Strength Through Suffering: Timely Perspectives
As people around the world battle the frightening symptoms of Covid-19 or deal with the grief of losing loved ones in the pandemic, many suffer. While all of us hunger for stories of strength and hope, two members of the UST family share wisdom through suffering that came well before the novel coronavirus.
Though each survived the seemingly un-survivable, the lessons they generously share are distinct, and one of them comes from the eyes and heart of a child.
A Child at Death’s Door Learns About Surrender
Leslie Meigs, 29, experienced vicious bacterial meningitis when she was only eight.
Now the development coordinator in UST’s Office of University Advancement and student of communications, Meigs said, “It came on so fast that I was put on life support as soon as Life Flight got me to the hospital and given 24 hours to live.”
The helpless little one was in a coma with no detectable brain function, and that’s the way she remained for weeks, with septic shock destroying her organs.
When her brain inexplicably “plugged itself back in” and she woke up, the fight to save her organs and infected arms and legs had just begun.
As the time came for her to learn to walk again, something remarkable happened.
“My legs wouldn’t do it,” Meigs remembered. “My dad and the nurse held me up but really carried me to the window and laid me down again. I was too weak, and my body wouldn’t listen to me. In bed, I spoke silently to God and said, ‘Okay, God, whenever it’s time for me to walk, I’ll do it. And I felt an electrical charge shoot through my body and spark in my hips. And I told my dad that I could walk.”
Despite his protests, Meigs got up and walked to the window and back to bed.
“My 8-year old self got a powerful lesson in faithfully letting go of control and surrendering to a higher will,” Meigs said. “I learned that I had to ride the wave. Kicking and screaming only makes the ride rougher.”
A Philosophy Professor Haunted by a Question
Associate Professor of Philosophy Dr. Theodore Rebard’s story is every bit as harrowing. He has come within 12 hours of death from bacterial blood poisoning, survived subsequent cancer which necessitated a liver transplant, and nearly died a few years later from simultaneous liver and kidney failure requiring a double transplant.
The facts of his suffering, he said, are the least important thing.
Rebard said, “I have very narrowly escaped death multiple times. The question is, why have I been given more time. I repeatedly tell my students that their lives need to be haunted by this question.”
Before his health battles, Rebard said he understood nothing or almost nothing about suffering.
“For suffering to intrude itself on me was an awakening and an expanding of my heart,” Rebard offered. “Now, I understand that I’m challenged to live a worthy life, a life of generosity and fulfillment of obligations.”
Both Rebard and Meigs hope their lessons provide some degree of solace and hope to those who are experiencing the severest hardships in these unprecedented times.