For His Highest Good

Good when He gives, supremely good;

Nor less when He denies.
Afflictions, from His sovereign hand,
Are blessings in disguise.

~Brother Lawrence ~

It is the last full day of our summer  vacation. Tomorrow we will be returning home. As I begin to walk slowly down the dirt pathway towards the lake area, I think what a relaxing week it has been. The boys are old enough now that I do not have to follow them around for their own safety the way I used to. And they do not follow me around either. In fact, I am now officially the boring old Mom. I smile to myself in satisfaction. I have spent most of the week in my room, playing the harmonium and studying certain bhajans which appeal to me. I have also been delving into the Vishnu Sahasranama, which began calling to me this summer. Not so a few years ago, when I went to the monthly Friday night chanting. It was so many words! I could not imagine myself ever learning it, and I had been put off by this, feeling it was way beyond me, so I had not gone back. But now, for some reason I did not yet understand, it had begun beckoning to me. I do not even remember how…I think I stumbled onto it on Utube as I was searching for videos and found my way to MS Amma’s rendition. I still don’t think I will ever be able to master it, but no matter-it has taken on a new meaning for me and devotion is what drives me.

Suddenly, my reverie is interrupted by the ringing of my cell phone. “So who is calling me?”, I wonder as I run to it to see. I never carry it except for emergencies when I am in the car and when I travel. I look at the caller ID screen and recognize the phone number of my brother-in-law in Arizona. Why would he be calling me? “Hi Joyce. I am sorry to bother you on vacation. I know you are not married to him anymore but I thought you should know because of the boys. Carl is in the hospital. He was admitted earlier this week. He has had a heart catheterization performed and things do not look good.” As he continues to talk, I quickly move away from the cabin so the boys do not come out to the porch and hear what he is telling me, since the speaker phone is on and I do not know how to turn it off. I absorb what he is saying.

“His heart is functioning at about 11-12% of capacity. Joyce, I have patients in hospice who have better heart function than this.” I hear the anguish in his voice. Carl is his younger brother and they are very close. Daniel is the achiever, the one who did well academically and finished medical school, holding an MD degree from Hahnemann in Philadelphia. Carl is the young artistically talented younger brother who went to Berklee School of Music and is a bit on the flighty side. Daniel sort of protects and takes care of him from time to time. This will be one of those times. He continues…”The tests revealed that he has muscle damage in the heart chambers. They believe it may be coming from a virus which is attacking his heart. They really do not know what is wrong. It does not look good at all. He may die, Joyce. It is that bad, and I want you to know so that you can be there for the boys.”

We return from vacation not knowing what we will find. He had not been well before we left, but I figured he just was not taking care of himself, because he generally does not take good care of himself. He was actually looking like he had gained quite a bit of weight. Because of his problem, he had been holding water weight and had actually lost 55 pounds of it while in the hospital. I try not to show my shock when his friend brings him to the house because he could not even drive, to see the boys, and he now looks emaciated.

One evening, months later, after my evening kirtan, I am sitting near my harmonium taking a break and start to think about his condition. He looks like he has aged 20 years, moving slowly and deliberately, deep shadows under his eyes. It has been a real strain for the boys as they watch their father in such bad condition. They do not say much, but I know that it is playing on them. It is playing on me. While we have been separated for over five years, we were together for nearly 20 years. As a couple, we went through a number of trials and tribulations. Although my feelings for him are not what they were, I still care for him as a person, and the boys love him deeply. It pains me to think that they will lose their father. The thought of him passing and their pain brings me to tears.

For me surrender means to accept and embrace whatever the Lord sends my way. I extend this to my sons when I am feeling protective of them realizing that they do not belong to me…they belong to Him. I also know that whatever happens to us is for our highest good, including the suffering which we sometimes endure in our lives. And so, it is not my habit to question why. But this moment I am crying and asking, “I know that everything is for our highest good and that this is for his highest good, but my boys have been through so much.” (they have already “lost” their biological father, and to a certain extent, their adoptive father as a result of our divorce).  “I am really trying to see how this is for his highest good. I am really trying to see how this is for their highest good.” The tears stream down my face as I shake with the emotion which has gripped me. Suddenly, in the middle of my tears, the phone rings. I see that it is Daniel calling from Arizona and quickly take a deep breath, control myself the best I can, and pick up the phone, saying hello as if nothing is happening on my end and all is well.

My eyes open wide at the wonder of it all as he explains to me how he was not satisfied with the answer givens to him by the doctors at the hospital, so he got all of Carl’s medical records and sent them to a cardiologist friend in California who he respected deeply. He studied the records and is of the opinion that his problems stem from uncontrolled high blood pressure. He believes that if he cleans up his act and is compliant with his BP medications, there is a good chance that the heart muscle damage can reverse itself. I can tell that Daniel is excited at what he tells me. This is the first glimmer of hope I have heard for months now. And it has not gone unnoticed by me how the phone rang with this glimmer of hope at the very moment I was crying to Him for some understanding of this situation.

Months pass and he slowly improves. He is able to return to work and begins to regain some weight. The deep dark circles under his eyes disappear. He changes his diet and, most importantly, takes his BP medication. As fall arrives, it is now time for him to undergo an echocardiogram to take a look to see if his heart has improved any from the damage which was found in July. He goes for the test. I keep to myself and say nothing, waiting to hear so that I can be there for the boys. A few days later he comes to the house to pick them up for his time with them. He stands in the hallway, and with a smile on his face, both in happiness and wonderment, he tells me that the doctors told him his heart is completely normal. All of the damage which was there in July is gone and he is totally healed. He declares…”It’s a miracle.” Indeed it is.

Gatirbhartaa prabhuh saakshee nivaasah sharanam suhrit;
Prabhavah pralayah sthaanam nidhaanam beejamavyayam.
I am the goal, the support, the Lord, the witness, the abode, the shelter, the friend, the
origin, the dissolution, the foundation, the treasure-house and the imperishable seed

Bhagavad Gita 9.18

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