Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blessed Man

6:00 am. Fred drove to the hospital, even after two days of no food and the colon prep that wipes you out. He had to be weak. Still, he stopped and got me coffee on the way. It was dark, before dawn. My good friend came over at that awful hour to spend the day with the girls while we were gone. I hope she knows how much that meant to me.

This hospital is top of the line. The best of our American healthcare system. How fortunate we are to be here. New, modern, spotlessly clean, efficient. The personnel are professional but friendly and...human. Refreshingly so. Fred was taken in for "processing" right away and I was able to go with him. This pre-surgical business--paperwork and payment, bloodwork and IVs, more colon prep, interviews with nurses and doctors and then more nurses, each of them with a different job. One of the nurses was so likeable she immediately put us at ease. Fred had her laughing when he told her what exactly got him in this predicament to begin with. He told the story of how he had inhaled his dental appliance. She was quite shocked. She said, "Why didn't you choke to death?" Fred answered that it was a miracle. This nurse then raised her hand in the air and exclaimed in a loud voice, "You are a blessed man!" Yes, he is. God reminded us he is here and that he is in control of everything.

The anesthesiologist was very humorless though. He seemed very competent and serious, and that's important too. He asked Fred, "Why are you here?" Fred said, "I'm having an appliance removed from my colon." The guy didn't bat an eye and didn't ask for further explanation. After he left the room Fred had me in tears laughing as he joked, "He didn't even ask what kind of appliance! A hair dryer, A mixer? And he didn't ask how it got there!"

9:00 am. Even though Fred and I had a few of hours to be together pre-surgery, too soon he was given an IV drug and they started to wheel him out. I asked the tech, "Is this good-bye?" Yes, I was told. A quick kiss and Fred is rolling down the hall. He is gone.

Tears spring to my eyes and I rush outside, cold and shaking. I call Joan. She knows what it's like because she's been here. She's the one caring for my girls and right now I need to hear their sweet voices. Then I go back inside and wait. I remind myself, Jesus is here.

10:20am. I check the computer screen and see that Fred is already in recovery! It's only been an hour and twenty minutes. The doctor had predicted it would take two hours. Ten minutes later the doctor comes out smiling. He says everything went just fine. He found the appliance and it is out. Then he takes hold of both of my shoulders and looks me in the eye. "I do have one concern though." WHAT? Then he tells me the hospital doesn't carry the correct dosage of one of Fred's heart meds, so he will have to use his own from home. That's a concern? The surgeon leaves. I am awash in relief and gratitude to our gracious God.

1:15 pm. What is going on? They told me an hour, maybe two, in the recovery room. The women are so patient with me when I keep coming up to their desk to ask about Fred. Finally, he is taken to his room. I stand outside the door while they get him settled. I don't recognize his voice. It is deep and harsh from the anesthesia. Morphine drips into his vein and he is falling in and out of sleep.

2:40 pm. Fred's nurse is gentle and soft-spoken. She knows how to calm worried family members and assure patients they are doing well. She asks me how I'm doing. Then she says, "We're here to care for your needs too." She brings me a glass of cranberry juice and puts her arms around my shoulders. Her kindness causes more tears.

4:40 pm. About a week and a half ago Fred asked his boss about a full-time job at church. Right now he is only working two days doing maintenance and he really enjoys the work. Fred can fix just about anything. I've heard from others that going to full-time is near impossible and, in fact, Fred was told just about the same thing. But as Fred was lying in the hospital bed half conscious, his cell phone rang. It was his boss offering him a full-time position with benefits!

The next day. Fred had a very rough time that first night. I felt awful leaving him there alone. He was in pain and very restless. The machines beep constantly waking him up everytime he would drift off. But he made it through the night and the next day. He's hungry. No real food this whole week. He is up walking in the morning though and I'm amazed at his quick recovery. He is not taking any narcotics, insisting they remove the morphine drip that kept his mind hazy and his stomach upset.

The second day. Fred was in rare form demanding this and refusing that. He wants out. He was supposed to have only clear liquids but finally the doctor relented and let him eat. Breakfast, then lunch. Then they said one more meal and if he tolerates that he can leave. He ordered his dinner as soon as possible, ate it and then his doctor came in. The surgeon said in his 30 years of practice he's only had two other people who went home the second day after this particular surgery. We packed up and left.

What a journey this has been. Only three days real-time, but it seems like a faraway trip when you leave your routine and daily schedules and all that is familiar to go into this other world of hospital-time. Fred is home resting. Keeping him down long enough to heal properly will be a challenge for me.

We are grateful to God and to each of our friends and family members who offered support every step of the way. Thank you!

Another homeschooling mom took the girls on Thursday and Friday to give Arielle and Liana a break from staying at the hospital with me all day. She and all the kids collected beautiful fall leaves and glued them to a poster board. Then they wrote out this verse in big letters: Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10.) It turned out to be a giant get well card. As we propped it up in Fred's hospital room, I knew God had surely answered. This was the verse we prayed for him before the surgery.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Celebration Weekend

We had a busy weekend celebrating a wedding and a birthday. On Saturday Fred's old best friend got married in the same church Fred and I were married. It might be the first time I've been in that sanctuary since our wedding. This friend was Fred's best man, so the whole ceremony was eerily familiar, especially on the eve of our 14th anniversary.

We walked in and the organist was playing the same prelude we had for our wedding, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." For a beautiful rendition, check this out: Now that's real music.
Was the church really this small? I remembered it bigger, with the aisle longer, at least it seemed like that when I had to walk down it. The mothers went up to the altar and lit the candles and I could clearly see in my mind Fred's mother and my mother doing the same. I see their dresses and how they had done their hair. I remembered how they walked to the front, both of them uncomfortable to be there with everyone watching. Then the organist played Pachebel's Canon in D and the wedding procession began. But I was thinking of Marissa, just a little girl back then, walking in with her basket of roses along with little Alex (now 18 with a baby of her own!). These two with their sweet faces made all our guests smile. A young boy helping to usher at the wedding today even looked like Anthony back then.

I looked to the front and there was Fred's friend, waiting for his bride. He was in just one place over from where he stood 14 years ago. Back then my husband was in his friend's very spot, and I could think back and see Fred again, so handsome, waiting for me to come down and take his hand. I was near tears remembering my husband that day, and this wedding had hardly started! Do we all relive our own weddings every time we attend one? Maybe that's why people cry. Not for the new couple but for ourselves and the passage of time.

Then I looked at the group gathered here and thought of our guests back then. My boys were so young. Dominic stood at that same podium, reading the scripture. Psalm 103, it was. Nick, with my only granddaugher at the time just a baby, sat down near the front after he walked me down the aisle. Fred's dad was up front on the other side, gone now. Fred's sister was a couple of rows back, gone now too. The young woman who caught my bouquet at the reception, gone. So many changes in so few years.

The next day we celebrated Lana's birthday in the park. What a gorgeous fall day! October is the best month for a birthday, although the weather is unpredictable. Luckily for Lana, this was the nicest day of the week, very warm but quite windy. Lana was a little sad that her candle wouldn't stay lit long enough for her to blow it out. But she had fun anyway playing with cousins--and her Aunt Arielle and Aunt Liana.

Family celebrations are the best. Even at the wedding we attended, the girls said, "We wish it was a family wedding! It would have been more fun."

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Fred saw the surgeon and we are waiting for the big day to arrive. Despite the surgeon's reassuring words and confident demeanor, the future looks scary. I won't allow myself any thoughts of "what ifs." This doctor told us what would take place, the probable recovery, and when Fred can likely return to work and normalcy. We will stand on that. Not that we trust in this man, but we trust in God and the circumstances he directed that led us to this doctor at this particular time and place. I look for the day we can put all this behind us. But there are lessons in the journey getting from here to there.

After Fred's appointment, the weekend came and we didn't talk about surgery. The weather was delightful and we enjoyed the colors of the turning leaves, the blooming mums and freshly picked apples. This is my favorite time of year. On Sunday Marissa came with us to church and afterwards we went to our local fabric store. All the girls had their hearts set on making purses that day.

After lunch they set to work. Arielle and Liana have good sewing skills and don't need much help. But the pattern and directions for these purses were difficult and the girls needed my help interpreting them. To make things worse, we were altering the pattern and I needed to figure out how to best do that. By the time Purse Number 3 was coming together, I had it down. Marissa had a little bit of trouble too. She's had very little sewing experience, but the seam ripper was soon her best friend.
Unbelievably, we spent seven hours on this project. Here are the girls proudly displaying their creations.
Nothing much was accomplished this day. Or so it seemed. Except when I think back, I see all of us working together, focusing on our task, solving problems, and laughing at our mistakes. At the end, each girl had a new purse, but that was the least of it. We made memories. And we didn't think about surgery. There is enough time for that.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Strength for the Battle

One reason medical testing is so fearful and we so often put it off is because we know the results of such tests may change the course of our lives.

Fred had the same routine screening I had last week. For readers who have kept up with the continuing saga of the dental appliance Fred swallowed months ago, here is the update. The doctor thinks he found it. The problem is that it cannot be removed except by surgery. The situation needs immediate attention and Fred is seeing a surgeon this week.

I was seeking the Lord with many tears and petitions this morning. God has provided so bountifully the past few months. Fred is working again and I've never seen him enjoy his work so much. My husband is back! Now this.

I read a passage from Charles Spurgeon's writings today. It was about God strengthening us and getting us ready for the coming tasks. The past few months God has given to us all we need so we can pay our bills, set our home in order, eat well and get strong--physically and spiritually. We are ready for what's coming. Instead of despair, I will look for God's hand. He won't leave us to flounder but he will go with us. Accidents happen, illness comes. It's the human condition. Why should we be surprised? Rather I am thankful that the past few months God has been preparing us. Now it is time to do battle.

Is it any coincidence that I just finished a study in the book of I Peter? The theme is persevering in faith through hard times. God's words are for Fred, for me, and for all of you going through difficult times.

"Prepare your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

"For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you might follow in his steps."

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed."

"Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good."

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you."

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."