The dynamics of Maggie’s family were most unusual. There were four adult children, two men and two women, who all had problems of one sort or another, and Maggie freely admitted that her lifestyle and lack of skills as a mother contributed in large part to the dysfunction. That and an alcoholic ex-husband who was the father of the four.
But in these later years, Maggie had tried to make peace with her family, and with God, after finally finding a second husband who was life-giving instead of life-destroying. She was particularly close to one daughter, “Katie,” who had forgiven Maggie for past mistakes and accepted the new husband. This particular daughter was more emotionally stable than the others, and had gone through some counseling to come to terms with her past and how it affected her. The other three seemed immersed in their dysfunction, and were not open to forgiving Maggie or accepting her new husband, “Hal.”
That made visiting times at the hospital a bit of a challenge when more than one showed up at a time, and it wasn’t a huge surprise to me that the people most willing to step aside for the demands of the others were Katie and Hal.
In an attempt to find some reason for “God not taking me,” Maggie wondered if she needed to stay to bring some peace to her family. Since that seemed to be important to her, I told her it was quite possible, and every time we prayed, she prayed that God would open the hearts of her children so they could all accept “Hal” and make peace with each other.
Hal, who was a professed atheist, would leave the room when we prayed. At first, I wondered if he was offended by the prayer, but one day he told me that he wasn’t offended at all. He knew that was important to Maggie, and respected her for her faith, and he felt like it was somehow disrespectful for an atheist to remain in the room during a prayer.
Even today I still find that most interesting and profound.
Maggie lived for three more years, but was in and out of the hospital several times for complications of diabetes and respiratory problems. Each time she was admitted, I would visit her and ask how the “family peace plan” was going. She would just shake her head, so we would pray some more.
Finally, the last time she was in the hospital, she told me that maybe the reason she was still hanging in had nothing to do with helping her children, as they all seemed to have the same problems they always had. I told her that these questions of “why” often have elusive answers, and if she has had any joys in the past few years, perhaps that was reason enough to be alive.
A few months later, Maggie died suddenly at home. Then she got her answer, but more about that next time.