The Gift of Prayer Received

by Emmy Cerveny
Apr/May/Jun 2012

The haunting call that everyone dreads came in the midst of a fun-filled birthday celebration of a dear friend while I was in Naples, Florida. As a group of high school friends, we were gathering for our once a year reunion, bonded by our love for each other and for our Lord. As I listened to our son Frank’s serious and quiet voice, I immediately knew something very serious had happened. Our eleven year old grandson Chas had been skiing down a hill in Chamonix, France, when the toes of his ski hit an icy ridge, catapulting him at top speed through the air. He landed flat on his face, motionless and lifeless. Gretchen, his mother, not far behind, tells the chilling tale of the noise of the helicopter landing in the flurries of snow, there to transport him on a lifesaving mission to the nearest hospital. She followed close behind in a borrowed car, only to discover that his injury was too serious to be treated there and they had to fly him to a larger facility in Grenoble, France. Chas was diagnosed with a stage three Glasgow Coma. The lowest possible Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) rating is 3 (which is seen as deep coma or death) and the highest rating is 15 (fully awake). The prognosis was not good.

The birthday celebration had come to a screeching halt as my friends went into prayer mode, taking over logistics to get me to France as quickly as possible. Father Michael and Jill Basden came to our house immediately, as did many of our relatives, all scurrying to get me ready to catch the next flight available from Miami to Chas’ bedside in France.

I do not know if this is true of everyone, some call it denial, but I prefer to think that the Lord sometimes wraps us in a cocoon of love that protects us from the kind of fear that would make movement impossible. My immediate call was to Judith and Francis MacNutt and all the prayer warriors that have been such a close part of our family for decades. I honestly do not know how it all happened so quickly, but for prayer, because I was packed and on the plane to Grenoble in the blink of an eye. I was certain that I would arrive at that hospital and Chas would open his bright beautiful big blue eyes and say “Hi Boppie, thanks for coming!” In no way was I prepared to find that bouncy joy-filled little fellow lying motionless, the only sound being that of the respirator, the beeping monitors and the other mechanical things that were keeping him in stable condition.

I found myself frozen, unable to pray. To see my husband, my son, his wife and her parents all standing, gowned and masked in hospital-issued sterility, gazing at this lifeless little boy, sucked the breath out of me. It was only when they all left to get some much needed nourishment that I was able to stop and realize that there were people around the world holding us up before the throne of the living God, beseeching Him to carry all of us and to heal this little boy. It was then that I literally felt the power of the Spirit, even as I sat in stony silence, gazing at this treasure we loved so dearly.

Unbeknownst to us, our friends in Jacksonville had gathered for a prayer vigil in our driveway. The picture of them was texted to me and gave me such hope. I was at a place where I was afraid to be afraid. Also unbeknownst to me, my mission for my time there had been arranged. A car had been rented for me to drive to Chamonix to retrieve Grace, age 9 and Clay, age 7, left behind at the ski lodge with friends when the emergency occurred! Talk about a miracle, I am not famous for my driving much less with driving a stick-shift crossing the Alps in the sleet and snow in the dark of night with very little sleep! I arrived on angels’ wings to find the little ones having a ball with room key and room service, totally unaware of the serious situation their brother was facing! Somehow I went into Grandmother mode and was able to love on them as they sorely needed, driving them back across the Alps the next day to the intensive care unit in Grenoble.

I will never forget walking into that hospital with these two unsuspecting little ones to be greeted by a birthday celebration for Grace, prepared lovingly by the other grandparents and my husband. Life must go on as normally as possible, and Grace was celebrating the first of her double digits! Ten years is time for celebration regardless of life’s circumstances. Thank You, Lord for giving us moments in the midst of sorrow to remember that You are the Life Giver.

Chas showed no signs of change, and it was difficult to leave everyone, but the choice was made that I would fly back to London with Grace and Clay as they had school the next day. Again, life must go on as normally as possible...and so we left France with the younger ones, making the trip with a heavyhearted goodbye.

I can never overstate the gift of prayer we received during this time. It is the greatest gift we have to give and the greatest we can ever receive. We were an ocean apart from those praying, and yet as close as our heartbeat with those we loved. As I was wrapped in the busy schedule of getting the kids back home and settled in school in England, my friends in the Diocese of Florida, the House of Bishops, the worldwide Anglican church, people known and unknown, were doing a far greater job than I was, surrounding our entire family with love and prayer, lifting us up before the throne of grace covering us with His shield of protection.

Back in the states, my brother Sam had set up a website called Caring Bridge to keep everyone informed of Chas’ situation. It was a marvelous tool for gathering God’s people close around the world. Each night my Gretchen would post an update on Chas, and the responses and prayers entered in by friends, family and strangers kept us going.

After what seemed an eternity, Chas was flown by ambulance plane back to London. With a great deal of fanfare, a team of doctors and nurses and all his necessary equipment, Chas deplaned on a stretcher wrapped in a British flag greeted by his cheering fans, still unable to speak or move or swallow, his sprit never wavering. A hero’s welcome awaited him and his grin was as wide as the wingspan of that plane. We were so grateful to have him back in his own hometown, close to where doctors and nurses spoke English and parents could be surrounded by friends.

The story goes on from here - it is really Chas’ story to tell, but I want to share what I learned from his life threatening accident through to his full recovery. It is a story of mystery and of love. I learned so much! First of all, I learned that healing is a mystery. Why was our Chas healed and another child was not? Why do we pray in the face of such apparent hopelessness? I know for me, prayer is like breathing and I cannot stop praying no matter what. I must admit, though, that when I first saw that lifeless body, I was unable to pray. There were many nights when I sat in that hospital room that I could not pray - I think that was when I learned that sometimes the presence of God is so thickly felt that there is no need for prayer. In that hospital in London, when I would take my “shift,” the angels and Archangels and all the company of Heaven were there with us. I bought a set of paints thinking I could paint the scene of Chas sleeping in that hospital bed surrounded by angels, seen and unseen, some in the guise of nurses, doctors, therapists, some unseen but powerfully ministering to us.

I learned that prayer is the greatest gift we can give. And the greatest gift we can receive. We were miles and continents away from our friends, yet they and the other prayer warriors, were as close as the breath I was breathing.

I learned that Community is a gift. I could feel arms of friends around me. I could watch the community of their church family in action, bringing food and love. I saw the power of the gift of friends, particularly Chas’ friends. I remember two of his classmates brought letters from the rest of his friends. We read them to him when he was unable to speak. His response was to grin from ear to ear. I could see the healing power of well-grounded sports celebrities when one of the famous athletes from the Chelsea Team, Chas’ favorite, came to visit with promises of tickets to their matches when Chas recovered. I saw firsthand the power of love in action as the therapists lovingly encouraged Chas to first sit up, then be transported into a wheel chair by a Hoya Lift, then to stand and finally to take a few steps. There was no surgery for the type of injury Chas sustained. There was no medication that could cure him...only the power of a Mighty God and loving family and Community pulling together to pray for all concerned.

Soon it became evident that Chas would need long term rehabilitation. The Children’s Trust at Tadworth is a facility for children with suddenly acquired brain injuries. Would there be a bed? Would Chas receive the care he needed? Would he ever be able to return to “normal school” and enjoy his music and sports and concerts with his friends?

The next chapter begins and it is Chas’ story to tell...and that he does well! He speaks in all manner of venues from churches to charity events, even at the House of Commons and most recently at 10 Downing Street on behalf of The Children’s Trust. He has raised incredible amounts of money and the story goes on and on. Chas is back in school at the very challenging Wellington College, a productive, fun-loving, tenth former full of all the joy and life-giving personality a young gentleman could possibly have. But there is a difference: Chas knows the gift he has been given. Chas knows the power of prayer. Chas knows how to return in kind the gift he has been given by making it possible for others less fortunate than he to have the healing advantage of the Childrens’ Trust. Neither he nor his family will ever forget the journey from that tragedy on the ski slopes to the opportunity to give the gift of a second chance to others, that they too may live a life that shouts, “By the glory of God is man fully alive!”

Thanks be to God for the miracle of knowing Christ Jesus, the power of prayer and the gift of love in community! Hallelujah and thanks be to God for all of you who shared our journey that will never end. Amen!
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Emmy Cerveny Emmy Cerveny is a member of CHM's board of directors. Magazine Issue

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