My column is called “Faith in Action.” But what do those words mean?
I have often interpreted it as referring to issues and events regarding religion and the way they intersect with the public square of American life.
But recently I observed a new dimension to that title, a personal one that led me to the topic of faith in the healing process.
While I don’t normally write about family members, I’m making an exception today because I stand in awe of my mother, who celebrated her 97th birthday this summer.
About ten days ago, I received word that she had suffered a stroke. Needless to say, when a loved one experiences a stroke, all kinds of fears come to mind — for both the patient and family with regard to the ultimate outcome. There are also worries about the aftereffects of the stroke. The question is what will the long term health of our loved one be?
We all have seen examples of the debilitating results of such an event. It can leave those who suffer it needing intensive nursing care for the rest of their lives. I can’t tell you how many cases I have been involved in over the decades that touched congregants and their loved ones whose lives were changed forever in the aftermath.
My mother currently resides in a rehabilitation hospital and works every day through the grueling but necessary exercises with physical and occupational therapists. Her age makes it even harder to fulfill the expectations and rigor of a daily routine of exercises. But this period of recuperation is sometimes a time when faith is all a person has to get better while still coping with the despair that sometimes overtakes a stroke patient.
Mom has her ups and downs and after spending a few days with her recently, I could see how she was putting her all into the faith and the hope that she would be allowed to return to her home in an assisted living facility.
She works on strength, balance and safety awareness. Visitations are absolutely critical to her spirit, and the benefit of people caring and rooting for her cannot be underestimated in terms of her recovery.
I understand why people shy away from visiting loved ones in hospitals and, in particular, rehab facilities. They are not usually pleasant places to visit and make many of us uncomfortable. But trying to help the patient remember that they are people and that they have the right to be treated in a dignified way is a cardinal principle that visitors should remember. It is especially important to meet the staff who cares for our loved ones and tell them about who they are caring. My mother is not just a patient. Rather, she is a person and a very special one to those who love her.
Saying a prayer for our loved ones is also important in helping them preserve the hope that they can improve. It also helps them to summon the spiritual strength to work like they have never done before toward rehabilitation.
Is God in the rehab facility?
Does God care about stroke patients?
Of course He is and does.
Remember that expression “Pray as if everything depended upon God. Act as if everything depended upon you?”
One day I watched as the nurse practitioner examined mom and agreed that she had dodged a bullet.
I pray daily for her recovery. And while I never thought I would say that I rejoiced during my stay when she bitterly complained about some aspects of her care, that, too, gave me hope. I thought that if she complains, she has the fight in her. That is a good thing.
The idea that the patient is a person should be self evident. People want to live regardless of their age. Their desire to regain their lives does not go away with age or even disability. They have things to hope for — in my mom’s case, anticipating the birth of her third great grandchild next month.
Jewish sacred texts have an expression: “As long as there is life there is hope.”
My mom has hope and that is sometimes the best medicine. And medical staff, families and friends should not forget that that their presence helps bring that best medicine. That is faith in action, too.
Here’s a prayer for stroke victims from Vienna Cobb Anderson:
“O Eternal God have mercy upon all who have suffered a stroke. Remove the sudden fear that befalls them. Endow them with courage in the struggle to recover what has been lost. Grant them strength and hope to envision new days ahead and a spirit of faith to take the risk of living fully once again.”
This column is about the many ways religion enters our lives. Health issues are a part of that.
It is inspiring to see how our elders fight with all their heart and soul.
The least we can do is to be a presence for the them and support them and their caregivers as well as motivate them that they are right to hope to get better.
That is God’s work in action.