When our grandson was a preschooler, he loved to line up his toy cars on the coffee table. He and his dad would drive them around imitating the sounds of engines starting, horns beeping and tires squealing. Inevitably, they would drive a car over the edge and exclaim, “Oh, no!” and there would be a terrible crash.
The image of going over a cliff hollering “Oh, no!” has stuck with me. I have often heard that cry in my head whenever I anticipated calamity. What if it was my child that was trapped in a burning building? What if my home and everything I owned were destroyed? Could I survive losing all I hold dear?
When I was in my thirties, I read a book that talked about living courageously and honestly through crisis. But I couldn’t relate to it: I hadn’t had one.
But that all changed 1995 when a doctor in Turkey diagnosed Fred with kidney failure. Four days later, he flew back to Canada, leaving me to look after Rudy (13), Heidi (10) and Tieras, our forty-foot sailboat. The next ten years were characterized by loss, grief and struggle as we lived through one “Oh, no!” after another.
I wondered if I would ever stop crying.
Then one day, I felt strangely buoyant. I described this to my friend who was a psychiatric nurse and asked her if there was something wrong with me.
She smiled and said, “I think you’re finding out what it’s like to feel normal again.”
A few days ago a friend called. I barely recognized her voice; it was so hoarse with grief. She told me her father passed away on the weekend. She was living through a terrible “Oh, no!”
The operative phrase is “living through.” I could hear as I listened, how God felt her panic and was walking with her in her sorrow.
As she talked, I prayed that she could hear it too.
For you have sent your angels to watch over me,
to guide me in all my ways.
On their hands, they will bear me up,
lest I dash my foot against a stone.
Though I walk among those who roar like the lion,
or are as stealthy as the adder,
in your strength will I be saved.
Because you cleave to me in love, I will deliver you;
I will protect you, who call upon my Name.
When you call to Me, I will answer you;
I will be with you in times of trouble,
I will rescue you and reverence your life.
All through the years, will I dwell in your heart,
as Loving Companion Presence, forever.
–Psalm 91: 11-16,
Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness, by Nan C. Merrill