46: The Gift of Tears

46: The Gift of Tears

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles and More

The Gift of Tears

There is a sacredness in tears . . . They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

~Washington Irving

I remember nothing of the ride to Boston. I don’t remember leaving Worcester. I don’t remember arriving at the hospital. I don’t know how I found it or where I parked. I don’t remember walking inside. I can only surmise that I followed signs to where I thought I needed to be. I did not know where to go. No one was expecting me.

A nurse noticed my lost and shaken demeanor and asked if she could help. Words would not come out. I tried to speak, but could only cry. Despite all that I cannot recall, I will never forget that shattering feeling. My eyes welled and blurred my vision, and no words would form. She held my shoulders as if to keep me from toppling over. With extraordinary effort, I managed to say finally, “My boy.” After I collected myself, I muttered that my son should be there, somewhere. After placing some calls, she looked at me soberly, placed her arm around me and escorted me to the ICU.

Eight days prior, my son Jacob had been ill for more than a week with pneumonia. Though concerned, we thought it was simply the latest ailment among our children. A teenager on the couch, moaning and groaning about going to school, is not uncharted territory for any parent.

I told Jacob to toughen up, get up and get ready, assuring him that he’d likely feel better once he got moving. His mom saw something different, though, and decided to take him to the doctor. Not long after, my wife telephoned me from an ambulance. She said when they had arrived at the doctor’s office, Jacob was staggering, and his oxygen saturation level was alarmingly low. He couldn’t breathe.

He wasn’t just sick. He was dying. He was whisked from the office to UMass Memorial Medical Center.

Jacob’s lungs had shut down and he was in critical condition. He would need to be intubated and vented in order to be oxygenated. As medical staff hastily prepared, I re-assured him that they just wanted to make him better. His fearful eyes tore my heart apart. I stroked his hair, and when he went under, I fell apart, sobbing.

The efforts to restore his lung function failed. The frustration of the doctors was palpable. As a result of Jake’s particular pneumonia, blister-like areas known as blebs ruptured all over the surface of his lungs, rendering them useless. The situation was bleak. The whispered medical voices were not hopeful. I felt in my heart that Jake would die.

One evening, wearily driving home to shower and change clothes, the reality dawned on me that there would be a funeral for my son. I felt that no one knew Jacob like I did. I decided that no one was going to speak about my son except me. So I did what no parent should ever have to do. Through swollen eyes, I penned his eulogy — on my birthday.

The next morning, Jacob’s doctor, with a grave look, said simply, “He needs to go to Boston. He needs to go now.”

So there I stood in Boston Children’s Hospital on December 13, 2014, having raced ahead of Jacob’s ambulance. As he arrived, the team went to work in a whirlwind of activity. A normally calm and collected type, I was reduced to wringing my hands.

My state must have been obvious. The team leader turned from the commotion that surrounded Jacob and sat me down. He could see I was barely holding on. He put his hand on my knee and told me confidently, “You can only get nervous when I get nervous. And I don’t get nervous.” It was exactly what I needed to hear. Sometimes, men can communicate eloquently using precious few words.

Jacob’s prognosis was poor. He grew more critical by the day. I struggled mightily. I didn’t know why Jacob dying would be part of God’s plan.

As days passed, though, things began to appear clearer. I experienced the deepest sense of faith, love, peace and community that I ever had. I had been thrust from my usual, comfortable role as a giver to that of a receiver. Our friends, families, co-workers and community rose together. People brought meals and gas cards. They visited, talked and prayed. They came with piles of gifts for the kids, recognizing it would be a dreary holiday. A school fundraiser was organized. Hundreds of people attended to lift our family up in time of great need and sorrow. It was overwhelming. I had come to feel as if somehow God was using Jacob’s illness as a vessel for love and compassion.

Four days before Christmas, I was contacted by a fellow named Joel. Prayer requests from our church had reached him in Texas. He said he felt compelled to reach out to me, as he was blessed with what he referred to as the Gift of Tears. He explained this spiritual phenomenon as an uncontrollable weeping experienced during times of deep prayer and communion with the Lord. The flowing tears were not due to sadness or joy, but to the love of Christ manifesting itself in the Believer. He shared with me that, some years prior, his own son had been given just days to live. When he prayed over his son for those days, he experienced the Gift, which he said rarely occurs. He described it as being in the very presence of the Holy Spirit. His son recovered fully. Doctors called it a miracle.

Joel had my attention.

He told me that when he prayed for my Jacob, he experienced the Gift again. A man I had never met, halfway across the country, told me with joy and confidence that the hand of God was unequivocally on my son.

Then came the dramatic change. Where previous efforts had failed, there was suddenly success. The machines and medications started working, and Jacob’s body was responding. Doctors used words like “incredible,” “remarkable” and “miraculous.” Their astonishment was genuine. From a medical standpoint, the restoration of Jake’s lungs was astounding. One doctor told me plainly, “Someone is watching over your son. People don’t get any sicker than he was and live.” The healing had begun.

On Christmas Day, Jacob’s doctors announced it was time for him to breathe on his own. They would wean him from his sedatives and attempt to wake him. Two days later, he was woken and extubated. His lungs worked. Jacob breathed.

A long and arduous recovery would follow. The sinister illness stole much from him. He had to learn to speak, eat and walk again. In late March, Jacob was discharged. A walking miracle, he arrived home to a still-lit Christmas tree and a mountain of gifts.

The greatest gift we all received that year was decidedly the Gift of Tears.

~Keith Nano

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