Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Happy Birthday, Little One!

Eden's First Year

What I Didn't Have to Miss

Sometimes I wonder about Lazarus. In the New Testament, he was raised from the dead, what many regard to be one of the greatest miracles the Savior of the World ever did. It made quite a stir with those around him. It made some believers in Christ. It made others turn against Him. But I wonder sometimes what it did to Lazarus. I wonder what he did with those extra years, the ones he wouldn’t have had had he not been brought back from death. I wonder if he used them differently than he used his previous years. I wonder if he thought about the things he would have missed.

I think about Lazarus a lot. Especially this time of year.

Two weeks from now, it will be May 13th. It’s not a holiday, but it’s a day that I remember, that I honor privately. It’s not something I talk about often. But lately I have been thinking a lot about it. Memories keep swirling in my head that sometimes only resurface this time of year.  I remember lying in a hospital bed in a foreign country, surrounded by doctors speaking in a language I didn’t understand. I remember being poked and prodded, being x-rayed, giving vial after vial of blood, and finally being told, through rough translation, that they didn’t know what was wrong with me. I remember being curled in my bed in my tiny studio apartment, long after the sounds of the city night had faded, in such pain that I wondered what would happen to my students if I didn’t make it. I remember Jon holding me, wiping the sweaty hair back from my forehead. I think I remember him singing. He remembers me pleading to die.
I don’t remember ever being afraid, except of what I might miss.

I came home from Korea early, before my teaching contract ended. I saw a doctor here in the States, and was told that I had parasite damage, heavy metal poisoning, radiation, a failing liver, and inflammation in every organ in my body, including my heart and brain. Most of my organs were beginning to shut down. She told me that if I had stayed another few weeks, I would have died.
I already knew that.

I began treatments, and I didn’t die. But I didn’t get any better. Life became a never-changing dance of pain and sleep, and I spend most of the next four-and-a-half months curled up in bed. Jon, still in Korea, woke up at 4am every morning to talk to me at a time when I would be awake. My dog stayed curled up by my side. Those months are mostly a blur, and I remember very little from that time.
But I remember May 13th. It was my brother’s wedding day, the first wedding in the family. I was, of course, supposed to be there, wanted to be there, prayed to be able to be there. But I woke that morning in a haze of misery, too sick to get out of bed. Disappointment aching inside, I told my dad to go on without me.

A few minutes later, my dad and my brother, all dressed up in their wedding best, came into my room and asked if they could give me a priesthood blessing. I felt hands on my head, and then I felt power. And there was my dad’s voice, commanding me in the name of Christ to rise up and be whole.
And Lazarus stepped from his tomb, from his sleep of death, into life.

There was no pain after that, no exhaustion, no illness. From that very moment. I cannot explain the change, but perhaps that doesn’t matter. Wholeness can never really be understood anyway, except by the broken.

As humanity, we cling desperately to things that are permanent; we seek after things that are immortal. But we only really notice the transient. I love sunsets because they are beautiful and I love them even more because in four minutes they will be gone. If the sunset stayed forever it would mean nothing. We would not notice it any more than we notice that trees have leaves. We would not notice it any more than we notice that we breathe.

But every day is different now. Things that seemed permanent have now entered the realm of “momentary” for me. Even three years later, I notice that I breathe. What used to be a week, a segment of time that meant nothing and sometimes seemed never to end, is now a collection of a million individual moments. And I try really hard not to take any of them for granted.

As I sit here now, I can’t help but think of all the things I didn’t have to miss. Because of one very real miracle, I am alive right now. And because of one miracle, I got to see the day when the man who stayed with me through my darkest nights finally became mine forever. I got to hold my new baby in my arms, squalling with her first breaths, as the rays of morning poured through the stained glass above my head and painted her with a million colors of light. Because of one miracle, I had the privilege of teaching and learning from over two hundred teenagers who passed through my classroom. Because of one miracle, I got to fulfill my dream of swimming with dolphins in the ocean. And, like Lazarus, because of one miracle, I have countless years ahead of me, years that will mean so much more because I almost had to miss them.