Grace in the Silence of a Coma

Every once in a while we are blessed with a grace-filled moment. This story is about one of those moments. It is not only a story about a mother named Donna who passed away after spending approximately 13 years in a coma, but about God’s grace reflected in her story.

Donna was a mother in her mid-40s with a husband and two young daughters. She was a member of our church, and her husband had worked for me off and on. I considered her a friend. After not feeling well for a while, and after many tests, it was determined that Donna had a brain tumour. It was decided that surgery (which was not considered risky) would be the best thing for her. She had her surgery and everything seemed to have gone well, except during the night something happened and they went back in to correct the situation. She lapsed into a coma and remained in that condition until God called her home.

During those years, many people spent a lot of time at her bedside. First at the General Hospital in Hamilton, then many years at the St. Catharines General Hospital and near the end at Shalom Manor. On special occasions, such as Christmas Day, Easter and her birthday, we would worship with her and, on occasion, have communion even though she could not respond. Through all of these visits there was always that troubling question: “Why Lord? Why did this happen to Donna?” Her husband needs her, her two daughters need her, she is so young. It is easy to say, “God is watching and taking care of all things.” But, wow, “why?” And then her husband develops cancer and is also called home, even before Donna. “Why Lord?”

When Donna passed away, there was a discussion with the daughters regarding her funeral. The initial response was, “Let’s keep it small and private because after all these years no one will miss her and come to a memorial service.” But, it was decided to have a memorial service after all with not too many expectations. God works in mysterious ways. The chapel was packed! As the service started, the pastor told the two daughters who were sitting at the front to look behind them at the crowded hall. They were not the only ones in for a surprise, I was also. Throughout the service, many people shared with everyone what Donna had meant to them (at Donna’s bedside there had always been a diary that visitors could share in and there was always quiet Christian music playing). The stories were amazing. Donna’s room had been a refuge for friends, family and strangers; from staff to visitors it had been a place to reflect, pray, talk, share, meditate and be lifted up. Who would have thought!!

It was at that moment that I asked myself, “Who are we to ask the ‘why’ question? Who are we to doubt God’s perfect plan?” It was something I needed to hear and witness. It is something that helps me through all the “why” question occasions. God has all things in His hands and He reminds us to “be still and know that I am God.” What a great thing it is to know that if God works His grace even in the silence of a coma, how much more can we count on God to work His grace through us in the ordinary things of our every day living. May we reflect God’s grace in our lives so that we may be a blessing to others.

By Louie Vander Berg, Member of the Bethany Board of Overseers

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