There are few experiences more complicated than having a student walk into my office, break out in tears, and explain that his mother is in the hospital and say "it's serious, Mr. Max." The magnitude of pain only increases when you know the back story of this single mom who has had to fight and battle to protect her only son, her only child, from a young age -- and is now in the fight of her life to beat cancer.
As this man of a student, only a year and a bit from graduation, broke down and expressed his pain and worry, I was speechless. Yes, I prayed with him, but mostly, thanks to a timely sermon at my home church this Sunday, I just "sat shiva." On this day, this student didn't need my wisdom, he didn't need rationalizations, he didn't need false or uncertain hopes of survival -- what he needed most was to have me sit with him as he cried and as he expressed the hurt in seeing his mother in pain. I sat shiva as his voice trailed off in the middle of expressing his angst about a potential life without his mother, his best friend.
"Is she going to die?" he asked before he nodded off on the couch in my office. My shoulders shrugged instinctively in response, as my own eyes filled with tears at the thought, "I don't know, maybe...maybe not" my hand resting on this young man's weary shoulder as the uncertainty sank in. Praying for the answer to be "not." Please Lord, let it be "not."
I gave that student a pass from classes for the day, and let him lay on my couch...with me working silently near him. My prayers, my begging, are all I have.
Lord...help! Please bring this mother back to her son...and thank you for giving me a job where I can pray for and sit with students in need.