Seeing Politics in Perspective
I’ve been interested in politics since I was a little boy, at least since I was four years old. My love for politics, which is an extension of my love for people, continues unabated, as the pieces I write here and on my personal blog will attest. I think that it’s important who serves us in the White House and in the local court house.
Yet, on days like the one I had on Friday, I realize that it’s not the most important thing in life.
Meet Sarah. Sarah is a member of the parish I’m honored to serve as pastor here in Logan, Ohio, Saint Matthew Lutheran Church. Sarah is seventeen.
She’s a remarkable person in many ways: an athlete, a fledgling actress and good public speaker. She raises county fair grand champion sheep. She has a deep and exemplary faith, so deep and exemplary in fact, that I’ve already booked her to preach at the sunrise service on Easter morning in 2009. On top of that, she may be the most courageous person I have ever met in my life.
In 2004, Sarah was diagnosed with leukemia. It was a tough fight. Her defenses were low because the disease had gone undetected for so long that Sarah was barely aware on the night she received a bone marrow transfusion.
But, the beneficiary of wonderful care from the physicians and nurses of a fine hospital, fortified by faith and pluck and the prayers of an entire county, she sprang back. Back to her full life. Back to reading the Scripture lessons on Sunday mornings. Back to the lead in the school musical. Back to her 4.0-GPA.
Then last fall, just before my family and I came to Logan, it was discovered that leukemia had returned to Sarah. It isn’t fair and I’ve never believed that God causes such things. But Sarah might have been excused for wondering if the Almighty had something against her.
So far as I know, though, she doesn’t entertain such thoughts…not for long anyway.
So, Sarah began a treatment regimen in the fall to undertake another fight with leukemia. On January 2, she went into the hospital, undergoing surgery to implant a Broviac port in her shoulder just before going into isolation. Then, on January 11, Sarah received another bone marrow transfusion
She’s been in the hospital, in an isolation unit ever since.
I try to visit her every other day. We talk, usually about mundane, every day things, because these are what we most crave when illness robs us of “normal” life. Sarah doesn’t say much. The sores in her mouth, created by her body sloughing off the old, dead cells, and other discomforts, can make that difficult for her.
But she pays attention and, in spite of going through more than any seventeen year old should have to go through–including being in isolation for treatment of leukemia on her seventeenth birthday–there is gratitude in her eyes.
She’s grateful for the love and attention of her parents and family.
Grateful too, for the caring of the hospital staff, for the gifts and cards from her family members.
She’s grateful that on her seventeenth birthday, her father hung an enormous birthday banner, made and signed by her classmates at Logan High School, on the side of the hospital parking garage across from Sarah’s room.
Grateful for the air hugs offered by visitors who can’t touch her.
On Wednesday when I visited Sarah and her mom, who stays with her in the isolation unit twenty-four hours a day, I promised them that I would bring Holy Communion the next time I visited.
Now, you must understand that for we Lutherans, Holy Communion is a very big deal. We take Jesus very literally when he says of the bread and the wine, “This is my body…This is my blood.” In some mysterious way, we believe that in this Sacrament, Jesus imparts himself to us, gives us forgiveness, and infuses us with his life.
Sarah really wanted Holy Communion, especially because it had been awhile since she’d been able to receive it.
On Friday, when I returned to Sarah’s hospital room, her mouth was so sore from that sloughing-off process I described earlier that I thought for sure she’d rather forego receiving Communion. “We can wait until next time,” I said. But she emphatically shook her head and gestured with her index finger that she wanted Communion right then. So did her mother and her aunt. And so, grateful for all of her blessings, Sarah received the Sacrament.
Sarah’s white cell and ANC levels are climbing encouragingly. She is making progress. I’m watching a miracle of faith and science, as I see prayers and medicine conquering leukemia in this amazing young woman.
Being Sarah’s pastor helps me to see life in perspective. It matters who serves in the White House and the local court house, of course. But only insofar as the ones we elect make it possible for all of us to live our lives in peace.
Everything else is fluff.
[Here is a slideshow of the making of Sarah’s birhtday banner.]