But we will need legal guardianship to get him into school and to take care of him if he needs medical attention.
Spencer’s father asked if Spencer could come live with us.
The next day:
Sam answered the phone again. This time I heard him say, “Let me call you back.”
Sam hung up the phone, walked to the window and stared into the backyard. His fists were clinched by his side. I stood behind him and waited for him to tell me what had been said.
“He’s not going to throw that kid away like that. I’m not going to let him!” he said through gritted teeth. His voice was thick with battled tears.
Spencer’s father wanted us to adopt Spencer.
I waited until Sam’s breath resumed a normal rhythm before speaking.
“Sam,” I put my hand on his shoulder, “It isn’t our job to make this man be a good father. It is our job is to save Spencer.”
Blessings sometime arrive wearing strange clothing. It was difficult to see grace in a request that sounded like abandonment, but slowly, a realization dawned. Beyond the spoken words of prayer, beyond anything I could have hoped or asked for, God heard the cry of my heart. Spencer was coming, but more than that, Spencer was going to be safe. No one would ever be able to take him again.
Two weeks later:
Spencer revealed no emotion as we left his father’s house. We drove in silence before he finally spoke.
“Do I have to go back?” he asked.
“Never,” said Sam.
And with that one “forever” word, Spencer smiled.
"He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted." - Job 9:10
“Grow flowers of gratitude in the soil of prayer.”~Terri Guillemets
“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”~St. Julian of Norwich
“God may not always come exactly when you call him, but he is always on time.”~Lemon, Brooklyn street poet
*“He’ll come back to you,” my lawyer-friend said, a tear spilling onto his cheek, “I don’t know when it will be, but I believe he’ll come back to you.”~ A wise man, who dared to give difficult advice and refused to let bridges be burned. (*Thin Boards--From The Big Red Chair, September 21, 2011.)
-What is the greatest gift I’ve ever been given? Did it exceed my expectations? If so, how?
-Did that gift happen because of anything I did or didn’t do?
-How do I define grace?