Emerging into God's Light

After a near-fatal medical emergency left her facing a lengthy and difficult recovery, she wondered where He had been during her trials.

By Lindsey O'Connor, Castle Rock, Colorado

As appeared in

Jacquelyn’s life changed completely. After talking with Tim and our friends, she decided to withdraw from college so she could stay home with Caroline. Friends from church took turns helping her, staying at the house, showing her how to care for the baby, cook and clean.

But even with their help, my illness had placed a huge burden on our family, I knew. I couldn’t stop thinking about that. The pointlessness of it. Really, God, where were you?

I put down my pen and closed the notebook. Obviously I wasn’t ready for this. I was too angry. I gazed at my hands, each finger illuminated by the golden afternoon light pouring through the windows.

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Those hands, I thought, should have been holding Caroline during her first months of life. Instead it was Jacquelyn who held her. Jacquelyn and my dear friends who bathed my baby and fed her formula and changed her and wrapped her in blankets and settled her to sleep with lullabies.

My best friend had offered to keep Caroline at her house on weekdays so Tim could work and Jacquelyn could remain a student.

When I asked Jacquelyn why she’d stayed home to care for the baby, she said, “Mom, Caroline’s an O’Connor. She needed to be with us. My voice sounds just like yours. I knew if I stayed with her she’d get used to that voice. Then she’d know you when you woke up.”

I paused now, remembering that conversation. When you woke up. I’d let those four words slip by the first time Jacquelyn said them. Now I wondered. Why did she think I would wake up?

The doctors had not been optimistic. When I suffered multi-organ failure, they’d even told Tim I likely wouldn’t make it through the night. He’d brought the kids to the hospital, telling them to think about how they wanted to say goodbye. The thought of that made me shudder.

Yet Jacquelyn never let her fears defeat her. Neither did Tim. Nor did Allison, Collin or Claire, nor anyone else who’d sat at my bedside talking to my inert body, reading aloud, praying. They believed.

Why was everyone else so sure their prayers would be answered even when all the evidence pointed the other way?

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Sitting at my desk, all I had were questions. I gazed out toward the mountains. The sun was so intense I had to squint. I sat there for a long time, the questions and doubts inside me like dark shadows cast against all that light. Would I ever be okay?

And then, so quickly and so subtly I hardly perceived it, everything changed.

I thought of Jacquelyn postponing college. Tim moving heaven and earth to be at my bedside. The kids pulling together to care for one another. Our friends, our family, our church all working around the clock to keep us fed and keep me company.

Illuminated by that gorgeous sun, all my questions suddenly turned from darkness to light.

Yes, everyone’s life was upended. But that didn’t mean God was absent. Was there any surer sign of God’s presence than the love that drew Jacquelyn to Caroline? Or the love that kept Tim at my side? Or the love that buoyed our kids and inspired our friends and our church to care for us?

God was even in my questions. I wouldn’t have been arguing with him all this time if he wasn’t there to argue with. I certainly wouldn’t be sensing him right now, here at my desk, patiently absorbing my doubts and depression like the sun dissolving shadows.

Book Cover -- The Long AwakeningLindsey O'Connor is the author of The Long Awakening: A Memoir (2013) from Revell Books.

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Your Comments (2)

Lindsey, Your story has encouraged me to continue writing my book, "One Step at A Time: Why I Believe Everything Happens For a Reason". It is a book about my recovery from alcoholism and a cerebral hemorrhage. The only word that I could say was "Yes". I lost complete use of my right side and had to learn to swallow physically and learn to swallow my pride. I was in the Neuro-Intensive Care unit to which I was careflighted after discovering that I was experiencing a cerebral hemorrhage at our small local hospital. I spent about a week there - of which I remember very little. I spent the next 4 weeks in a rehab hospital, where I learned to read, write, swallow without choking, walk, talk (other words than "yes"), brush my teeth. When I came home from the rehab hospital, I could not be alone. At the time, my husband was not working, so he was able to provide care for me. I was surrounded by love and God never left my side. My belief in God's love continues to this day. I am now able to do the same things I used to do (pre-stroke), but I tire very easily and words do not come to me as fast as they used to. I now encourage others in their times of trouble and try to do the best that I can at any task that I attempt. My stroke was 7 years ago and I was an RN working as a team leader for Hospice. I was used to helping others and it was very difficult for me to be on the receiving end. God bless you and all of your family.

Your article meant a great deal to me. It is as I write a great inspiration for me in matters I am presently dealing with in my life. Your article recalls to me something I heard on a TV program at the time of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. A Jewish woman asked a rabbi, "Where was God at Auschwitz?" The rabbi replied, "God was at Auschwitz. The question is where was man?" God bless you.