Monday, September 30, 2013

Peace by the Sea

After Lana's diagnosis, we went to the shore for a couple of days.  We tried to re-create the excitement of years past.  Nothing seems to be the same.  The ocean is the same, and the boardwalk is still there--maybe a couple of new shops have replaced old ones.  But we have changed.  No more shovels and pails and chubby legs running for water at the edge of the ocean.  No more drippy ice cream faces smiling in the hot sun.  No more pulling our little girls in the wagon up and down the boardwalk in the chilly evening, excitement in their eyes as we approach the carnival rides with the flashy lights.  This day, fear of the unknown crowds out the fun.  Sadness about my granddaughter burdens my heart.  I grieve for her and the journey ahead for her family.  Their lives have changed forever.

But the monkeys in the helicopter still sing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".  (If you've been to our shore, you know what I'm talking about!)  Arielle and Liana still want to play Goofy Golf and we still drive the surrey while the morning sunlight glints off the ocean--although now we need the big surrey and all four of us can power it.  The girls ride the carousel again.  Arielle says she did it for me.  Fred and I watch and wave at them as they go around, like we've always done. This is our special place.  We have so many memories of our precious daughters here.  Everything we see before us has a story of times past.  Good memories.  There is nothing sad anywhere in this place.

We take a long walk along the shoreline with only a bucket and a camera.  The girls are looking for treasures in the sand, and I'm looking for peace.  Arielle walks into the deep water and I watch her carefully.  It was so much easier when my little girls would dip their toes in the cold water and then run back to me.  I think how beautiful the ocean is this day.  But as I look across its depths, I know how frightening it is.  There are sharks and jellyfish, and the riptide can pull you away until you drown fighting it.  The tide can destroy homes and lives.  The ocean is so unpredictable.  Yet we are drawn to it, its vastness and its mysteries.

I notice big waves are breaking far from the shore.  Just before they crash, they shimmer in a dazzling light.  In the deep, God shines even brighter.  He is there when life is uncertain.  He is there in the despair of our days.  And today, he gives us all this beauty!  A walk with my beloved family gathering seashells while the ocean roars alongside us.

A very old woman is adrift in an inner tube.  She comes in with the waves and then goes back out to sea.  She appears to be asleep, her eyes closed, and she is slumped over with her head on her chest.  Her hands hang limply, trailing through the water.  We walk past her, but I keep looking back.  Is she okay?  Now she is bobbing up and down where the waves are breaking so far out.  There are no lifeguards here.  Another wave comes in and she is back on the sand, still asleep.  I point her out to Fred and he walks back and calls out to her.  Her eyes open and her arms began to gently paddle the water.  The waves retreat and she goes back out to the deep.  I'm amazed at her lack of fear!  Imagine sleeping on the ocean while you float in a tube!  She is an experienced life live-er.  I so admire her courage.

We walk on, leaving her behind.  I let go of the worry and enjoy the hours we have left beside the sea.  A verse comes to mind, one of my favorites:

"Do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not look anxiously about you, 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)   Surely he will.  He is our God.  He loves us.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

Two Mondays

This is a difficult post to write.  I just don't want to think about the details of Labor Day 2013.  But my purpose in blogging is to record our family's lives here together.  When I am long gone, maybe someone would read this and ask, "Why didn't she write about Lana?"

I'll start with the day after Labor Day.  Fred, the girls and I are traveling through rolling farmland under bright blue skies.  The weather is balmy and the white puffy clouds are too perfect to even seem real.  But then this day doesn't seem real.  Today we had planned to go to the shore.  But we are heading in the opposite direction--to Children's Hospital near our state capital.  Sometimes life does that to us.  We must go where we did not plan to go and did not want to go. 

But we are filled with hope!  I had talked to my son earlier that morning.  He said my granddaughter was stable and doing better after her midnight transfer by ambulance from their local hospital.

Labor Day.  I had talked to Jon and Chrissy several times.  Jon was at work, Chrissy at home.  They were both concerned about Lana.  At first it was because she hadn't eaten over the weekend.  Yes, that was troubling.  But school had just started.  Maybe she was stressed?  Or maybe she had a stomach virus.  Ordinary stuff.  Then Chrissy told me a more troubling symptom.  She said the last couple of weeks Lana has been extremely thirsty.  She was constantly asking for drinks.  This is a child who seldom finishes her glass of milk or juice at mealtime.   Lana was also very, very tired.  She'd already had a nap that day and now she was lying on the couch half asleep.  During one phone call Chrissy told me she had done some research on-line and she thought Lana might have diabetes.  She had called the family doctor and Lana was scheduled for morning.  I was very frightened.  I believed Chrissy was right.

A little bit later Chrissy said Lana wouldn't wake up.  Jon was on his way home.  They were taking her to the ER.  Panicked, I tried to hold it together.  Then Chrissy cut me off.  The doctor was on the line.  Relief, they will find out what is wrong. Lana will get treatment. I worried about Chrissy too.  She is pregnant, due October 5th.  This could send her into labor. And then that was the last I heard.  Neither of them have a cell phone.

We waited.  And waited.  No word.  I thought they would come home after their trip to the hospital and call me.  And everything would be fine.  Lana would have been cared for and she would be okay.  I didn't even know which hospital they had gone to.  Finally, a couple of hours later, I called our area hospitals.  Jon would be more familiar with them and Lana might be there.  No, she was not.  Fear, prayer.  Lots of prayer.  I prayed Psalm 91 for Lana, pleading with God, holding him to his promises for the life of my granddaughter. "She who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty...His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark...You will not be afraid of the terror by night...He will give his angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways...Because she has loved me, I will deliver her, I will set her securely on high because she has known my name.  She will call upon me and I will answer her.  I will be with her in trouble. I will rescue her and honor her.  With a long life I will satisfy her and show her my salvation."   I'm getting shaky again just writing this.  I don't want to relive this night.

Finally I found the right hospital.  All they could tell me was Lana was there in the ER.  No one was at the nurses' station when I called, so I couldn't get any news.  More waiting.  Hours?  I lost all sense of time.  Then Jon called.

This was the call you never want to receive from one of your children.  Jon was back home and my initial relief was instantly dashed.  Jon's voice still haunts me.  "Mom, it's really, really bad!  It's so bad!"  What? What?  The terror in my voice brought Fred and the girls into the kitchen.  I was on the floor and shaking so hard I could hardly hold the phone.  Jon said Lana almost died.  But she didn't?  She's alive?  Yes!  I clung to that to reassure my son.  Lana was nearly in a diabetic coma.  She had been given IVs and was awake now.  She was to be transferred to a children's hospital.  Jon was gathering things at home and was rushing to get back.  The hospital was about an hour away.  I was so scared for him driving alone.

Pray.  Pray. I hung on God's word like a lifeline.  A refrain that has come up recently in my readings--God's steadfast love and faithfulness.  God's steadfast love and faithfulness....I said it over and over.  I didn't know how to pray--just to cry out.  "God, you love Lana.  God, you are faithful to your people." 

It was very long night.  I didn't hear from Jon or Chrissy again.  In the morning I called the hospital and got a room number.  Lana made it there.  She was admitted.  I finally called the room about 8:15.  Jon's voice was filled with relief.  He put Lana on the phone!  Her precious, tiny voice saying she feels fine!  Jon told me the crisis was past.  Lana's blood sugar was constantly being monitored but she was somewhat stabilized.  For those to know anything about blood sugar, normal is 100 to 120.  Lana's was over 1,000 when she first arrived in the ER.  It was in the 300's now, so far from normal. But she was alive! This little girl had such a long way to go.  But the good news was that she had eaten and her IVs were being discontinued.  Lana has Type 1 diabetes, or what we used to call juvenile diabetes.  Her pancreas is not producing any insulin.  It is an autoimmune disease.

So we arrive at the hospital.  Lana is back asleep.  She is gaunt and pale.  Almost 10 years old yet her tiny body barely lifts the blanket over her.  She is a wisp of a girl.  How could we not have seen this coming?  We just saw her a week or two earlier.  But she's always been small and thin. 

We spend the rest of the day there.  Lana awakes and she is our Lana again.  Her body is ravished but her spirit is revived.  We watch as her blood is tested and Jon injects her with insulin.  Every day, 4 times a day, and once in the middle of the night, for now.  All day we joke and laugh-- unbelievably, I think now.  How could we have been in such jolly moods after the course of the night before?  Because we are so thrilled that Lana is alive!  Jon gives us testimony about how he saw God's hand every step of the way.  How did Chrissy find that particular website that brought them to the hospital?  (I read it just a couple of days ago.  It is a blog post by a mother whose daughter had a similar crisis.  But the details were so eerie because they were almost identical to Lana's.)  Then Jon tells me when they first arrived at the ER, the nurse introduced himself.  "I am Gabriel.  I'm here to help you." 

The next day Jon, Chrissy and Lana will attend an 8 hour seminar on diabetic care.  Then she will be released to go home.  I call again in the evening.  Lana is doing well.  Jon is asleep in the hospital room, exhausted with the weight of the world on his shoulders.  Chrissy is at peace.  It seems the baby has suffered no harm from the stress.  All is well in the world.  But so many "could have beens..."  This night we are all grateful for God's unending, steadfast love and his great faithfulness.  For his presence when we are afraid.  For giving us all hope.

The title of this post was Two Mondays.  So what happened the very next Monday?  New life!  Lana's baby sister Eva is born!  I called this picture "Two Miracles."