In the Darkest Moment, Amazing Grace
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Image by dave and rose via Flickr
Ten years ago, I worked as a wellness specialist in York Hospital in Maine. I had arrived at work a bit early, the sun just starting to peak into the basement window of the Wellness Clinic situated in the bottom of the doctor's building across the driveway from the main hospital building. I remember looking up at the tiny rectangle of a window, thinking what a lovely fall day it was going to be. The phone rang and life changed forever.
My oldest daughter was on the line hysterically crying. I couldn't understand what she was saying, so my first action was to calm her.
"Honey, breathe, I can't understand you. What is wrong?"
Finally, after a long sob, I was able to make out that a plane had crashed into a building in New York. As she was talking to me, the second plane crashed in front of her. She screamed, the hysteria getting worse. On the other end of the line, I was trying to make sense of it all. Again, I told her to try and calm herself before she got sick. Finally, I told her to turn off the TV, get a cold cloth to wipe her face down and then call me back.
At this point, I turned on the small radio we had that was usually used to listen to NPR. I dialed the local station just as the announcer made the statement that the United States was under attack.
Visions of Pearl Harbor came rushing into my mind. How could this be, I thought. My next thought was where were all my girls. How could I get in touch with them. Were they safe?
Seconds later, the other wellness workers arrived at work. Their shock at the situation obvious by the unusual seriousness of their demeanor.
Briefly, we discussed what actions to take. Should we close? Should we cancel appointments? Should we go home? No, we decided, we were needed here to help bring calm and peace where there was sure to be pain and chaos.
The fear that had begun to creep up from my gut threatened to overtake me. With all the power I had, I took in a deep full breath, closed my eyes to picture my girls, exhaling slowly. My heart stopped its insane race to terror, my hands stopped shaking and my mind instantly calmed. I gave thanks for the training I had had over the past few years, which helped me, at this time, to focus on the positive in the midst of such horror.
As I climbed the stairs to leave the building, I wondered how I was going to be able to meet the needs of the patients at the hospital, who would be expecting me to help them be calm before facing surgery. How was I to keep my self detached from the terror of what had just happened, not to mention the mounting fear and concern of what might lie ahead?
Stepping out into the glorious September morning, crisp salt air filled my lungs. The usual cast of noisy seagulls greeting me with their raucous caws. Crossing the parking lot to the entrance of the hospital, one of the bushes caught my eye. I was nearly all red, evidence, I thought, of how quickly autumn comes here along the Maine coast.
Looking closer, I realized that what I thought were leaves were actually monarch butterflies. They must have come to rest on this particular bush on their way south. While York is on the migratory route of monarchs, I had never seen so many in one place before. I stood entranced. (Monarchs are symbolic of rebirth - new life.)
Then, as if a protective arm had wrapped around me, a feel of deep peace enveloped my soul. I knew that I would continue to remain calm and peace-filled as I did my work today, and the next, and the next. I knew that all would be well, in spite of this mornings horror.
In the next second, the words to one of my favorite hymns began running through my mind. "Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I, once, was lost, but now I'm found. T'was blind, but now I see." I see...
Through Grace, I could see...see Hope that terror would not reign over us; see Love that would help us to heal; see Peace that would one day would put all our lives back together.
Ten years ago, I came to know myself, as a minister, writer, and poet of Love, Hope and Peace. Ten years ago, out of extreme terror, Grace gave me the strength to know that Love and Peace would prevail.
May we all let Grace into our hearts and minds, today and every day. May we never be captives of the terrorism of the mind and soul. May we each Shine our Light, illuminating the darkness.