When my sister Lisa was born, there was a big problem. Her placenta had separated too early from my mother’s womb, so the time between that separation and her birth left her long enough without oxygen to cause severe brain damage. Ultimately, that meant that she could not do anything on her own. She required constant care, almost around the clock.
Enter my mother.
My mother began to personally feed her a breakfast, a lunch, and a dinner. She changed her diaper every day. She bathed her regularly, cleaned her few teeth when they needed it, and a lot of times got up in the middle of the night to tend to her discomforts, give her a little bit of orange juice, and then do it all again the next day.
And on top of that, unexpected problems began to come up. The big one? It was that sometimes, my sister just couldn’t respond and swallow. So, it was time for the tube. The NG-tube.
For anyone who’s not a medical person, the NG-tube is the thin see-through tube that can go through a person’s nose and down into their stomach, so that they can have liquids. Now, my mother was no nurse, and it was no easy or pleasant thing. It was also really a two-person job. When I was a little boy, I would hear my mother ask, “Jerome, can you help me put the tube in Lisa?” I always helped her.
First, the tube had to be slowly passed up into my sister’s nostril, and then, while coaxing her to swallow, moved along down her throat and into her stomach. Then, she had to attach a syringe to the end and slowly draw on it to see if the tube really got into my sister’s stomach, and not into her lung. If it drew up some fluid, it was paydirt, but if not, the tube had to be removed and we started all over again. At the end, we taped it in place, and that was it. It’s pretty hard to describe the relief that poured out of my mother’s face. And I was so happy to be the helper.
Now, my sister could drink again.
When my sister was born, the doctors gave her a life expectancies in terms of months. She lived 27 years in this condition. That is impossible. It is a miracle. Do you know why I think God gave her to my family? It was so that we could all live the impossible and witness a miracle. It was so that we could see God and be His helpers.
Remember the man in the Gospel who was born blind? Back then, in the Hebrew culture, they would have thought that illnesses or handicaps, or even poverty, were a sign of God’s disfavor. The disciples see this man and they ask the Lord, who offended God and put this blind man in the doghouse, him or his parents? But the Lord knows that the blindness has a great purpose. It’s so the impossible can happen, so the man can witness a miracle. Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (Jn 9:3-5)
Where is the handicap in your life, the illness, the weakness, the tragedy? Don’t let it get you down. When you hear the call to get into it, to do the unpleasant work in it, to “put the tube in”, don’t be afraid. Remember why it’s been given to you, remember it has a great purpose.
Be the Lord’s helper.
You’ll live the impossible.
And witness a miracle.