A Faith Story – Part Three
Samantha and Tamara sat across from one another, hands locked together as they reached across the table in the hospital cafeteria. Sahara was sitting with her five year old daughter, Faith, in Faith’s hospital room while Sahara’s mother, Samantha, was catching up with her own older sister, Tamara, who was Faith’s doctor at the Hospital for sick children in Toronto. The two sisters had not seen each other for over thirty-five years after Samantha had left their London, Ontario home to live on the streets after having been abused by her aunt’s husband as a young teenager. Their mother’s younger sister had taken them in after their parents had been killed in an automobile accident. Tamara’s life ever since then, for the most part, had been one of success, joy, a meaningful career, and a happy marriage. The only things that Tamara felt were missing in her life were her parents and a child to love and nourish. Samantha’s life, meanwhile, had been one of failure and sadness as she was forced into the sex trade which led to an addiction to drugs. The only bright spot in Samantha’s life was the birth of her daughter, Sahara, and then her grandchild, Faith. Through a twist of fate, Faith had come to Tamara’s hospital several months ago because of multiple health complications and, without knowing who Faith was, Tamara had become her doctor. It was just earlier this morning that the sisters had finally realized the connection and met one another after so many years of separation.
“I’ve missed you, so much,” Tamara said, squeezing Samantha’s hands. “I have so many questions.”
“I missed you too,” Samantha said, returning Tamara’s squeeze. “You don’t know how many times I wanted to reach out to you.”
“Why didn’t you?” Tamara asked. “Your daughter, Sahara, has told me some of your story. I could have helped you. I would have dropped everything and come to get you.”
“I know that now,” Samantha replied, “but I didn’t then. I was so ashamed of what I had become that I couldn’t imagine you ever wanting me to be part of your life. I might have ruined your life, too.”
“Never,” Tamara said, leaning forward and looking into her sister’s eyes with an intensity that made Samantha draw back. Tamara continued, “Nothing is more important to me than you. We’re family. And now your daughter and granddaughter are part of my family, too, if that’s okay with you.”
Samantha let go of Tamara’s hands – clean, strong, doctor’s hands – and wrapped her own rough looking hands around her coffee mug. “Family,” she said softly. “I like the sound of that. But I’m not sure you want that. You don’t know what you will be getting yourself into if you become part of my family.”
Tamara rushed to disagree. “It doesn’t matter, Sam,” she said, using the short-form of Samantha’s name that they had used as children. “I love you. That’s all that matters.”
Samantha smiled at her sister. “Do you know how long it’s been since someone has called me, Sam?” she asked. “I used to call you, Tammy. I’ll bet nobody dares to call you by that name, do they, Dr. Tamara?”
Grinning, Tamara replied, “Only my husband. I’d like you to meet him. I told him about you many years ago and then again last night I told him who you might be and that I was meeting you today. He would really like to get to know you.”
“Your husband must be a very nice man if he knows all about my past and still wants to meet me,” Samantha said, a look of shame on her face.
Tamara sat quietly for a moment, taking in what her sister has just said. “He’s a good man, one of the best you will ever meet. But, yes, I’ll admit that he has trouble understanding the choices some people make. Yet, that has never stopped him from using his good fortune to help others. He has made some very large donations to this hospital and to other charitable causes.”
“That’s nice,” Samantha said, “but what about you, Tammy? Do you have trouble understanding my choices, too? Do you really want me back in your life or are you offering that only because you feel you should?”
A look of surprise that turned into a look of concern passed over Tamara’s face. “No, Sam, I’m not asking to be part of your family because I think I should but because I really want to. My husband and I are members of a church that is all about family and the importance of love and forgiveness.”
“Forgiveness,” Samantha exclaimed. “Is that what you think I need? To be forgiven by you?”
“No,” Tamara said quickly, struggling to hold back the tears that threatened to come rushing out. “You have it backwards. I need to be forgiven by you. For not being there for you when you needed me. I’m the older sister. I should have been looking out for you. I should have seen what was happening at home when we were teenagers. I should have gone looking for you when you left.”
“Oh,” Samantha said softly. “I shouldn’t have accused you like that. The truth is that I thought you were being abused by that jerk too and had just decided to do nothing about it. I couldn’t stand it any longer and had to get away from him.”
“Sam,” Tamara said, no longer able to hold back her tears. “If I had known I would never have stood by and did nothing.
Samantha let go of her coffee mug and reached across the table, putting her hands over Tamara’s. “It’s okay, Tammy,” she said, tears of her own now leaking from her eyes. “We’ve got each other now. If you need forgiveness, you have it.”
“Thank You,” Tamara said, letting go of Samantha’s hands and wiping her tears away as Samantha did the same with her own.
“So,” Samantha said, “tell me more about your husband and the church you two are part of. Not that I have any use for religion. But you two obviously think it is important and if there’s any chance your belief in God will help my granddaughter I’m willing to listen.”
Tamara hesitated before answering and then said, “To be honest, I’m not as sure about how much help God will be as I once was. When I first joined the church I had only been a doctor for a few years and had all kinds of questions about all the suffering I saw, especially when young children, even babies, were dying. They were all so innocent and through no fault of their own were dealing with terrible pain and all kinds of things even adults shouldn’t have to experience. I needed answers and the church provided them for me. At least it gave me some comfort at the time, but not so much anymore. My husband grew up in the church and has a much stronger faith than I do. We’ve talked about it many times but I haven’t come to any conclusions yet.”
“Wow!” Samantha said. “That’s not the answer I was expecting! Here I am looking for you to give me some hope and, instead, you burst my bubble by admitting you might not believe in God any more than I do. Thanks a lot, Sis.”
“Please, don’t misunderstand me,” Tamara interjected. “I still believe in God, but not in the way I once did. When I joined the church I was told that all a person had to do was believe in God, trust in the love of Jesus, and support the church, and that person would be rewarded with prosperity and success. I believed it because that’s what my husband and I did and so many good things seemed to come our way. That belief has allowed me to continue my work as a doctor with very sick children, despite my doubts about the message. It’s always been an uneasy faith for me, but it’s all I had to cling to.”
Samantha looked deeply into Tamara’s eyes and saw something there she hadn’t noticed before. Uncertainty and a plea for help rested in them that she thought her older sister never needed. In Samantha’s opinion, her older sister was always in charge, always in control, always sure of what to do next. Now, she wasn’t so sure that was true. “It’s okay not to always know the answer to everything,” Samantha said gently. “It’s okay to have questions and to doubt whether you’ve done the right thing or will make the correct choices.”
Tamara clasped her hands together and with an anguished look on her face replied, “You’re wrong, Sam. It’s not okay if I make incorrect decisions. When I do that people die! Too many times I’ve watched a patient of mine die and wondered if it’s my fault? What if I make a mistake with Faith? I don’t know if I could live with myself if I don’t find a way to help her.”
“I trust you, Tammy,” Samantha said. “I always have, even though I may have said that I didn’t at one time or another. You’ll make the right decisions, and even if things don’t go the way you want them to, I’ll still love you.”
An obvious look of confusion mixed with relief passed across the features of Tamara’s face. “How can you say that?” she said. “I thought I was the one with faith in God, yet you’re the one who claims not to believe in God then tell me that you will still love me even if I fail you. You’re putting too much faith in me, Sam.”
“You think that because I will love you even if Faith dies, I believe in God?” Samantha asked. “I said I trust you and that isn’t the same thing as believing that you or God can fix everyone, including my granddaughter. I’ve had way too many people I know die, despite the best efforts of doctors and prayers to God. What I trust you to do is to make the most loving decision you can and then to act on it.”
“You do?” Tamara said.
“Yes,” Samantha said, “In fact, so much so that I want you to help me end my life.”