The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date: June 20, 2003
Love calls through flesh, ache and hope
By JAMES STEPHEN BEHRENS
I once knew a little boy who ran in front of a bus. The bus slammed into him and he was rushed to a hospital where he remained in a coma for weeks. There was a nurse named Corky who loved him back to health. She knew how to speak with him. When he opened his eyes and tried to focus, she looked at him with love and spoke to him, telling him that it was going to be all right and that she would help him every step of the way. I saw him slowly respond to her. His parents loved him but did not have that special wavelength that Corky had fine-tuned.
When the boy became more conscious, it was very painful for him to grope his way back. But she was firm with him, firm and sure in loving him enough to not let him slip back. He would cry and she would take his tears to heart and then work his small limbs to get him moving again. I knew, watching them, that she was giving birth to him again. There was something miraculous in the ways she beckoned to him and how he responded to her voice and eyes and warmth. He was hearing a call to life from her.
The boys name was Richie and he is a man now, married with children of his own. Corkys love, as well as all the love and prayers that surrounded him, eventually got him back on his feet and back into life.
I was thinking of him yesterday while staying with friends in Florida. A friend who is a nurse told me about her uncle who had suffered a stroke and how his daughter loved him back to health as far as he could go. She was a physical therapist and knew he loved music. She brought a boom box to the hospital every day and played his favorite songs as she massaged his body and nursed him back to the best place possible. It was hard for him, but he loved and trusted his daughter and somehow the music blended with the love, with her firm and guiding hands, and his recovery was greatly aided by something so human: love that calls deeply through flesh and ache and hope. It is the kind of love that heals. It is God loving through us. And it is God suffering through us. We are the life that is God.
As my friend spoke, I thought of many things, strange things that did not seem connected at first but as I thought about them a connection became clearer. Her words moved me to think of love and what it can do in life.
There is something deep and warm in living things. It is there. Call it grace, or the presence of God, or an awareness of the need for truth or love. But that something is good. You may wonder about it on a quiet morning, in your yearning for some meaning to this life. And memories may come, warm memories, about the goodness and love that have been shown you in life. And you will sense that beneath the surface of our daily routines, goodness is slowly coming into being. Perhaps prayer is listening to that goodness, watching for it and living from it. Perhaps prayer is nothing more than being still and asking God for his warmth, for his abiding presence in our hearts.
Fr. James Stephen Behrens writes from Covington, La.
National Catholic Reporter, June 20, 2003
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