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In fear I faced the real question: “Why not me?”

I am typically a “Why me?” sort of person — when my computer crashes, when a recipe flops, when I come home from the store without the one thing I went there to get. So you can only imagine how I might kick that attitude up a notch when something significant is at stake. But last week, when my 18-year-old son, Noah, was facing the possibility of serious and permanent heart damage, when we had no control and no way to help him as we watched him suffer through painful attacks, the “Why me?” slowly started shifting to another place.

Operating on a couple of days without sleep, I drove home from the hospital in a fog last Sunday morning, hoping to grab a short nap and check on our girls while Noah rested in the Critical Care Unit with Dennis at his side. I drove through the cold, slushy streets of Albany with hot, salty tears running down my face, begging God, “Please don’t take my baby.” By the time I got home, I was no longer silently begging; I was loudly screaming. And then somewhere in the midst of it came the slow, creeping acknowledgment that despite my crying and carrying on, I had no right to expect an escape from the harshness of life. Suddenly all that kept running through my head was, “Why not me?”

I found some sort of strange solace there, a serenity that created a calm in the eye of my storm. I think it was due to all the prayer requests I had posted on Facebook and sent out by email and text. As I received message after message from people all over the map, I could feel myself growing stronger and my fears growing weaker. Yes, I was still afraid for Noah, and I was still running through the mental laundry list of “what ifs,” but underneath it all was a steadiness grounded in the fact that I was not special, that I shouldn’t expect to be spared the suffering so many others endure. I could feel strength surging up from that place, a willingness to acknowledge things might not turn out exactly as planned and that we would move forward anyway, standing alongside Noah as he faced whatever difficult thing might come his way.

Fortunately the tipping point in Noah’s case shifted in our favor and after a scary few days we were told he would make a full recovery. I could feel myself exhaling for what seemed like the first time in four days. Not long after this positive turn, his Critical Care nurse said, “You’re so calm. You’re really handling this so well.” I smiled at her, but on the inside I was laughing, because anyone who knows me would not put the words “calm” and “Mary” in the same sentence during a crisis.  Efficient and determined, yes, but calm? Not so much. And, again, I felt the blessing of all the prayers from around the world. I never thought those prayers would guarantee a positive outcome for Noah, because I know from experience that prayer doesn’t always get you what you want, like some kind of heavenly vending machine that sends down the spiritual equivalent of a Twix bar on request. But I did know the prayers would help us — Dennis and Noah and me — as we faced the toughest few days of our lives.

Our recent brush with our son’s mortality forced me to stand on the other side of the “Why me?” equation, to see that we were not singled out in this suffering but rather firmly entrenched with so many others in facing the reality of our frail and sometimes broken humanity. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. I am saying unending prayers of thanksgiving that in this case the Lord kept giving, that in the dark winter of Noah’s illness came the light of spring.

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. As in the past, I remembered Noah AND YOU at the altar this morning.

    GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME !

    What a growth in faith He offered you and how great you responded!

    March 10, 2015
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thank you for the prayers, Father Ken!

      March 10, 2015
  2. Jack Polonka #

    Mary,

    My prayers and thoughts are with you and your son. I have attached a passage that may help….

    Peace & Blessings

    (For the one who has a statue of Buddha in her home)

    THE MUSTARD SEED

    Kisa Gotami had an only son, and he died. In her grief she carried the dead child to all her neighbors, asking them for medicine, and the people said: “She has lost her senses. The boy is dead. At length Kisa Gotami met a man who replied to her request: “I cannot give thee medicine for thy child, but I know a physician who can.” The girl said: “Pray tell me, sir; who is it?” And the man replied: “Go to Sakyamuni, the Buddha.”

    Kisa Gotami repaired to the Buddha and cried: “Lord and Master, give me the medicine that will cure my boy.” The Buddha answered: “I want a handful of mustard-seed.” And when the girl in her joy promised to procure it, the Buddha added: “The mustard-seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child, husband, parent, or friend.” Poor Kisa Gotami now went from house to house, and the people pitied her and said: “Here is mustard-seed; take it!” But when she asked Did a son or daughter, a father or mother, die in your family?” They answered her: “Alas the living are few, but the dead are many. Do not remind us of our deepest grief.” And there was no house but some beloved one had died in it.

    Kisa Gotami became weary and hopeless, and sat down at the wayside, watching the lights of the city, as they flickered up and were extinguished again. At last the darkness of the night reigned everywhere. And she considered the fate of men, that their lives flicker up and are extinguished. And she thought to herself: “How selfish am I in my grief! Death is common to all; yet in this valley of desolation there is a path that leads him to immortality who has surrendered all selfishness.”

    Putting away the selfishness of her affection for her child, Kisa Gotami had the dead body buried in the forest. Returning to the Buddha, she took refuge in him and found comfort in the Dharma, which is a balm that will soothe all the pains of our troubled hearts.

    The Buddha said: “The life of mortals in this world is troubled and brief and combined with pain. For there is not any means by which those that have been born can avoid dying; after reaching old age there is death; of such a nature are living beings. As ripe fruits are early in danger of falling, so mortals when born are always in danger of death. As all earthen vessels made by the potter end in being broken, so is the life of mortals. Both young and adult, both those who are fools and those who are wise, all fall into the power of death; all are subject to death.

    “Of those who, overcome by death, depart from life, a father cannot save his son, nor kinsmen their relations. Mark I while relatives are looking on and lamenting deeply, one by one mortals are carried off, like an ox that is led to the slaughter. So the world is afflicted with death and decay, therefore the wise do not grieve, knowing the terms of the world. In whatever manner people think a thing will come to pass, it is often different when it happens, and great is the disappointment; see, such are the terms of the world.

    “Not from weeping nor from grieving will any one obtain peace of mind; on the contrary, his pain will be the greater and his body will suffer. He will make himself sick and pale, yet the dead are not saved by his lamentation. People pass away, and their fate after death will be according to their deeds. If a man live a hundred years, or even more, he will at last be separated from the company of his relatives, and leave the life of this world. He who seeks peace should draw out the arrow of lamentation, and complaint, and grief. He who has drawn out the arrow and has become composed will obtain peace of mind; he who has overcome all sorrow will become free from sorrow, and be blessed.”

    March 12, 2015

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