Needlessly hard?

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I recently spent hours in A and E with my granddaughter, her third bout of severe chest pains in two weeks. Even the consultant couldn’t find the cause, though they were able, from numerous tests, to rule out many things. Only strong analgesics are able to stop the pain, leaving her unable to have a clear head for her A levels (she missed one altogether the morning I was with her). Doubtless stress is adding greatly to her condition.
I felt dis-empowered. All I could give in the way of comfort were empty platitudes. You see, riding the tide of being an outstanding, straight A student, she has embraced extreme and antagonistic atheism. She now feels “religion” is for the ignorant and gives her little brother a hard time about his simple faith.
I’ve been blessed with so many infallible proofs that faith comes naturally to me, but I can still remember the dreadful pressure of purely self-reliance before I came to know God. My greatest joy at salvation was the realisation that there was a power beyond me and it was loving, benevolent. I knew my own inadequacy and that of my fellow humans. Minus God we were without hope.
She looked to the doctors to “fix” her and grew angry at them when they couldn’t help. But doctors are not God, just sincere human beings, overworked, and often sick or in pain themselves (the consultant shared how he himself suffered severe back pain and just had to “grin and bear it” so he could tend to others, encouraging her to go ahead with the A levels regardless.)
Normally I’d offer prayer, phone others to pray for her, remind that God was in control and would take care of the A levels, but I could do none of these. I prayed silently for her but it was hard to have faith for a miracle as I had the feeling that God may believe the lesson to be more important than instant healing. I know He loves her and is working in her life, that He will take care of everything long-term, but it’s hard to see her suffer like this knowing comfort and help are so close by.
My youngest daughter expressed a while back that even if God were not real she’d rather go through life believing He was because of the comfort it brings – the de-stressing element. I know what she means. Not everyone has been blessed with seeing all the miracles we have but my heart aches for the true atheist, all alone with nothing but his flawed fellow man to fall back on, shouldering the horrors of this world knowing in his heart he is powerless to stop the hate, the suffering, even in his own life. Our choices can change a great deal but they can’t bring back the dead, heal a child, deal with all the hate and greed. Man tries to be his own God, he endeavours, often sincerely, to help his fellow man, but the honest heart knows how far we fall short – life has a way of teaching us, at that point, without a force beyond ourselves, how empty and hopeless the void.

Ready. (written for a flash fiction competition on a theme of “Before the Gates”.)

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evacuation

“I’m not ready for this!” he yelled, as they rushed him through the field hospital. No one answered, just the syringe spraying its fountain of analgesic before plunging into his arm. They were taking off his leg for Christ’s sake! Strong hands held him down as he sank into darkness…

Light pervaded his eyes, as blinking, he re-emerged into consciousness. Panic surged. Grasping frantically joy erupted. It was there, solid flesh, without searing pain – the anesthetic? The strange thing was he was in his army fatigues and this was no hospital!

Before him stood monumental gates their scrolled iron work giving clear view. He watched as people thronged past. His side seemed strangely empty unbearably lonely, but within life thronged in happy abandon. He grasped at the iron work but a chain held it in place against him. He yelled to let him in, but they shook their heads smiling.

A familiar face wended through the throng.

“Dad!” Father smiled knowing his appearance heralded understanding. It hit Sam like a thunderbolt. Dad reached through the railing.

“It’s OK Sam, you’re not locked out forever, it’s just not your time yet.

“But… “

“It’s the anaesthetic, an allergic reaction, but they’re fighting for you. If they fail the gate will open. You’ll have your leg here,” he nodded down at the sound limb, no longer a shattered mess of blood and bone.”

“But what about Jan and the kids?”

“You’ll have to wait till they come…” The gate quivered, but he no longer wanted entry, he wanted Jan, to hold the boys in his arms, be there as they grew up…

Darkness enshrouded him once more, all faded to nothingness.

Harsh hospital lights invaded his eyes. The leg was no longer there. It didn’t matter, he told himself, it would be waiting. For now Jan and the boys were more important.

Spring Comes! (Flash fiction)

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spring

Crocuses flaunted bright petaled heads in the early breeze, in the hospital garden and daffodils graced the glass vase adorning her sterile environment. Jane loved spring, but this year she couldn’t enjoy these divine bursts of colour. Her world had faded to charcoal, dust and ashes.

Rabid cells had vandalised her garden, the radiation only added to the havoc. She was dying. They didn’t tell her that, but she knew. Only her eyes were free to walk among the flowers. Her aging body no longer obeyed her commands. Death waited brooding in the shadows. It had already laid claim to Frank, her husband of forty years and long ago it had claimed a tiny life, almost claimed hers. She’d escaped that time, escaped but with a barren womb and tortured mind. Frank had so wonted a son, he’d striven hard to hide his disappointment, but she knew, always felt guilty. He would have made such a good father, had been a good father to so many boys, but never his own.

Frank had been a teacher as had she. They’d met long ago when she’d transferred into a new school and he’d taken her under his wing. Now he was gone, it was all gone… all but the daffodils and the cards surrounding them, a kind gesture from old colleges that remembered. Where were they all now she wondered, all the little faces she’d taught, laboured over. They’d flapped those little wings and flown off to new horizons leaving her alone, alone in a hospital bed…

Pain surged through her body; the meds. were wearing off again. Not to worry the nurse would be here soon. A pleasant girl, but busy, always too busy to sit and talk, to hold her hand as Frank would have done…

The pain killers kicked in bringing with them a feeling of overwhelming drowsiness and confusion. Was there was a boy sitting by her bed? She glimpsed him before falling asleep. Who could he be? Which of her pupils would care enough to come all this way? When she awoke he was still there. He reached to take her hand saying nothing. It was so comforting to lay there touching another human being, oh the comfort of that hand. God bless that boy.

“Who are you?” she whispered, surprised that it took so much strength to mouth the words. He held a finger to his lips, silencing her efforts.

“Don’t talk. It’s OK. I’m here for you. I won’t go away.” And he didn’t. As early morning turned to shades of purple and green, as her exhausted body found refuge in troubled dreams, he was always there, holding her hand, stroking her hair in his silent vigil.

Just before dawn when shadows spring back before the rising sun she summoned the strength to ask one more time.

“Who … are … you?”

He smiled, “you don’t know my name, but dad sent me.” Then she knew. Taking his hand she rose from her bed and stepped into springtime.