Personal Wailing Wall
A place to talk to God, no matter where we are.
by Susan Browning Schulz
The ring of the phone startled me. I glanced at the caller ID and quickly lifted the receiver. “Hi, Dad. What’s up?”
“Suzi, the hospital here in the Keys is unable to do anything more for your mother.” I sensed the helplessness in his voice. “They are ordering an ambulance to transport her to Mount Sinai Medical Center on Miami Beach tomorrow.”
“I’ll pack today and leave for Miami first thing,” I said. The kids would come with me.
Soon after settling the children in at my cousin’s place, my father and I headed for the medical center and located my mother’s wing. The automatic door whooshed open, and a blast of antiseptic air met us head on.
As I walked toward the elevator, my desperate heart led me to look for the chapel. A plaque on the doorframe to my left indentified the Surgical Waiting Room. To the right, a plaque on another door read Chapel.
Once I entered its doors, my gaze drew straight ahead to the far wall. Coral rocks covered it like a fireplace surround, but without the hearth. Against the mottled beige rocks, words from Psalm 130:1, made of brass, stood out — first in Hebrew, then in English: Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Many worried hearts had been there before me. Prayers written on neatly folded pieces of paper were stuffed into the crannies of the rocks, making it a miniature wailing wall.
Now I was one of those worried hearts. At my mother’s bedside, I saw she was so ill, she could barely communicate with us. My dad wrung his hands, and my own frustration rose. The incredible turquoise waters and clear blue skies outside her window greatly contrasted the storm brewing in my heart.
Watching my mom experience torturous medical procedures and grave illness, I kept the picture of that personal wailing wall in my heart and mind. In the coming months and years, I would reach depths of anguish, sorrow, and heartache repeatedly, whether standing in front of that real wailing wall or the one built in my mind.
Lessons from Job
Dealing with my mother’s illnesses and surgeries had become a way of life for our family. When I finally made a list of her surgeries for the medical paperwork, the total came to 27. If something could go wrong with Mom, it did. This happened repeatedly, causing me to visit that wailing wall countless times in my heart.
I often compared my mom to the biblical character Job. He never found out why so many bad things happened to him, but in the end he learned that God can do all things. Job never wanted to obscure God’s counsel without knowledge. Over time, I learned to accept Mom’s life of constant medical challenges and recognize God’s amazing, right-on-time gift of peace through each trial.
I too was like Job, learning many amazing things about God. As I stood by and watched my mother suffer, God polished my character. He convinced me that He will never leave me when I cry out to Him from the depths of my soul.
Soon after Mom’s last hospital stay, my parents decided to move to Georgia to be near my sister and me. The long distance between the hospital in Miami and my parents’ retirement home in the Florida Keys had become unworkable. When the house across the street from me went up for sale, my parents bought it.
After the move, Mom had a lengthy reprieve — not from doctors but from hospitals — for almost two years. But having such a sick mom kept my visits to the wailing wall frequent.
On the edge
When she was up to it, my mom loved attending church and Bible studies. She possessed quiet wisdom. One time when our Bible class was studying women of the Bible, we learned about Esther. At the risk of losing her own life, she requested to speak to the king on behalf of her people (Esther 5:1, 2).
As the class attempted to apply Esther’s bravery to our daily challenges, we buzzed with conversation. My mom contributed with a saying we use to this day: “If you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much space.” We roared with laughter.
In the next two years, we made many more visits to waiting rooms, examination rooms, and hospital beds. During Mom’s last hospital stay, one of her doctors pulled me aside and said my precious momma was in the last stages of heart failure.
He didn’t give me a time frame, but in my heart I knew the end would be soon. I tried to talk to my father about it, but he would not accept that she would be released from her body of pain soon.
I could sympathize with him. Though I had prepared myself so many times for my mother’s death, nothing prepares you for the actual event. Out of the depths I cried at my wailing wall!
Our last Christmas together, I became sick with kidney stones that sent me to the hospital twice. Because of continued pain, I eventually had a hysterectomy.
The surgery went well, but during recovery I started feeling distraught and helpless. What could I do to help my mom? Unable to lift anything, I couldn’t do much to take care of her. As she worsened, my dad became exhausted trying to do everything for her. I sat with Mom as soon as I could, loving on her as much as possible.
Three weeks after my surgery, my mother collapsed at home. I rode in the ambulance with her and went into “auto pilot” mode, mixed with a little adrenaline.
Amazingly, I had energy to stay up all day and walk up and down hospital corridors, meeting every visitor and grandchild and escorting them to the emergency room, bed two. I took my dad home that night, never to see my mother coherent again.
Healing and relief
Early the next morning I realized by my mom’s dire condition and the nurses quietly monitoring her that they had kept her alive with IV meds to give us the consideration of saying goodbye.
Back to the wailing wall I went. Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. God used tears to heal my grieving heart. It was strange to feel relief after my mother passed. She didn’t have to be poked or prodded ever again.
Cleansing and consolation
Though my mom is at rest now, I can’t help but miss her. Sometimes I catch myself reaching for the phone to call and chat. Through it all, I have discovered the cleansing power of tears at my wailing wall. They wash away the hurt and pain.
Visits to that wall won’t ever stop. I’ve discovered that while praying there, God’s children survive in this broken world, receiving His indescribable gift of sweet, soothing consolation in every situation.
Books by Dr. Larry Crabbe, especially Shattered Dreams.
Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser