In 1997, Sugar Ray came out with the song “Fly.”
All around the world statutes crumble for me
Who knows how long I’ve loved you
Everyone I know has been so good to me
Twenty five years old, my mother God bless her soul.
I just want to fly. . .
This is not the song that you would necessarily expect to pop into my head while I am working out here in Kenya—but several weeks ago, as I watched one of my patients drag her leg into the delivery room, it is the song I heard.
She was 25 years old. I ran into her on rounds as simply “This is a 25 year old G4P2 @ 26 weeks with PPROM.” In other words, she was a young mom with kids at home who was 26 weeks pregnant and had broken her water way too early. And she had hypertension—the going thought was that it was chronic. And she had epilepsy. And she had had a stroke at some point. Her parents were gone and she was a widow: her husband had died last year. She wept when she shared that this baby was a product of a rape. I tried to take care of her and her baby—and part of this was doing an ultrasound. This is when I saw her walking down the hall. She walked with a terrible limp. Upon examining her, I saw that her left foot had been terribly scarred and deformed—my intern explained that epileptic patients in the developing world often have these injuries from falling into open fires during a seizure.
Twenty five years old: when I was her age, I was a young and idealistic doctor, newly minted, and about to start my internship. I had nary a blemish (except for my freckles). I was well loved and loved well. I thought I might save the world one day. My life opened up before me and I was excited to see what it might hold.
Flash forward to now: watching that young woman struggle with her reality and all of its grimness, all I could think about was her youth, her isolation, and her locked in, closed out world. Few people had been good to her it seemed. She had no mother to comfort her. And I think both of us would have flown away that afternoon if we had had wings. She did leave against medical advice several days later.
I saw her again two weeks later in Casualty. We were called emergently to see her. She had come back to the hospital with severe pulmonary edema (presumably from severe preeclampsia). We intubated her and we threw every medical thing we had at her. I induced her labor in order to try and save her—and the baby did not make it. But against hope: she DID. After two weeks on a vent, she came out of it. She was neurologically and otherwise completely intact—she had RECOVERED. The OB and the Medicine teams rejoiced. She went home to be with her children. We thanked God for intervening. She was a miracle.
Two weeks later on, I was in my Gyn clinic when the Medicine attending, a visiting American doctor who had been one of the docs who had worked so hard to help this young woman, came up to me fighting away tears. He stated without preamble: “She is gone—she came back in last night in pulmonary edema. And this time, we could not turn it around. I am devastated.” And I knew he was talking about my patient, our patient—the girl who was twenty five years old and not well loved.
I just want to fly . . .
Tragedy. Cruelty. Violence. Inexplicable loss. Injustice. Suffering and death. Orphaned children. Children gunned down in their classroom a week and a half before Christmas.
“Why?” my heart shouts, and then the hard question comes again: “Where is your God in the midst of all of this pain?” When I was twenty five, I think I had more answers—I may have even been arrogant enough to try and offer some of them to people whose shoes I had not walked in.
But this I know: deep in my heart there is a faith in a man called Jesus. He was born in a filthy hovel to a poor, frightened unmarried girl two thousand years ago. He came to show us that God is love. He came to ultimately overcome the tragedy, the cruelty, and all of this terrible loss. Early in his earthly ministry, he said as much to some incredulous religious leaders:
The spirit of the LORD is upon me, and because of this He has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor; He has sent me to heal broken hearts and proclaim liberty to the captives, vision to the blind, and to restore the crushed with forgiveness (see Luke 4:18).
And so I keep going. I keep walking even though I no longer can fly. And I trust that my God will ultimately restore all that is crushed: our hearts and His own heart, a heart that loved us so much that He came to suffer and die for us.
I doubt that Sugar Ray had any of this in mind when they wrote those lyrics. Still, I love that old song.