I am beside my son's bed in the intensive care unit at Jefferson Hospital. He is sleeping the uncomfortable rest of a heavily medicated accident victim. I try not to stare at his broken, swollen face as I dab the blood from his nose. There is a strange kind of contraption on his head that is keeping his face together, since most of his facial bones are broken.
The whole family had rushed to the emergency room of the hospital where he was initially taken. We had been told that there did not seem to be any brain trauma or spinal cord damage. The the trauma team came in and prepped him to move, a kind of controlled violence in itself. Everyone else had left to regroup and I had gone downtown by myself.
As I sit there, my will is blocking the flood of memories of all that times I sat in the hospital with other people's children; but its hard not to be reminded of outcomes, particularly the tragic ones. It was never a good sign if I was in the hospital in the middle of the night. I look at my phone-it's 3:30 A.M
I take his hand and happen to look at his hospital I.D.
TWO TAU OMEGA, Age 129.
The nurse comes in and she tells me that he will be having emergency surgery in the morning to repair his face. He would eventually have two more surgeries and multiple "procedures." He ultimately would spend nearly a month in the hospital (and still is currently awaiting the insurance company to approve one more).
I asked her why his ID sounded as if he was charactor from Westworld or Battlestar Galactica. She saidthat was the name that the computer generated and that the age was the maximum human life span. As she was asking me to leave the room in order that they could do something unpleasant, she must haves seen the confused look on my face concerning his ID and stated,
"We didn't know his name."
I make my way to the intensive care waiting room and I am thankful that it was empty. At that point, I knew his life was not in immediate danger, but everything else was unknown. I find a chair by the window. And I weep.
I am not someone who cries easily or often. But I wept for his pain and for how close we had come to losing him. I wept for his broken body and his current innominate state. How could they not know his name? My God, My God.
I wrote most of the above in May, and now I return to it on the Monday of Advent 1. I am thinking about what it means to have hope in a world full of anonymous suffering-tombs of unknown soldiers; cathedrals full of the bones of nameless martyrs; bodies incinerated in bombings, children starved as pawns of power; fourteen thousand kids in detention centers separated from their families; victims of conscience and identity who died in prisons, gulags, concentrations camps, ghettos, and on reservations.....
Fr. Alfred Delp S.J. was one such soul. A German Jesuit, scholar, and parish priest, Delp was eventually executed on February 2, 1945 for his involvement in Kreisau Circle, a Christian group that opposed the Nazi's. He was 37. By orders of Heinrich Himmler, after he was hung, his body was burned and ashes scattered in an undisclosed open sewage pit.
He wrote the following in December 1944, in solitary confinement, while handcuffed, on paper smuggled in and out with his laundry.
To believe in the golden seeds of God that the angels have scattered and continue to offer an open heart are the first things we must do with our lives. And the next is to go through these gray days as announcing messengers ourselves. So much courage needs strengthening; so much despair needs comforting; so much hardship needs a gentle hand and an illuminating interpretation; so much loneliness cries out for a liberating word; so much loss and pain seek a spiritual meaning. God's messengers know about the blessing that the Lord God has planted, even within these historic times. To wait in faith, for the fruitfulness of the silent earth and for the abundance of the coming harvest, means to understand the world-even this world-in Advent.
Jon's identity was always known by those who loved him, as are all souls by the One who is Love. During this week of Advent I, God's words of hope to Ezekiel and St. John the Divine echo through all the dark corners of history and individual souls: These bones shall live; and the nameless shall be given a new name (Ezekiel 37; Revelation 2:17).
Ad te levavi animam team: Deus meus, in te confido