Stormy Seas

Posted Mar 25, 2024

Stormy Seas

Kate Brouwer

Yesterday, I was thinking about the story in the Scriptures when the Sea of Galilea became stormy and everyone in the boat was panicking except Jesus, who was asleep. I don’t get the impression that Jesus was a frequent napper. He often seems to have been praying into the wee hours. I was sharing this story with the 4- and 5-year-olds at church (they have matched me with an age for whom I have the appropriate theological training).  We all sat down on a sleeping bag, pretending it was a boat, and swayed like we were on stormy seas. Preschoolers don’t generally use the term “metaphor”, but they did seem to grasp the concept that Jesus is our hero when the times get tough.

A few weeks ago, my parents were in Florida driving home from a lovely supper out, when my dad started driving erratically and then hit a tree (the tree did much better than the car). He was experiencing a stroke and fortunately, the only damage from the MVA was my mom’s cracked ribs. An aside to our dental students — know the acronym BEFAST — Balance, Eyes, Face, Arm, Speech, Time. One of our dental members recently noticed some of these signs in his patient and sent him to the hospital, possibly saving his life.

I flew to Florida and found that I was indeed on stormy seas, my dad having been discharged just before my mom came to pick me up at the airport. He received emergency care for 2 days in the hospital, but they were eager to discharge him. My dad says this may have been his fault as, travel insurance coverage aside, he’s not an easy patient.  My parents, like me, are very independent people and prefer to be in control. My mother was struggling with the pain of cracked ribs and was concerned for my dad. My dad is quite fortunate, his main effects from a stroke (right occipital lobe, part of the temporal lobe, for you neuro-nerds) were loss of vision on his left, balance issues and, interestingly, a loss of the sense of either time or direction. This meant that my dad thought it was ok to call people at 4 am and suddenly discovered that he could not find his way home in their little retirement community. My dad has always been early to embrace technology, and suddenly he struggled to navigate his phone, tablet, and computer. We felt quite “at sea” in dealing with this sudden change. And did I mention that I was without WIFI on this trip? I had to go to Target to get on WIFI and look for information on strokes. We were also without water in the house two times, but that is such a “first-world problem” that I probably shouldn’t mention it. You know how when you are stressed, it can be hard not to catastrophize everything.

What really helped us during this time of waiting — waiting to leave Florida, to get answers, and get my parents home to Canada, was the prayer support. I got a message from a dental student (I’d call her a friend, although she might think that at 54, I’m too old to be her friend!), asking if she could share this prayer request with some other Christian students she knew. The idea that dental students in another part of the country, who had never met my dad, were praying for him and for my family — that really hit me. The CMDA Prayer Chain, various churches, family members, and friends were all supporting us in prayer.

My parents are now back in Canada, accessing medical care, and my dad is feeling encouraged by some progress on the road (or sea?) to recovery. My wonderful sister, who is also my partner in a small family dental practice, had the difficult task of still working at our clinic while I was gone, keeping that end of things running while filling my parents’ freezer with healthy meals for their return. I am back at work, where the wonderful routine of doing things by order, in a repeatable pattern, is a beautiful thing.

But I am changed, as I should be, by a time of difficulty. I have found myself in a situation where there was nothing concrete for me to do to improve things, except to pray. And prayer made the difference. I have set aside my independence and sought the support of prayers and practical help from others in my circles. I have been reminded that the unexpected can happen and that Jesus is with us always. I have seen that storms don’t last forever and that staying calm amid them is in my best interest. And finally, I am reminded that it is the people in my life who make it truly worth living. And lest you feel I’m ending on too sentimental a note, my father knew exactly how to annoy me before the stroke and is still doing it while recovering. Which sounds sort of endearing, but only sort of.

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)