“Just as there were many who were astonished at him--- so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals…” Isaiah 52:14.
I still so well remember the day I visited the room of an eight-year-old girl dying of cancer at Children’s Hospital. I went to perform a test to try to explain and relieve some of her suffering. Her disease and its treatment had greatly disfigured her body. Her head was almost bald with sparsely scattered streaks of once curly blonde hair. The dark sunken eyes on her ashen face were highlighted by purple blotches beneath her pale skin from previous bleeding episodes. Her paper thin skin seemed attached directly to the bones of her arms and legs. Her breathing was intermittent and labored. Each movement of her frail body took all of her energy. She was in constant pain.
As I entered her room, I was overcome immediately by her suffering--so unjust, unfair, unreasonable. This has been my closest experience of the horror of the crucifixion. But in the midst of this great suffering I also encountered something even more overpowering. This young innocent had not been abandoned. She was not alone. Lying in bed beside the almost lifeless child was her grandmother. This grandmother’s huge body was embracing and surrounding this precious inhuman suffering.
I stood in awe, for I knew I was on holy ground. I was in the presence of the living God. I will never forget the great, gentle arms and body of this grandmother. She never spoke while I was there. She was holding and participating in suffering that she could not relieve, and somehow her silent presence was relieving it. No words could express the magnitude of her love. I had been there before. I knew immediately that this was what my grandmother would have done for me if I had been that child.
I performed my test as quickly as possible, but stood at the door a moment longer, the image of this little girl and her grandmother searing into my heart. In silence I turned and walked out, the door shutting gently behind me.
Prayer for a Sick Child
Lord Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd of the sheep, you gather the lambs in your arms and carry them in your bosom: We commend to your loving care this child N. Relieve his pain, guard him from all danger, restore to him your gifts of gladness and strength, and raise him up to a life of service to you. Hear us, we pray, for your dear Name’s sake. Amen. Book of Common Prayer ( BCP), p. 459.
Dr. Seibert is a pediatric radiologist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences who has been an ordained deacon in the Diocese of Arkansas for nine years. She is a facilitator for the Community of Hope, Walking the Mourner’s Path and Trinity’s health ministry. She is also on the board of the National Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church. You can find about more Dr. Seibert and her books at www.temenospublishing.com.