Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Prayer for Gloria

Yesterday's Santa Cruz Sentinel had an article guaranteed to break a mother's heart. A child's family in Seattle gave up their medical battle with the widespread neuroblastoma (cancer) that was overtaking their daughter and turned to prayer instead. The family asked for people to pray for their daughter Gloria and the Seattle Times gave the story 5 months of serious coverage. Reporters close to the family say they are forever changed by the family's determination to heal their daughter through the power of prayer and by the heart-wrenching struggles they faced in making this decision. Four years of medical interventions had been of no avail. It seemed fruitless and painful to put their child through more torture. Yet, despite the efforts and outpourings of love and faith by literally thousands of people, on Friday last week Gloria died.

What can a person say about something like this? The child's mother apparently had heard a voice she believed to be the voice of God tell her before Gloria's cancer was diagnosed "When I heal her, I will change the lives of many." The family says that their faith allows them to believe that healing has occurred even in death because to be with Jesus in Heaven is a healing in itself. But, as a person brought up Jewish, this is a thought pattern that's hard to fathom. My gut reaction was that her death could lead just as many to doubt their faith as the story within the hospital walls led so many to embrace it.

Jerry Brewer, one of the Seattle reporters who covered the story and who has been writing regularly in his blog about this, hasn't analyzed his feelings yet except to say that the miracle everyone was hoping to have happen occurred for him in the five weeks preceeding the girl's death. Something about how everyone touched by this family was transformed by the power of their faith really got to him and he firmly believed that the prediction the mother received that when God healed her it would change the lives of many must have been meant to be much more than about whether her daughter's body survived the "healing."

I asked Paul for his opinion about this. He seems to always have a deeper understanding of the spiritual significance of things than I tend to. He believed that the fact that Gloria frequently prayed for other people in the hospital and in her room, even offering up her suffering as a sacrifice for some other child in pain, touched people most of all. "It's not just about whether you win or lose." He said. "We all die." It's more about how we choose to live while we're here. What we do and why.

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