Yesterday was my birthday. My best friend had flown into town on Saturday so we could take a road trip to Marfa to celebrate. God had a different road trip in store for us.
Monday, my birthday, my friend and I were up before dawn to drive to the Medical Center. God gave us a beautiful sunrise for the nearly two hour drive into town with the other early morning commuters. A stop for coffee on the way was blessed by a birthday call from my mother.
My friend spent most of the day in the PICU waiting area, listening to family members, fetching food, and being a pastoral presence. God used her skills as a hospice volunteer to provide unexpected, unplanned care. This was not the trip she’d planned for this Monday, but this was the trip God had placed her on, and Ginny was beyond gracious.
Conversations with medical personnel, with family, and with Judah as he prepared to die were the most holy way I could have ever shared this day. Time and again, God put me in the path of the right people to gather and to provide information, to pray, and to offer unexpected ways of support and to offer God’s care.
When the time came late in the day to make the kind of decisions no parent ever should have to make, I was ready to offer all my years of living to this family. The words holy, holy, holy kept whispering in my ear.
After it appeared things were in a stable place, I left to have dinner and to travel home for the night. My friend had found a restaurant to celebrate my birthday near the Medical Center with the lovely name, State of Grace. Because we were between meal times, we sat at the bar and ate food that cannot be aptly called bar food–a feast of sumptuous smallish plates.
Drinking club soda in preparation for the long drive home, we began a conversation with our server, Ed. As we told him the story of my unexpected birthday with Judah and his family, he gave us words of good wishes. Then he poured me a large flute of champagne, and as he served me, he said, “I’m not done with you yet!” He said he would be bringing us dessert, and then offered us cappuccinos. Turns out Ed didn’t bring us one but two different desserts. I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed a birthday dinner more, which included receiving a hilarious text from our bishop. I was truly in a State of Grace.
My friend and I were on our way to walk a labyrinth to wait for the traffic to clear when we had a call asking us to return to the hospital. The final tests would be completed that evening to determine whether or not Judah was dead, and clergy presence would be helpful.
So with prayers for energy, we returned once again to the Medical Center. I was there to support the family and friends holding vigil in the lobby, and to encourage their own self care during this time. Then our bishop arrived for a visit, and we were at Judah’s bedside finishing our prayers when the medical personnel told us the test results–Judah’s brain was no longer alive.
We stayed as the family processed and began to plan the next part of Judah’s life journey–deciding to give whatever tissue and organs possible to other folks so that their lives could go on, and their family and friends would have the gift of hope and joy.
Eighteen hours after I had awakened on my birthday and begun this state of grace, I got in the car to drive home.
When I awoke this morning, grateful for the birthday God had given me, and one I would never ever planned, I realized that there was yet one more birthday the day before. I now shared a birthday with Judah.
In the Christian faith, we have three birthdays:
The day that we are born into this world.
The day that we are baptized and born into the family of God.
The day that we die, and are born into eternal life. That third day is the day that we become saints in God’s kingdom. September 26 is now St. Judah’s day.
With a heart full of sadness, I celebrate your day, Judah. You are in the truest State of Grace.