Here it is nearing the end of September and I haven't written since May. The summer I hoped to savor is long gone and we have been abruptly dropped in the school routine, maybe not kicking and screaming, but resenting and resisting the demands on our time.
Liana had to write a composition for her class about her summer. She was to think of three nouns that would portray it. She chose friends, hospital, and mountains. Two of those words would bring to mind the essence of summer for me too. The difference is I would say family along with friends.
The end of school and summer started with my number 11th grandchild Teagan. Shortly after number 12 and 13, Elias and Jude arrived! What a gift each child is, my sons and daughters given to me, my grandchildren coming after.
We dove into summer in June, the long warm days lulling me into thinking these times will last forever. Liana was busy with her group of friends, Arielle started working full-time and I could think about sewing projects and house reorganizing and fun! We took several trips to Lancaster to choose fabrics and visited farms to buy organic meat and eggs and raw milk. We went to the movies, church events, picnics and barbeques. We planted our garden. We went to the beach when the water was so cold it chills your bones. On the 4th of July we had a cook-out with friends and family. Summer stretched endlessly before us. Then came July 5th.
After a night of feasting with rich foods, I woke in the night with terrible pain. Indigestion, I thought, but that is unusual for me. I don't even want to think about the rest of July. I had night after night of that pain. It came on predictably at bedtime and lasted about five hours each night. There were doctor visits, an ER visit, testing. What was going on? No one could give me a definitive diagnosis. My dear faithful husband stayed up with me night after night, even though he had to go to work early the next morning. Finally, one Saturday night I had some kind of incident. It is still unclear to me what happened, as I don't remember much. But apparently my blood pressure dropped very low and I couldn't breathe. My sweet Arielle had to call 911 and paramedics came. I do remember lying in the ambulance thinking, this is how people die. There is an emergency, you head off to the hospital and that's the end. Something inside me raged up and I said no, no, no! Then I fought--the mask of oxygen on my face, the paramedic trying to start an IV. He wasn't very competent and I let him know about it. I will not die now! God was gracious and let me live.
More testing. I was radiated up and down. I don't want to think about the damage that caused that I may have to deal with later. The ER doctor thought pulmonary embolism. But they couldn't find any clots. I was admitted to the hospital. Still no diagnosis. A stream of doctors came into my room, each with a different theory on what my problem was. I was given IV morphine and no food. The pain stopped.
Two elders from church came in to visit the next morning. They prayed for me, one very succinctly, asking for a quick resolution to my problem. About two hours later another doctor walked in, one I hadn't seen. He was a surgeon specializing in bariatrics. Certainly nothing related to me. But he said very confidently, "I think it's your gallbladder and I can take it out this afternoon." He was a take charge kind of guy and I was tired of all the talking with no solutions. I said, "Do it." And he did. Back in my room I woke at one point with so much family there the nurse said, "I've never seen so many people in this room before." I am so blessed. I am so thankful for so many things during this nightmare. My faithful husband, my Arielle who took charge of the house in my absence, my Liana with her quiet spirit just sitting beside me enduring the tedium of doing nothing hour after hour. My son Damien who prayed earnestly for me. My son Jonathan who sat on my hospital bed reminding me of our hope in God.
The next day I went home, sore and not sure the problem was resolved. I think I had a bit of post-traumatic syndrome each evening, fearful the pain would return. Our vacation to North Carolina had been planned for the coming week. Could we still go? I had put Fred and my daughters through so much anxiety the past few weeks that I didn't want to disappoint them and ruin their vacation. So we just postponed the trip a couple of days, and miraculously I gained back my strength. "...who forgives all your sin and heals all your diseases..." Psalm 103, the Psalm of my life.
In Cherokee we once again had the joy of sitting with my mom at her table as she served us a delicious lunch and we talked on and on, catching up on a year of stories. This year we came down with my good friend and her family. Remarkably her own mother was raised in Sylva, a nearby town, and she wanted to do genealogy research. My family graciously welcomed this family and made their trip memorable. Once again we were sheltered by the majestic Smoky Mountains. Once again I was blessed to spend time with my precious sister and visit with my brothers and their families. The kids tubed down a mountain stream, we ate Kentucky Fried Chicken and potato salad under a canopy of green, and caught up on family news. We drove to Gatlinburg swinging around hairpin turns, first soaring into the sky and then flying back down. What a ride! What a ride this life is. But God is always good. He is always faithful. We can always trust him, but always remembering that he is more concerned with our sanctification than our comfort. But whatever raging river we walk through, he is ever present and will see us through to the other side.
On the way back from Gatlinburg into Cherokee we drove to Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the Smokies, seven miles up from the main road. Last year I could not hike the half mile path to the top because it is so steep and my asthma kicked in. This year, one week after surgery, I went all the way up. Miraculous healing, wonderful God!
After another tearful good-bye at my mother's house, we headed home. We still had August. Could we still have some summer? We got in few more beach trips, baking in the hot sun, listening to the crashing of the waves, raising our faces to the salty breeze. But it was over in a blink and here we are back in the crazy routine.
I never want to take good health for granted again. I never want to take my family for granted again. I love them all so much, family near and far. But I will. We forget our blessings. Here I am already complaining about our frantic school routine and summer being too short. But after writing this I see it was full and rich.
This is a picture to capture summer--triumph over disease, family and friends beside me at the top of the world!