On my Grandmother, and God.

I held my grandmother’s hand yesterday afternoon in what seemed like a moment that might have suddenly been leading towards her death. Despite her age, 93, her vibrant being exudes a much more youthful air. Her frequent, humbled, appreciation to the Lord that she has “no aches or pains” is testament to both her faith, her consistent gratitude of the life she has led, and the surprise it was to all of us yesterday to see her so suddenly ill and frail.

Despite this incredibly shocking and terrifying event, what much of the family’s conversation throughout yesterday and into today has turned to is the number of miracles that have surrounded her illness and intervention. The timing of her sudden turn ensured that she was with family and cared for immediately. The time too allowed for her to be greeted at the door of the ER by my uncle, a prominent physician at the hospital, despite the fact that he had only arrived home from conducting surgery in Haiti twelve hours before. The timing of the event also allowed her to be seen by one of the few surgeons in the country who could have saved her life, because he had been hired by the hospital three months ago (recruited for his specialized skill by my aforementioned uncle). Moreover, the man who was my grandmother’s life-saving surgeon yesterday, had seen her a couple of months prior, energetically signing books with my aunt, engaging with fans about her life as one of California’s first female surgeons. On a wall of the hospital, next to the announcement of his arrival as a member of the hospital staff, is an announcement of the book on my grandmother’s life, with a photo of her and the author, my aunt. Throughout the ordeal, of which seemingly the entire family was gathered, we sat comfortably at a table, with just enough chairs for all of us, literally under her name, on the wall in large gold letters — that room in the hospital, where she and my grandfather had labored as a dedicated surgeon and pediatrician for decades, was dedicated in her honor years ago.

My grandmother, thank goodness, is recovering beautifully. After undergoing surgery, she was smiling and greeting all of us as we poured into the ICU to see her.

It is amazing how such an encounter can remind us all, in small and large ways, about the value of life and the importance of living in the moment. Everything can literally change in an instant, and truly, when you least expect it. These moments remind us that we are alive and remind us of those people around whom we want to live, with whom we want to engage and love, and the simplest beauties of the world. It is not a cliche when you experience it as truth.

Just days before his death, Jung was asked about his notion of God. Raised as a Christian by a pastor father, Jung had a better grasp of the Bible than perhaps some of the most learned Christian scholars today. Yet Jung, after a lifetime of his own studies in religion and spirituality, responded,

To this day, God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions and change the course of my life for better or worse. (Quoted in Ego and Archetype, 1973, p. 101)

Perhaps suggesting the trickster archetype, Jung suggests that God is the reminder that we are alive and, in good times or bad, the reminder to treasure life.

A lifelong Catholic, my grandmother never questions God’s work. She does not ask Him for things, nor question His motives when things go poorly. Despite her own difficult trials and her work with some of the world’s poorest people, my grandmother does not turn her back on God nor lose faith in Him. As she is found of saying, often when others are expressing bewilderment of uncertainty, quoting her friend Mother Teresa: “God will provide.” And for my grandmother, who came from humble beginnings in Spanish Harlem and worked harder than anyone I’ve ever known, He does seem to do so.

This trust in God, both Jung’s and my grandmother’s, evokes for others, wisdom and confidence. In their own ways, with their own lexicons, each lived their lives with trust in life and faith in the order of uncertainty. By the grace of God, my grandmother, recovering well, continues to do so.

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