I knew that if ever I needed to be on the receiving end of pastoral support, I would want my amazing circle of close friends and spirit buddies around me. But I didn’t know how much I would need the blessing of their deep presence until the nightmare unfolded.
Just one year ago, on January 11, 2012, my then-21-year-old son underwent a grueling 11-hour surgery to remove a large tumor entwined in the muscles, bone and nerve of his left thigh. Five cycles of chemo had failed to shrink it so the next step was surgery, which would be followed by radiation and seven more chemo cycles.
We needed to be at the hospital at the crack of dawn to get started. There we found support, unasked-for but deeply appreciated, in the form of Dayle, and, shortly after, Sue. Soon, the medical team took Aryeh back to prep him for surgery, and we three, plus Aryeh’s dad and grandparents, set up our vigil in a section of the Sloan-Kettering waiting room. After a little while, we were joined by Barbara. We knew we were being held from afar by Myriam, my partner and Aryeh’s step-mom, who was staffing an IJS retreat along with Sheila and other beloved colleagues. Emails and text messages starting coming in. The web of support was growing in strength and size, and it literally kept me from collapsing with fear.
A nurse informed us she was our liaison to the operating room and she would bring us news throughout the day. This was essential, it turned out. After four hours the surgeon asked to consult with us immediately. We ran to the operating floor. The tumor was too tightly wrapped around pelvic bone and he wanted to remove a section of the hip. But he wanted to discuss this option with us before making such a big change to the protocol. Of course we told him to do what he had to do.
We returned to our posse in the waiting room. We prayed, held hands and sent light to Aryeh and to his brilliant surgeon, Dr. Patrick Boland. We sent light to the nurses and to the entire team holding up the edges of the fabric of Aryeh’s life. I posted a note on our Caring Bridge site, alerting well-wishers to hold Aryeh in light and strength as the surgery extended through the afternoon and into the evening.
Friends and relatives checked in from near and far. The web was strong, as notes and messages and silent prayers all came pouring in. I felt held aloft by the power of prayer.
I knew, beyond a doubt, that this was what the efficacy of prayer was, this extraordinary ability of prayer to bring strength, resolve, focus and even healing to a broken and frightening situation, to a broken and frightened world.
Sometime after 8 pm, I was allowed to see my child in the recovery room. Perhaps I alone walked to his bedside in that moment, but I am certain that my face carried the prayers of so many others as I looked, at long last, into my son’s awakening eyes.