a belated mercy
There’s nothing quite like waiting at the hospital.
The hurried nurses, the minutes that feel like hours, the sleeping loved ones slumped over in patterned chairs. The feeling of not knowing the outcome, the frenzied prayers, the walks down the hall to pass the time, the smells, the anxiety–all vaguely familiar, yet dreadful. Last week, Michael & I arrived with his family at the hospital for his dad’s bypass surgery. It’s hard to explain how hard I, and I think all of us, were fighting the frightening ‘what-if’ questions.
What if something happened when they stopped his heart? What if he never woke up again? what if the doctor’s hand slipped? What if he doesn’t get to meet grandchildren? What if it’s the last time . . . ?
They put him under. They cracked his chest. They stopped his heart. They bypassed the blocked arteries with new ones from his leg. We waited. I worked on marketing plans and press releases, plunging myself into anything to escape the thoughts. Michael focused on his mom and sister, assuring them all would be well. We ate breakfast, and then it was time for lunch. We sat in the sunshine and talked about the plans for the next week of hospital recovery.
Just after lunch, Michael and I ran into a pastor at a church we attended in Atlanta. He told us a 21-year-old girl on his staff was in a bad accident the night before. She’d been in surgery for nearly 20 hours and the outcome wasn’t looking good.
What’s her name? I asked.
Julia. Julia Tarter.
We said we’d pray for her.
A nurse called for “The Dean family” and we were shuffled back into a room to wait for an update from the surgeon. He told us the surgery went well and Mr. Dean would be coming off bypass for the next several hours. We were overjoyed with the news and honestly don’t think I’m alone in wanting in that moment to leap over and bear hug the surgeon. He, however, did not seem like the type that was open to hugs.
After several hours, we were able to go in and see him and then a few hours later he woke up. The nurse warned us that he wouldn’t be responsive and wouldn’t remember anything until the next day because of the medication. Memory loss? Correct. Mr. Dean passing up a captive audience to listen to his jokes? Not a chance.
He was hilarious and acted completely smashed (all those pain meds!). Joked about the nurse wouldn’t let him do his dance routine because of his butt-less gown. Apologized for ‘such an inappropriate wardrobe for company’. Reminded everyone how I made him eat quinoa and proceeded to spell it, loudly: “k-e-e-n-w-a-h”. He whispered to us in front of the nurse, “Did you smuggle me in some cigars?” I cannot tell you how thankful Michael and I were to see him back to his normal self so quickly. Success!
The last week was a tough one for Mr. Dean, but he is finally back home. We are so thankful to have such a wonderful man in our lives for many years to come. You never quite realize how much you love someone until something signals they may not be here forever. What a merciful God.
But last night I learned that while we rejoiced, Julia’s family and friends did not. Two sets of people at the same hospital, praying the same prayer: Lord, have mercy. Come quickly and save. Be with the doctors and guide their hands.
God answered our prayer, but didn’t answer theirs.
I read on Facebook that sweet Julia had passed away. It felt strange to rejoice in God’s mercy, when He didn’t extend the same mercy to the family sitting next to us in the bleak hospital waiting room. I cannot imagine what Julia’s mom must be feeling. What thoughts must be running through her sister’s head. What kinds of questions her best friends must be asking.
There’s never a perfect ending to stories like these.
But I do believe we must press on. We must let our hearts rejoice when God’s merciful hand is outstretched towards us. But we must also weep with those who mourn that his mercy did not come soon enough. Julia’s family won’t mourn forever, for God’s mercy will one day mend their broken hearts.
As the sun rises at dawn, mercy always comes. But sometimes it’s belated.
Please pray for the Tarter family. I do not know them personally, but my heart is burdened for their loss. Julia is reunited with her good Father, but her family is here needing your prayers. Pray for mercy on their broken hearts.
Have you ever felt like God’s mercy came too late?
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