Prayer, The Last Line Of Hope

When a major crisis occurs, it should cause us to reflect on and assess personal priorities. We often do – for a minute or two.

The devastation from Superstorm Sandy is but one more reminder of just how perishable both the things we treasure and our lives are.

Homes, cars, trucks, boats, big screen TVs, iPads, clothing, jewelry can all be swept away or go up in flames in a flash. A loved one can suddenly disappear into rising waters or simply collapse and die.

Hawaii’s recent tsunami scare and past hurricanes Ewa and Iniki remind us how circumstances can change in an instant.

As prepared as we think we are, the truth is most of us aren’t very prepared for the “unpredictables” of life.

My husband, Jerry, and I have worked to get our affairs in order so that when we move on to the next life we can look down and smile peacefully while watching our children fight over our stuff. (Ha!) We have lists and files, trusts and trustees, powers of attorney, health care directives and wills.

But a few weeks ago when Jerry collapsed of a heart attack in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, I felt painfully unprepared. If he had slipped into death – which thankfully he did not – I would have discovered just how unready I really was.

I certainly wasn’t prepared for the emotional impact of the whole emergency scene, helplessly watching him struggling to stay conscious in severe pain, watching the EMTs connect him to a myriad of diagnostic and life-saving technologies, and the tense, seemingly interminable ambulance ride to a nearby emergency room.

When the ER cardiologist gravely said it didn’t look good, given that this was his fourth heart attack, I went blank. As nurses whisked his gurney down the hall I raced after him to say “I love you!” – more for me than Jerry, whose gray face was unresponsive. Nothing in those file cabinets back in Hawaii was going to help Jerry get through this crisis. No trust attorney could bring my loving husband out of that operating room alive.

My gosh, I’ve been through the death of a spouse before. I know how to do this, I rationalized. But my lame logic failed me.

All I had at that point was my faith and prayer. I knew no one in the waiting area of this Texas hospital to turn to for comfort. Would my beloved end up in a hospital room or downstairs in the morgue? I had to call the family, but first I called my pastor, Dan Chun. (My survival kit includes prayer.) As Pastor Dan softly prayed for Jerry, for the cardiolo-gist, and also for me, slowly my fears and my tears began to ease.

So I guess my message is to be prepared as possible. Write a will. Get a health care directive. Evacuate when told to. Invest in a generator. Make a plan. List your post-life wishes for your children. Tell loved ones how much you care about them now, before the funeral.

At the end of the day, when our measly human efforts fail, try prayer.

It works. Just look at Jerry’s nine lives: from his dangerous low level reconnaissance flights over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis to a Vietnam prison and torture for seven years to injuries from high speed ejection to four heart attacks.

He always says in his popular speech, “Beyond Survival,” that “faith in God is our last line of defense. When I was down and hurting, I turned to two words separated by an equal sign scratched on my cell wall by another prisoner, ‘God = Strength.’ And that really worked
for me.”

Apparently, it still does.