Chocolates, Flowers, Crutches

I had major surgery yesterday. It has been a long time coming, cancelled initially because of Covid-19 and other family illness, and finally after frantic messages to my surgeon about my pain level, I had a date.

With the date scheduled and all pre-appointments completed, at an early hour yesterday, my husband drove me to the hospital. I was registered, questioned, tested, given meds, and given an intravenous line with outstanding efficiency, and the next thing I know, I woke up. Surgery was finished, textbook like in its rapidity and lack of any complications. I have to remind myself that 12 hours of preop, surgery, and recovery time is actually efficient.

I arrived home evening of the same day – not a usual occurrence, but so welcome for me. As I sat in the house, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness. My mortality and dependence were right in front of me. It was both sad and beautiful. The chocolates from my neighbor Chase, who I joke roams the neighborhood looking for someone to bother, fresh lilacs from a neighbor who clipped them from her lilac bush that is in full bloom, and my crutches – my sure companion in the coming weeks of healing. They are reminders that right now, I need help for everything. My two hands are used on crutches and one of my legs is not in service. It is a humbling place to land, yet all of us at some point will be in similar positions.

It’s funny, isn’t it? The way we go through events that feel monumental to us, but others continue in their days, blissfully unaware of births and deaths, of surgeries and tragedies, of family shaking traumas and blinding insights. And of course, we are the same. When things are going at a “normal” pace with work and family, when pain is not ever present, when our lives have not been disrupted by any of the things above, we are the same with others. Though we may show empathy and compassion in the moment, none of us has the capacity to bear constant witness to the ongoing joys and pains of strangers.

As I think about my homecoming last night, I think that is what hit me. That it was a big thing for me, and I am too fortunate in being surrounded virtually and physically by people who care about me, but for others it is like any other day. My sadness came and tears flowed from a place of shared humanity, for the millions of us who had something momentous happen yesterday and are facing the aftermath today – whether others knew it or not.

I wish I could sit with others in this space, and we could swap stories of chocolates, flowers, and crutches, wish that I could know what physical signs they had that made them aware of their dependence, their need, their humanity. Yet even as I say this, I know that not being able to is a gift. These are the places where God dwells and speaks into the pain and into the healing. In creative ways, he urges people who surround those of us with needs to step up, to bear witness. Not to everyone, but to the people in our neighborhoods and churches, in our schools and in our work. The best thing I can do during this season of healing is to lean into this, the God of the universe who cares as much about individuals as he does about the nations.

My first step in leaning in is gratitude for chocolates, flowers, and crutches – all symbols of healing, friendship, and interdependence.

If you are in the place I am in today, for whatever reason, may you feel the abundance of these things and may we be surprised and delighted by the presence of God.

Paschal Reflections – Deeper Magic

This week has been Holy Week for millions around the world who are part of the Orthodox Church. It is the final week before we celebrate Pascha and the world changing resurrection of Christ.

It is my custom to write a reflection before Pascha. Our service begins at midnight, but we generally try and arrive by 11pm to get a seat. We enter into the nave in darkness with only a few candles burning and someone chanting the Psalms. Just before midnight, the bells begin to ring, and the room goes completely dark. At midnight, our priests begin to chant “Thy Resurrection, O Christ Our Savior, the Angels in Heaven sing. Enable us on Earth to Glorify Thee in Purity of Heart.” The senior priest then comes out, a candle in hand and says “Come! Receive the light!” The people surge to the front, candles in hand, and receive the light either from the priest or from each other. It is glorious! It gets even better, but I’ve described this before in this space, so I won’t go into detail other than to say that there is an enormous amount of joy, hundreds of “Christ is Risens” in every language that is present in our parish, and it all ends with a huge feast at 4am.

So now, at 7 pm with several hours to go, I enter my reflective space.

During these last weeks of Lent, I have been listening to the audio version of the Narnia series – specifically The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Horse and His Boy.

My connection to Narnia started in childhood when my mom would read to us during the evenings when we were on vacation from boarding school. Dressed in pajamas and curled comfortably in the living room or on my parents’ bed we would listen to tales of an enchantress, winter, and a lion who was not safe but was good. We heard stories of talking horses and boys turned into dragons, of Puddleglum and a giant mouse called Reepicheep, and finally of a poor donkey manipulated by an evil and cunning ape into dressing as a lion and a final battle that opened the door to a new world “farther up and farther in.” These stories captured my imagination, and I would dream of doors in our world that led to worlds beyond like Narnia.

As a teenager and then adult, I began reading the series on my own, never growing tired of the stories and metaphors, the word pictures and wisdom that the Narnia series offered.

As I have listened to this during Holy Week, the author’s brilliance in capturing this timeless story has struck me anew. It has been profound to listen to this during this time of the year.

On this eve before Pascha, I think about the climactic event from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where Aslan, innocent of any wrongdoing, took on the punishment of Edmund, and was brutally killed at the hand of the White Witch.

But that wasn’t the true climax or the end of the story. The story was bigger, deeper, and more powerful than the White Witch could ever know. And the gift of understanding this was first given to Susan and Lucy by Aslan as he conquered death.

Consider these words:

At that moment they heard from behind them a loud noise—a great cracking, deafening noise as if a giant had broken a giant’s plate…. The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.

“Who’s done it?” cried Susan. “What does it mean? Is it more magic?”

“Yes!” said a great voice from behind their backs. “It is more magic.” They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.

“Oh, Aslan!” cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad….

“But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.

“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

“There is a magic deeper still”,,, I don’t for a moment believe that my faith is magic, but I do believe in my deepest soul that there is a mystery so big and so deep that I will never fully understand it in this life, that the greatest love imaginable in heaven or on earth has been given to us through the Resurrection. I do believe that before time dawned Christ “the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages” the Redeemer knew what was to be. This is one of the glories of Pascha, that I get to both experience and bear witness to a collective, community gathering of celebration, entering into the timeless truth of Christ’s resurrection and what it means for the human race.

“Looking back into the stillness and darkness before Time dawned…” As I enter into the wee hours of the morning, I will once again reflect on this mystery and what it means for me and millions of others around the globe.

And with that, I will say:

Xristos Anesti! Χριστός ανέστη
المسيح قام Al Masih Qam
Khristos Voskres!
Hristos a Inviat!
Christo Ressuscitou!
Christ is Risen!

Indeed, He is Risen!

Image – Coptic Cairo, 2016

Hospital Waiting Rooms: “I have heard your prayers; I have seen your tears”

“Anonymous, liminal spaces where broken and hurting people go to get fixed.” That’s what I am thinking as I sit, silently people watching in a hospital waiting room.

It’s early morning in this particular waiting room and the still mandated masks contribute to the anonymity. It’s a busy place with ages spanning 10-month-olds to late life. The large and small, fat and thin, old and young, physically fit and not, black, brown, white, and all colors between are either finding their way to their appointments or waiting in chairs under glaring fluorescent lights.

In the western world it is unlikely that anyone will escape having a hospital waiting room experience at least once in their lives. The experience is a weekly experience for some, a once in a lifetime for others, and daily for a small but significant few. Unless we enter into conversation, we have no idea of the stories that have brought people into this place despite the fact that it is a shared space. Some people hide their anxiety and stress inside while for others it is out in the open, verbal and strong.

Adding to the general melancholy of the waiting room is the grey day that comes through the lobby windows. For now, the sun is covered, almost like hope itself is gone. We are all on hospital time, that unique time that begins the minute you enter a hospital and will continue throughout your stay. Minutes and seconds are replaced by procedures and diagnoses, bad news and good news, when the doctor comes and when she leaves. It has nothing to do with real time, and the quicker you accept that reality, the better you are.

In my reading the other day I read about King Hezekiah’s illness and recovery in the book of the prophet Isaiah. Hezekiah is what is described as mortally ill. He is going to die. He is in a waiting room of sorts when the prophet Isaiah comes to him and tells him that he won’t recover and that he should put his house in order. Hezekiah’s response is to weep bitterly and cry out to God saying that he had walked with and loved God. The subtext is clear – “God, give me more time. I’ve been faithful. I’ve obeyed you. I’ve tried to please you.” God’s beautiful response is in verse 5 of chapter 38.

I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears, so I will add fifteen years to your life.

Isaiah 38: 5b

I read those words in awe, because isn’t that what all of us want in a hospital waiting room? Don’t we all want God to look at us and say those life-giving words “I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears.” For these are words that tell us we are seen, we are known, and we are extravagantly loved.

As I leave the hospital waiting room and look around for one last time, I pray these words over all those I see: “May God hear your prayer and may he see your tears.”

Making Something is Hopeful

I’m in Rockport today, taking a break from what has been a busy, crazy schedule. Fog covers the area stretching out over the ocean, creating a thick blanket over both reality and imagination.

We drove up yesterday, one of the many cars leaving the city during afternoon rush hour. While the morning offered bright sunshine, clouds rolled in during the afternoon and a light rain was falling by the time we arrived. The minute we drove over the bridge on the highway leaving the mainland and heading into Gloucester and then Rockport a deep peace always settles over me. Gone is the frantic pace of city living. Gone is the worry about contacting people who need to be contacted whether it be via email or phone. Gone is the sense of urgency or guilt of not doing enough.

Ahead is peace, quiet, order, and rest. I am well aware that this is a luxury not shared by so many in our world, well aware of the privilege of rest and peace. I have found that the necessary response is not guilt but gratitude. Not anxious worry that I’m not doing enough but inner peace that will allow me to do well in whatever task is put before me.

As often happens when I stop, I find tears close to the surface. The tears spilled over into a conversation with my brother and sister-in-law and after the phone call ended, I sent a text thanking them for holding my tears. We all need tear-holders in our lives. It’s amazing how much peace I feel after a good, long cry, the weight and burden of tears finding a shared space instead of staying bottled up in isolation.

We are heading into the home stretch of Lent in my faith tradition, with Holy Week just one week away. I am ready for the Paschal celebration of all things new, and if I’m honest, the accompanying eggs, milk, and meat that signify that Lent (and the vegan diet accompanying Lent) is over.

Things outside of me and my control feel difficult. Whether front page news or the resulting commentary from all of us about the front-page news, or actions of others that can’t be controlled, it all feels too much. In a word – it feels hopeless. And this is why I write. Because when I write, I never feel hopeless. I feel hope and joy. I feel ready to move forward. The act of creating is a catalyst that propels me out of sadness or grief into a world full of imagination and hope. So today, I needed to write, to get a few words out to you, but mostly to me.

One of my favorite recent reads is the book Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri. I had begun reading the Kindle version when I received the print version from one of my sons for my birthday. I had already decided I wanted to buy the hardcopy, so it was a surprise and delight to receive it as a gift. I could never write a review of this book. It far too original and creative, and my words would never do it justice. But I want to end with a quote from the book that describes what I feel about the world and about writing.

Does writing [poetry] make you brave? It is a good question to ask. I think making anything is a brave thing to do. Not like fighting brave, obviously. But a kind that looks at a horrible situation and doesn’t crumble.

Making anything assumes there’s a world worth making it for. That you’ll have someplace, like a clown’s pants, to hide it when people come to take it away. I guess I’m saying making something is a hopeful thing to do. And being hopeful in a world of pain is either brave or crazy.

Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

I write because there’s a world worth writing for. May your weekend hold hope and life and may you make something, anything actually, because it’s a world worth making something for.

The Comfort of Cafés

I’m not sure when I first discovered the comfort of cafés. Perhaps it was years ago when I discovered the Marriott Bakery within the Marriott Hotel on the island of Zamalek in Cairo and found the best brewed coffee in the city. Perhaps it was a bit later when I discovered another bakery walking distance from our flat in that made amazing croissants.

Or perhaps it was after that, when cafés became more available, coinciding with more freedom in my life as my kids got older.

But it has been through writing that I have discovered the true magic and comfort of cafés. When I began writing 11 years ago, I found it difficult to concentrate if I just wrote at home. I would sit with my fingers hovering over the typewriter, my mind blank for things to say. I’d pack up my things, walk out the door and down the street to Central Square in Cambridge, find a café and with a coffee by my side my fingers went from hovering to furiously typing words and sentences.

Though I sometimes struggle with insecurity in public spaces, all that insecurity leaves me as I sit in a café. I am surrounded by life, by music, by sounds from the kitchen, and by conversation but within that noise I’m completely focused. Usually, I hear English as the dominant language followed by Spanish and then others. Living in a busy city it is never English only.

There is something deeply comforting in the anonymity of sitting and working, or reading, or simply enjoying a hot drink by myself in a café.

I write, I look around, I stare into space, I think, I get ideas, I type the ideas into a document, I pray, I wonder, I repeat.

These public spaces help me pay attention to life around me even as I get immersed in my writing. They envelope me with the joy of people watching and remembering the shared human story. And describing the human story and experience is one of the things I love best about writing.

I know I am not the only one. As I sit in a cafe today, I am with several people who came in before I did and will probably stay after I leave. This shared experience of those I may or may not meet does not feel lonely. It feels companionable, as though we have membership in an invisible club.

I also know this is not accidental. We are human beings who are connected not only to each other, but also to place. Place attachment and forming emotional bonds to place begins early in life and there is a lot of research on what makes a place meaningful for people. Places root us to the environment around us and form a context for us to flourish.

But it’s not the academic nature of this that I care about. It’s the physical and emotional nature. For in a world that often feels restless, frantic, and fractious, it’s the wonder, the peace, and the comfort that comes with finding my space in a café.

Friendship Forged of Steel – In Memory of Jean Buker

At nine pm on October 11, 1954, as tugboats slowly pull a freighter away from the docks in Brooklyn, seven passengers stand together on the deck, watching the lights of the city and the Statue of Liberty fade into the distance. Four more are sleeping peacefully below deck in their bunks and portable cribs, blissfully unaware of how the events of this day are shaping their lives. On the dock where our family members and friends had waved their last goodbyes, a lone man walks to the end. His voice echoes across the harbor waters, over the noise of tugboats as they move the Steel Recorder out towards the open Atlantic: “Grace and peace…Pray without ceasing…Preach the Word.”

Pauline Brown in Jars of Clay

My mom called me yesterday and left a voice message. It was about a dear friend of hers from Pakistan days who was dying.
“It’s not that I’m sad for her,” she said through tears. “It’s that I’m sad. Just so, so sad.”

Mom’s friendship with Jean Buker goes back to early days when the two young families were embarking on a journey that would affect them and their children in unquantifiable ways. Their first forays into friendship began at Hartford Seminary where the two couples, along with a few others from my parents’ mission were enrolled for missiology classes. Those early days of dreaming and planning for their life overseas propelled them forward onto the Steel Recorder – a freight ship that left out of New York Harbor.

I picture my mom and Jean, both in their mid-twenties, beautiful with not a wrinkle on their skin, dressed as one did in that era – in skirt suits with hats and perhaps a strand of pearls at the neck. Jean and Ray Buker had three children while my parents had my oldest brother. The journey by sea to this newly formed country was four weeks long. Four weeks of walking the deck to get exercise, keeping tight rein on their toddlers so they didn’t fall through the huge gaps on the railing of the ships deck, trying to make it through seasickness and the beginnings of homesickness, playing scrabble with a competitive edge in the evenings, singing and praying to a God they loved, then at last seeing the shores of Karachi Harbor in what was then West Pakistan.

How young and naive they all were! And yet – how very brave! They watched as their family members became little dots on the shore, finally looking at each other knowing this was it. There was no going back.

Then those first months in the Sindh region of Pakistan, three couples and six children sharing a two-bedroom house in a questionable area of the city of Larkana because no one else would rent to these foreigners.

Those early days built a solid foundation of friendship. Friendship forged in shared language learning, learning how to cook with unfamiliar ingredients, and all that comes with a cross-cultural move to the other side of the world.

The friendship continued through the years, made stronger as more people joined them. Websters, Roubs, Addletons, Pittmans, Johnsons, Dobras, Salmons, Elkins….names that I don’t think I could ever forget, so much were they a part of our family’s srory.

The Bukers moved back to the United States at one point, Jean’s husband Ray taking a job at the mission. And though the proximity of their friendship changed, every time my parents were in the U.S. they visited the Bukers. Updating each other on life in Pakistan, their kids, what was going on in the mission and sharing joys and discouragements continued to be a part of their friendship.

Jean Buker didn’t stop with my parents. She was Aunt Jean to us, more a relative than any blood could possibly create. Her friendship and love continued on to us kids as she extended her table to feed us too much at every Thanksgiving so we knew there was always a place where the turkey and pumpkin pie would be offered up with friendship and understanding. She provided a home base where we and other members of our family and TCK tribe could stay. Aunt Jean was the one who hosted a graduation party when I graduated as a proud nurse. Aunt Jean was the one who gathered people from all over the Chicago area to shower me with gifts a week before my wedding.

I knew where my mom’s tears were coming from as she cried over the phone. They were coming from a place of sweet saudade, that wistful longing for what no longer exists, no matter how much you mourn or long for it. They were coming from a place of memory, where young hearts and bodies with the world at their fingertips go out to the unknown, and friendship is a necessary ingredient. They were coming from knowing that earthly loss smacks of pain and grief because our hearts are created for eternity.

They were coming from a place of a beautiful, God-ordained, orchestrated, and formed friendship and they reflected the heart of God.

“The shifts of time unearth our longing for a permanent residence, unshakeable, immovable, wholly given and wholly ours. Scattered across this great globe, now and then, we stumble across gifts of happiness from a God who, kindly, with an absolute patience that the trees themselves were taught to imitate, guides us up into the security of his own life”

Laura Fabrycky

This post is dedicated to Pauline Brown, Bettie Addleton, and Grace Pittman – the remaining originals from CBFMS.

Lenten Journey – Healing Comes in the Trying

I don’t know when the dawn will break for you or for me, but I know that the healing comes in the trying. And that even in the dark we have to keep practicing our callings. Whatever they are. We have to keep doing the things we were made to do. The daily acts of creativity and honesty and service as much for what they bring about inside us as for the good they do in the world. Practice your vocation and calling whatever you understand that to be because the practice of it will keep you connected and to the God who planted those things inside you. 

Shauna Niequist

Last Monday, on the first day of Orthodox Lent, I had a wisdom tooth extracted. As the dental surgeon’s assistant was giving me instructions, she reminded me that the first few days I would get steadily better, and then by days 3-5, it would feel much worse. “It’s like so many things,” she said. “You get worse before you get better. To heal, you have to go through a process.”

I didn’t think much about it that day, so focused was I on the procedure and on the wads of gauze and local anesthesia that made me sound like a cartoon character. But days four and five came, and though I thought I would be unique and spared the pain of those middle days, the pain came on with a vengeance. The only thing I could do was follow the paper of instructions given to me as I left the dental office. Ibuprofen, rinsing with saline, soft foods, and waiting. I had to keep doing those things because I knew that ultimately, they would aid in the healing, and the healing would indeed come. I had to keep trying.

“The healing comes in the trying.”

But on Saturday I wanted to give up. I wanted to stop trying and call the dental assistant and say “This isn’t working. I need something else. I’m not healing.” In truth, I was. I just didn’t like how it was going. I wanted to speed up the process. I was sick of the pain. I didn’t want to believe the dental assistant’s words.

Today is a new day. In the world of tooth extractions, the dawn broke and with it was a tenderness replacing the pain. I know now that every day will be a bit easier.

Though they are nothing to do with healing from a tooth extraction, Shauna Niequist’s words above are not unlike those of the dental assistant. They are both about process, about doing all those things in the dark that we learned to do in the light.

If you’ve been following along with me, you know that I’ve had some healing going on during the past few years. Healing from pain far worse than that of a tooth extraction. Every time I think the dawn is about to break, it seems the clouds come over and instead of the brilliant colors of sunrise, it’s all greys and muted colors. In the midst of this, I’m continuing to learn what it means to keep trying. To make plans and follow through with them. To cry heavy tears in the shower and then get dressed. To pray soul-aching prayers and then get up and make dinner. To wait for answers and then actively process through writing. The dawn has not yet broken, but God is present, gently reminding me that healing comes in the trying.

Reminding me that someday, the “grey horizons must grow light. It is only the immediate scene that shouts so loudly and insistently.”

Author’s Note: This season is Lent for those of us in Christian Traditions that celebrate Lent. Lent is perhaps a bit like a tooth extraction. You know you need it, but initially you dread it. Lent is also about believing that the dawn will break, the resurrection will come, and with it – a healing greater than we can even imagine.

*Alfred Delp

Earthquakes & Stories Matter

The sun is crazy bright today, reflecting off the wooden floors in our house. It is beautiful – a reminder to me of hope and warmth and spring coming. I think about this – the contrast between the safety and warmth I feel and the ongoing crisis of the three earthquakes that Turkey and Syria have endured.

I have been quiet in this space about this tragedy, not due to lack of care, but because what can I possibly do or say that could help? I am far removed from the area and get my news the way most of you do. But I do have a deep love for that part of the world, family who live in Istanbul, and friends who are well acquainted with the area. So today, I’m posting a piece I wrote 10 years ago but never published. A piece that will remind all of us that before the crisis, there was already a crisis. A reminder that these stories that we know and those we don’t know matter to God. A reminder that earthquakes and stories matter. When they are far away, they interrupt our lives for a short time through crisis news reports. But long after the front-page news ends, the crisis, the stories, and the people within those stories matter. At the end of the piece, I have included two places where you can donate. They were recommended to me by my brother and sister-in-law and you can trust that the money will go to those most in need.

And now, back to 2013….

I am sitting in a sun-filled room in Uskudar – an area of Istanbul on the Asian side of the city, occasionally staring out at the tops of buildings. I am tired in the best way possible. I heard the Call to Prayer a half hour ago telling me that it is late afternoon, and we will soon be getting ready for the evening activities.

The day began in chaos. It was the first night since arriving that I did not sleep well. Carol (my sister-in-law) and I were heading to a refugee clinic on the European side of the city, and we knew we would be late. We ran to catch a ferry from Uskudar to Kabatas, breathlessly sliding into seats by the window.

The morning was beautiful, partly cloudy but sun spilling through at odd moments, reflecting off a blue-gray Marmara Sea.

“This is a beautiful city” – the same words came to mind that I had been saying both internally and aloud all week. Beautiful. Breathtaking really, with Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia on a hill, the Blue Mosque back a bit creating the picture-perfect skyline that is Istanbul. And the ferry rides were ideal places to slow down and experience the view and the city.

Arriving at the dock, we headed to an underground cable car, taking it the rest of the way to Taksim. As we set off in search of the clinic, Carol remembered that Google maps doesn’t do construction. This is fact.

 But no matter – we were determined. And determined won, as it usually does.

We found the building and after walking down a dark hallway, trekked 4 flights up a set of stairs. Istanbul is not a city for the short of breath. The room we entered was full of language. Turkish, Farsi, English, Arabic – it all melded into indefinable verbs and nouns, participles and dangling. It was a gift to my ears. One of the side rooms was designated as a nurse’s room and we did a quick survey of medicines and equipment. It was quick because there was none (apart from Sarah Goodwin’s 2-year expired antibiotics from Michigan). No blood pressure cuff, no stethoscope, one thermometer, and medicine that fit into one 8 by 11 plastic container.  

Our first patient was an Iraqi refugee. With rusty and wanting Arabic I asked her what was wrong. I barely made out the words ‘headache’ and ‘chest pain’ when the interpreter came to my rescue. And the story came out. Bit by bit by bit. The headache – but really the heartache; the chest pain – but really the stress and a heart broken. The words gave a  picture of a family exiled. Refugees. Forging a new home in a new place.

What is the remedy for a broken heart?

We had so little to offer. A small packet of Brufen (Ibuprophen), and encouragement to drink a lot of water, an offer to come back if the headaches worsened, if the headaches were accompanied by blurred vision or dizziness. She was followed by more people, children and moms, more symptoms and more stories. And these were only the tip of a Titanic size iceberg of stories.

For years I have said that stories matter; stories give us a bigger picture, a narrative into which we offer our hearts. And these stories – they matter. They matter to the clinician who attempts to distinguish, with no equipment, symptoms that need physical medicine, those that need emotional, those that need both. They matter to the interpreter who skillfully takes the words and decodes them for the listener. Most of all they matter to God; a God who needs no interpreter and no storyteller, a God who was present in the room with us, caring for all who were there. A God who gives eyes to see and ears to hear the cry of the heart.  

 The sun has almost set and the Call to Prayer was now over two hours ago. As I close my computer and type the last words, I whisper a prayer for the people I met, and those I never will; for stories I heard, and for the millions I will never hear.

Here is a message from my brother who has lived in Istanbul for 10 years with info on two organizations that he would recommend donating to for earthquake relief efforts:

Two organizations you might want to consider supporting are Medicins Sans Frontieres / Doctors without Borders which works on both sides of the Turkey – Syria border, and İLK UMUT DERNEĞİ / First Hope Association a small Turkish NGO that has a good record of working in close cooperation with government and non-governmental organizations. 

Please keep in mind that support for survivors of this tragedy will remain urgent for many months and years to come, long after the attention of world media has passed on to other things.