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Faith At the Core

Posted: January 16th. 2000
Times Viewed: 4,990

It's the Winter Solstice, 1999. It began as one of the happiest times of my life, and quickly turned into the type of life challenge that you pray to the Gods you never have to face. For the first time in my life, my sanity and rational would slip away and I would utter curses at fate. For the first time in my life, I would have to turn and lean upon the Gods I have loved and honored and served fully. For the first time in my life, I wondered if the faith and Gods I have chosen would be enough.

The season started out as one of the happiest in my life. My business was doing incredibly well, my husband loves his job, my son was healthy and happy and a blessing to my every day. We found the suburban house of our dreams with a backyard and a playroom and were making plans to purchase it, moving from our tiny apartment into that next stage of family life. I smiled when I awakened and when I fell asleep with my son nestled in my arms. Life was perfect.

My perfect life was shattered when I heard the Pediatric Cardiologist begin his diagnosis of the "probably nothing" heart murmur by saying that he wanted me to realize this was treatable, and not a death sentence. As I held my 19 month old son in my arms and the tears rolled down my cheeks, too stunned to ask questions, Dr. Johnson outlined the blockage called subaortic stenosis, a congenital heart defect.

He explained that it was a lifelong heart condition, and the open-heart surgery that my son would be required to have within the next year to have any hope at a normal life. He explained that 30 or 40 years ago, it's possible my son would have died by twenty but that with proper treatment he would probably live a long and productive live in spite of his condition.

My 19-month-old son, so soft and fragile in my arms, had been diagnosed with heart disease, and serious heart disease at that. As a mother, all I wanted to do was protect him from everything that hurt. I realized in that instant, I would be called upon to submit this tiny, trusting child that clung to me for protection to agonizing surgery to save his life. I could not take away the hurt any other way. With two words, our entire lives changed.

I've known parents that had sick children, but not well. I've seen countless episodes of Dateline in which the parents of a deathly ill child make agonizing decisions, hold tiny hands during agonizing procedures. Many of them speak of faith, usually in Jesus, which sustains them through what they have to do. Perhaps it's too difficult to do without Divine help of some sort.

My husband and I are both devoted, unwavering Pagans. We were Pagan when we met, we were Pagan when we married, and I took my vows pregnant with my son and in traditionally Celtic scarlet red dress. It is the Pagan community that welcomed our child with wishes and words of love when he came into this word. He was named for the dragon. Never, though, have I needed my faith so much.

If you don't have a child, it's hard to explain how it feels to be told that your child is ill. The kind of chaotic emotions you feel when you are powerless to help, the numb and defeated feelings that take over when you realize that no matter what you do your child will feel great pain. That he will suffer. And that you will suffer with him because that is your child and that is your job. You must be there, and you must subject him to the brutal healing of medical science because that is the only way he will live.

Like those parents I have seen before me, I have my faith. My faith and my relationship with the Old Ones has always been one of self-responsibility. I honor Them, and I love Them, and I serve Them, but very rarely have I called upon them to help me because I am simply too powerless to get through something on my own. Never have I simply laid something at Their feet and begged for Their aid. I always knew that I could, if I had to. I simply never felt that I should burden Them with something I could deal with.

This I could not get through without Their complete support, because I knew in that doctor's office that I was incapable of the type of strength I needed to help my family through this, and to be a calming influence on my son. I didn't think I could do it, alone.

I could not speak, I could not think, I could not talk. I was scared to death. The season of the dark turning had enveloped me and I could see no promise of the light. I saw the suffering of my child that I would have to watch and endure, something broken that I could not kiss away, tears that I could not stop. Pain. I saw pain.

I begged Her, from one mother to another, to help me heal my son. I asked Her to help me find the pattern in this, to help me see the light after this horrible darkness. I sat in a darkened room sobbing harder than I ever had in my life, my fingers touching the Brigit's Cross around my neck, and asked her to help me handle the trials to come and to lend me the strength I would need to face what I must do.

In the silence, in the darkness, I heard a harp, and saw my son laughing as a grown man. I saw him strong, and healthy, with his arm around me, kissing my cheek and calling me "Mother" in that chastising way I imagine he would say it to me now if he had the words. The cross on my throat grew warm to the touch and I heard a voice whisper "You can and you will and you are and I am always here." And then in my mind's eye the laughing of my son-to-be grew quiet as he fingered the gold Brigit's Cross about his neck.

I knew in that moment that as hopeless as this may seem, She would be there to help me through this, no matter what happens. That my son will grow through this, and that our relationship will grow stronger because I will be the strength for him that She will be for me, and when I cannot be there in surgery or in an intensive care unit after the operation, that She will be. She will not let my son go through anything alone.

That, finally, is the strength of faith in times of crisis. Knowing that we are not alone, that at the core of all religions is the love that binds us all to one another. Faith in the Gods we serve, and faith in the visions They send us to comfort, faith in the love They have for us. It is a life raft to clutch on to when you are adrift in a sea of confusion and pain and hopelessness, a cane to help walk the road you must walk, and a wall to lean on when you feel you can't stand on your own anymore.

I can make it through this. My faith will sustain me through it, and my Gods will help me through it. In a situation where there is almost no comfort or ease to be found, it may be the most important thing there is.



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