What do you do when people ask for prayers? Do you kneel and pray or simply send a quiet plea out to the greater universe? Do you communicate with God in church or out walking in a lonely meadow? No need to share, just please take a moment tonight to do whatever feels right to you to help my dad get through the next few days.
I always feel a little hypocritical when I tell people that I’m praying for their loved one. My search for an establishment where I’m comfortable speaking to God is ongoing, and has been for years. Instead I speak to God while walking in the woods on a sunny weekend afternoon, while running through the leaves when dusk turns golden, or while whispering in the dark with my kindergartner at bedtime. I have to believe that those moments of focused, quiet reflection do something to help those in pain, regardless of whether that can officially be called prayer.
My father is an incredibly private man. He would probably hate this post, and will hopefully tell me so very soon. Ten years ago, I discovered that he had emphysema. He was staying with us in New Jersey and had what I thought was a bad cold. He’d sat on the couch for a few days, snuggling under blankets, complaining, like men often do, about clamminess. “Feel my head,” he’d ask, “I’m sure I have a fever.” And I’d feel his cool head, on my way to changing a smelly diaper, and tell him he was fine. Then at 2AM, he knocked on my door and collapsed into my bedroom. His lips were blue. “Call 911,” he gasped.
He almost died in my driveway. Then again in the ambulance. Later that night in the ER, hooked up to oxygen, he finally told me about his condition. Finally he explained why he never wanted to sit down, why he could no longer go to the movies, why he was so adamant that he be the one to push the baby stroller. His lungs were like old elastic bands, and keeping them as open as possible was critical. Each of his breaths took in a fifth of the air a normal lung would take in. His former habit of two packs a day had taken its toll. A week later, he was clear of the pneumonia that almost killed him, but his lungs didn’t bounce back. From that point on, he needed oxygen to survive.
Over the last decade, his mobility has declined steadily, turning this world-traveling investment banker into a recluse. Trapped in his one-bedroom apartment, he created a new career, becoming the best-selling author of the Capucine culinary mystery series under the pen name Alexander Campion. His third novel, Killer Critique, comes out this June.
My dad had been talking about lung transplant surgery for the last five years. His background as a McKinsey consultant and investment banker gave him too many tools to play with the probability and statistics of such a huge operation. He waffled back and forth on the survival rate based on different operating techniques, different drugs, different hospitals. He put the operation off, and off again. But this fall, the operation could not be put off any more and he went on the transplant list.
Yesterday, he and his wife got the call. They rushed to the hospital and prepped for surgery. Then they waited for 12 hours to see if the lung donation was viable. At 12:45PM, my father went into surgery to replace both of his crippled lungs. He’s now out of surgery but intubated and sedated. The next few days will be the biggest test of his life as his body decides whether or not to accept these new lungs.
My sisters and I will arrive in Toronto tomorrow to help my dad’s wife through the next few days. I hope he wakes up soon and sees us there together: the four women in his life, each of us praying, in her own way, for his speedy recovery and return to living and breathing fully.
Some time between retiring as an investment banker and becoming a novelist, my Dad was a Catholic priest initiate. That’s a whole other story, and not a short one. But while he probably won’t appreciate my airing his whole medical history, he has great respect for faith. Feel free to add your thoughts, pleas, and prayers to ours. All those good thoughts and prayers floating around out there in the great nether can only help him get through what will certainly be the greatest trial of his life.