God's companionship: The lessons of life and time

Good health is wealth, and so often we take this for granted. We rise each morning and often go through the day mechanically. Yet there are moments and incidents that take place in our life which make us think of how grateful we need to be for the Gift of Life.

Last summer, after having had a good 10 days break back home in Goa, I returned to Patna, ready to be immersed in my work. When I left home, I did not think that my younger sister would be seriously ill in a few weeks.

I was in Guwhati for a meeting when I got news that she was rushed to the hospital and was admitted to the ICU unit. It was tough going to be able to focus and participate in the meeting and have her in the back of my mind. However, I silently whispered a prayer and trusted that all would be well.

Two days later, I was on the train back to Patna when I got another phone call from my older sister saying that the doctors had said they can't do anything. If I wished to her see her, it would be good to be at home. I was caught between the anxiety of the seriousness of my sister and the long train journey, which I thought would never end. At that moment there was only one thing that made sense: to pray with trust that all will be well.

During this very difficult time what really made sense was the support, prayer, and good wishes of friends, relatives and well-wishers across the globe. Prayers are very powerful, but one also has to trust. With multiple organ complications and a heart attack, there seemed to be no hope. But every message that came to the family was, "We are with you. Trust in God and all will be well." On one hand, the doctors were telling us there was no hope, that she could go off anytime, and, on the other hand, countless people were praying and also sending positive energy of healing and blessings, which was remarkable.

Today, I bow in humility before this powerful Almighty who knows what's best for us. I have come back from home to my place of ministry and have left everything in the hands of Providence to do what is best for us and for my sister. When I was on the flight to Goa, I thought that I would be attending my sister's burial. After she was in the ICU unit and on oxygen for eight days, she was discharged, and I didn't think she could walk home. This is a miracle as most of her organs were affected and there wasn't much chance.

My sister is still in a very precarious condition, but now there is no worry because I have surrendered her to the Almighty — because we humans don't know what's best. As I see her struggle for breath, I know nothing is going to happen unless God wills it. God has worked the miracle.

For the past seven months I have experienced God very tangibly in the way things began to unfold; balancing my ministry with being able to attend to my sister. I felt the Architect was at work and ensured that I would be available at the appropriate time and place. Anxiety began to give way to trust; hopelessness was coloured with deep faith, and love was expressed through phone calls, emails and chats. I was being carried on eagle's wings, as I knew that I wasn't that strong to take all this in my stride. I experienced a resilience, a quiet peace within that, come what may, I will be in a position to accept all because I don't know what's best.

As I move around in Patna, being engaged with the people who are on the periphery, I realize that a healthy life is truly the greatest gift to us. It is these very vulnerable sections of society that make us reflect on what is important. They are vulnerable on all counts: health, economics, literacy. Yet I have witnessed them living life to the fullest.

My sister continues to battle with life. The day she was being discharged from the hospital, the doctor told me, "You know her condition. Take her home; keep her comfortable and happy." So, that's precisely what we are trying to do and have surrendered her to the Lord.

As I reflect on this whole experience I would have no hesitation in saying that we all have time on our hands. How we use it and what we do with our life are our decision. Because both life and time teach us that these are irreplaceable gifts that we have been endowed with, we must make the optimum use of them.

Let us all rise each morning with the thought:

Life and Time are the world's best teachers.
Life teaches us the use of Time, and Time teaches us the value of Life.

[Dorothy Fernandes a Sister of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary from India. She presently serves as Vice Provincial of the Indian province while continuing to be deeply engaged with the urban poor of Patna, Bihar.]