But God blesses his people with peace

Psalm 29:10-11 The Lord rules over the floodwaters. The Lord reigns as king forever. The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.

Revelation 3:7 This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open.

The “O” antiphon for Sunday: “O come, thou Key of David, come and open wide our heavenly home; make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

Peace, our fourth candle of Advent. Safety, the cry of the church from the eighth (or ninth) century when these antiphons were written. How our need for peace and safety still resonates.

How do you, personally, experience peace and safety when your whole world goes topsy-turvy? The Waiting Room story for today reflects one such experience in my life.

Touch, Karis age 21, Pittsburgh

“See you in about an hour, Sweetheart.” I waved as Karis was wheeled to the OR, then settled into the endoscopy waiting room. The doctors needed to know why she kept bleeding from her transplanted intestine.

Shortly, a doctor I didn’t know appeared, asking me to sign consent for a bronchoscopy while Karis was under anesthesia. “This should only delay her procedure by a few minutes,” he told me.

Two hours later, not the gastroenterologist nor the pulmonologist, but the chief transplant surgeon walked in. “Let’s sit down in the conference room,” he said. Only a person who has been there can imagine the fear elicited by those few words.

“We didn’t wake Karis up. She’s been taken to the ICU on a respirator. We don’t know why, but her lungs are in crisis. And her intestine looks much worse. All our efforts to reverse rejection have failed. There are many open, bleeding, ulcerated patches.”

Dr. M paused to look at me, and then continued. “I want you to do two things: call your family together and call your pastor. It will be easier for you to make funeral plans now than when she dies.”

My casual wave might be my very last communication with Karis?!

“Go to the ICU waiting room. There may be a moment when we can let you see her. Right now, she’s surrounded by people fighting for her life.”

My pastor came. I know we put together a plan, but later I could remember none of it. Dr. M came to tell us they had moved Karis from a ventilator to an oscillator, a machine that literally shakes oxygen into a patient’s lungs. “Make your hands into fists and put them at the top of your chest,” Dr. M said, showing us. “That’s how much of Karis’s lungs is still functioning. Come with me and you can see her from a distance.”

Karis’s whole bed shook. We could see that much through the crowd of white coats, nurses’ uniforms, and machinery.

The hospital designated a private waiting room for our family. They began to arrive, first Dan driving from DC, then Rachel flying from Chicago, and the next day Dave and Valerie from Brazil. They didn’t know when they boarded for the ten-hour flight to Newark whether Karis would still be alive when they landed.

Before Dan arrived, though, as I sat alone in our private waiting room, two women from our church knocked on the door. I rose to greet them, and one of them hugged me.

It wasn’t a “nice to see you” hug. She held me. She anchored me. For the first time I was able to weep. I felt seen. I felt care for me too, not just for Karis. I don’t know whether words were spoken or how long the women stayed. I can’t for the life of me remember who those two women were.

But I’ve never forgotten that hug.

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