Every now and then, my mind travels back to June 3, 1997. Why? It was a few days after my final day of teaching science to the sixth graders I had come to love. It was also a few days before we moved across the state, where my husband had a new job and I would be starting graduate school. But that particular day was the day of THE DOCTOR APPOINTMENT.
Lest you misunderstand me, I have great respect for doctors – my father is one, and even hospitals aren’t scary places to me. The problem is that I had visited a hospital in May for a test an ophthalmologist had ordered after freakish eye troubles. I was having headaches, my left eye hurt when it moved, and my color vision was a bit askew. This particular doctor (not one I remember for his charm or tact, I must say) said I needed to have an MRI. When I asked what he thought they would find, he him-hawed a bit… so when I cut to the chase and asked if it was cancer, he said that he didn’t think so, but the test would tell. It could just be “water on the brain,” and a few simple pills would help remedy this. Right. (That sounded quite lame to me.) He might have said other things, but I couldn’t remember, as the big C was where my mind was.
This was the first time in our three years of marriage that T.R. was gone for a week at a conference in another state, about a six hour drive away. The poor guy had to listen to me weep over the telephone that evening, as I just couldn’t hold back the tears (I did try)… or hide my fears. This appointment was about two and a half weeks before the end of school, and bless his heart, T.R. came back a bit early from the conference to go with me to the MRI at the end of the week. So Friday afternoon, I went to the hospital to lie in the noisy tube so that somebody could take pictures of my brain. As interested as the science teacher in me was, I still had to wonder what this would hold.
The following week, I did get a call from the eye doctor letting me know that the MRI found something, but I’d need to come in and see a neurologist to explain this to me. Because this was thirteen years ago, before Web MD and Wikipedia, I was relatively clueless, but I had a week and a half of school to go, so my appointment was scheduled for June 3. I had said goodbye to students, friends, my classroom, and worked on packing (something in which I do not excel), and I was scared. Among everything else, from that first May appointment, I did a lot of praying. And soul-searching. And praying. And crying. And praying. And living. And loving. And if I didn’t mention it, I did a lot of praying.
The evening before that appointment, telling me what “the thing” of mystery was in my MRI, I did what I did from time to time, and I sat at the piano and wrote a little song. I wrote the lyrics first, then picked out a melody and simple little accompaniment. Because my left eye was still hurting a bit, I did most of this with only one eye open… but my fingers worked just fine. The song was one that I still sing – and pray – frequently, sometimes audibly and sometimes just in my mind. But it is a prayer that I mean, just as much today as thirteen years ago:
A Prayer in the Face of Uncertainty
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I can
and add to that strength that I don’t have
to accept the things I think I can’t
If I can change the circumstances
give me the strength to try
But if it’s time to prove my mortality
then comfort me when I cry
But above all of this, Lord, I ask for wisdom
just tell me what to do
whether to act or whether to pray
and always to lean on You
For me, I found out on June 3 that I had multiple sclerosis, not cancer. But you know what? God has been using this MS journey to teach me – and my family – so many things. I just found out that a college classmate just received results of an MRI, and something was found. They don’t know yet what this means, but I will pray for him for serenity in the midst of uncertainty. And as so much uncertainty faces each of us in so many ways, I pray that we can each find serenity in its midst.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippeans 4:7