I had my treatment today. My nurse, her name is Sue, is an amazing woman of faith. In the Remicade lab, there are nine chairs, so they can administer Remicade to nine people at a time, rotating at 30 minute intervals, because most people come in, get their drug, and are gone in two hours, as they are NORMAL people who aren't allergic to the only medicine on the planet that can keep them alive. So there is always someone coming and going. Sue has one other nurse who assists, but Sue is the MAN, if you know what I mean. When I go there, she always has me set up in the same seat. Way in the back, the seat furthest from the door, furthest from the phone, furthest from any extraneous stress. This chair is next to her desk. I receive one-one nurse/patient care every time I receive an infusion. Because, Sue says, I like Sue so much, I like to hang out with her all day. Oh, and because I'm special with my allergic reaction to the drug and all the means and methods she has to use to make sure I survive each and every infusion. But I do like to hang out with her, and you would too. She is amazing. She has an illness too. And it's chronic. So she KNOWS. But YOU wouldn't know it if she didn't tell you, or if i hadn't just spilled the beans, cuz no matter how much pain she is in (and yeah, it's a lot), she is always smiling, always nurturing, always THERE, always giving praise to God, even for the smallest of things like getting an IV in on the first stick. No, you wouldn't in a million years know that my very special angel nurse suffers horribly each and every day. Not til I just spilled the beans anyway.
When I am there, Sue tells the other nurse, that she is on her own with all those other patients for the entire length of the day, or until I am gone, unless there is an emergency, because I am so 'special' (allergic). Every single time, Sue takes both of my hands in hers, and warms them with her loving touch, and asks by name about Jake, Reilly, Billy, Aunt Meredith, church, all the OTHER parts of my life. She calls this our 'girl time'. She says she wants to know what's going on in my life before she shoots nine vials of poisonous, potentially fatal, rat venom into me. Well, today, she sensed that i have been an emotional wreck. And when she took my hands today, well, I cried a river. She told me that it was a safe place, it was just her, and me, and God, that I didn't have to worry about anything else that was going on in my life like taking care of Jake or what time will my ride be here or how in the world are we going to make our mortgage payment this month.......or.....or.......there was no or, I was in her hands, she would take care of me body, heart, and soul, that she wasn't just my nurse, she was my friend, she was my caregiver, she was in this war on Crohn's with me for the long haul, as she has been for seven long years, and that these thirty minutes with her had been earned. So she knew exactly what questions to ask (because in case you didn't know this, i usually don't scream my problems like a walking billboard), to get me to share. And I trust her implicitly, with my life, not just because she is a nurse, but because she is also my sister in Christ. So I let it all out. And I told her everything. And she listened as she kept massaging my hands and arms (yeah, I know, she was just trying to get a vein ready, but still, she does it with love), and she offered what she could when she could. And she shared. And she opined. She knows Billy as well as she knows me. she knows and loves my babies and she has never met them. And she offered something ingenious, that I hadn't quite thought of to the extent she was suggesting. And when she shared her angle................
My precious family has SUFFERED for two solid years. I got sick and then I lost my CAREER and then I became a stay at home Mom, something I never thought I would be, a role I am still adjusting and adapting to, and most probably, mightily failing at.
But I knew we would be okay financially, as Billy's salary was more than enough to meet our needs. We had been blessed financially, for quite some time.
Billy lost his job two months later.
For two years, we have lived off of our Biblical savings, unemployment.............
We had to cash in our investments, all of our 401k.
Last went the most painful of all, the kids' college fund.
Two years of constant prayer and reverence. Believing we were following God's plan, because He continued to affirm, confirm, and re-affirm. Any time we questioned, He gave us an answer, and He gave it promptly. We were on a new walk with God, together, and we had faith that He would reveal to us HIS plan, on HIS clock.
I received a misdiagnosis of lymphoma.
I received a correct diagnosis of an untreatable exacerbation of my Crohn's. I repeat - UNTREATABLE.
Not just physical suffering, but financial suffering, with no break, except for the trip of a lifetime. 40 days. 8,000 miles. Across this God-loving country of ours, filled with great plains, mountains majestic, canyons unspeakable, people of faith. A trip that was SAFE. A trip that did not require medical attention. Memories forged for a lifetime, shared only by we precious four. An unplanned, spontaneous road trip that we all know God directed us to take.
But as soon as we got back from that, Billy's dad, Robert, had his horriffic, nearly fatal accident.
And as soon as Billy got back from that, he drives his best friend a thousand miles to his death bed. Oh, the burden placed on my husband's mind, spirit, heart, soul, and body, to drive his oldest, dearest, and longest friend to receive emergency, life-saving treatment. The burden and blessing of spending 35 years of life with this man and the last 48 hours as he approached and succumbed to death. And to do it alone, but with "Jesus at the Wheel". Oh how he ministered. How he witnessed. How he prayed to God to get them 'there' in time. How he prayed to God for his friend's salvation. Oh how he watched him die.
And as soon as he got back from that, Billy's father Robert is diagnosed with a cancer that was treatable, but not beatable. And which horrifically murdered him within 20 days.
Oh how we raced to get to see Grandpa, before..........
And we stayed behind, trying to discern what was right for Grandma, for us, for the rest of the extended family, mulling and praying and mulling and praying do we go home or do we move here do we go or do we stay do we go or do we stay, and grieving all the time, sitting in Grandpa's chair, watching Grandpa's TV, riding Grandpa's 4 wheeler, the four of us sleeping together, Little House on the Prairie-style in Grandpa's HUGE four poster bed, with room to spare, snuggling to warm each others' bodies from below freezing temperatures, and to somehow warm each others cold and empty hearts. Waking up every morning to the smell of Grandpa, to Grandpa's wallet, to Grandpa's gun case and Grandpa's guns, to Grandpa's penny jar, to Grandpa's gun lamp where you pull the trigger to turn the light on and off. We were inundated with Grandpa because that is the room that we were given, and that is the room that Billy insisted we stay. I can still smell Grandpa. And we all still ache for Grandpa. Some of us in different ways than others. I ache for Grandpa, and he wasn't my dad, he wasn't my Grandpa. But he was my friend. And he is the first friend that I have ever watched die. And the first friend that I ever buried. And the father of my husband. And the first family death that I had to break to my children. And I am nearly forty years old.
We come home from Grandpa, and immediately try to get right back 'in it'. Billy shows no outward signs of grief. I ask him A LOT about how he is doing. I encourage him in every way that I can. I pray for him. I know he is not finished grieving, but I also know that everybody does it in their own way, on their own time, that there are no RULES for how we grieve. Grief is not an emotion, it is a process. A process that takes time. And the timing is different for everyone. When I finally get up the nerve to talk to Billy about his own personal grieving process, he said he's done grieving. His dad is gone. He's buried. Billy says he cried when his Dad was sick and he cried when he was dying and he cried when he was buried, and there is nothing more to cry about.
But here's the thing. Billy cries - A LOT. But not when he is sad. When he hears a story of God, or sees something on TV that warms his heart, or reads something I have written about the children that moves him in a way he didn't think it would, he cries. And he's not ashamed of it. The tears just roll...in front of me, or the kids, or whoever. He is the most loving man. He loves in ways I will never understand, and I've been his one and only for ten years. He loves his wife and his children like NO OTHER MAN I have ever seen, even in a fairy tale. There is NOTHING that can stop him from taking care of us. He is the head of this family, he is the Lord of his castle, and he has blessedly become our spiritual compass, since he started to take God's hand and walk with Him every day. If anyone ever wanted to see how a man should love his family, let them look no further than our home.
Back to Sue. As we are talking and bawling and messaging and loving, i realize for the first time, that we are all still grieving. More importantly, Billy is still grieving. But the hardest part for anyone to understand is that he lost his Dad, and the one person in the whole world that he could talk to about it, or who would understand, was his best friend. Who he buried ninety days before he buried his own father. He is grieving, and he doesn't even realize that we are ALL grieving. STILL. And that we could be grieving TOGETHER. But we are not.
Ninety days later, Billy runs into the house, carrying the body of a small, lifeless child, screaming and crying, "I've killed her! I killed Reilly! It's all my fault! I am so sorry! I killed her! I killed her! Oh dear God, I've killed her!"
And my head spun off my shoulders. And I cannot erase what are literally SECONDS of time, but feel like years. And I see her. I see my beautiful, amazing, sensitive, life-loving, love-giving, smiling, candle-bright, sassy, cut from my womb as if she were a clone, MIRACLE baby girl. And she is dead.
Time has now stopped. That picture, right there, is in my mind every second of every single day. In those MILLISECONDS, I did not cry, I did not scream, I did not pass out, I did not move. I remember thanking God. And I think I did it out loud in those MILLISECONDS as Billy is running into the house. Again, it is stop/slow/stop/slow motion in my mind. I know what all of us where wearing. I remember that her crazy hair was really crazy that day. And her Old Navy flip flop was lying in the middle of the road.
I thanked God. I thanked him for the amazing gift of love that He had blessed us with these seven years. The lessons of faith and love and trust that he taught us. I thanked him for 'loaning' her to us for awhile. I thanked him, I thanked him, oh God, how I thanked You. For with this miracle baby of mine, You healed me. You healed me of all the hurt. All of it. You took away and erased pain that I never thought would go away, the day You gave me this amazing angel. You taught me that prayer is the only way, and that You are the only answer. You gave me the gift of love. And with that gift, You even gave me instructions. You taught me how to love. But, I didn't need the instructions. Because, how could I not love her? Oh my God, how could I NOT love her? So yes. I thanked Him. What a precious treasure He had loaned to me! She doesn't belong to me! She belongs to HIM! HE trusted US enough to LOAN us our beautiful miracle baby. And now He needed her more than we did. And I was so calm, and so at peace, and just so........blessedly thankful.
She's.......A L I V E??????
Is she.......B R E A T H I N G?????
As I SNAP out of it, chaos ensues.
I call 911.
Billy is panicking, forgetting the basics of CPR.
She is seizing.
But she is........ A L I V E.
Her eyes are rolling in the back of her head.
But she is ........A L I V E.
Her body is covered with road rash.
But she is ........A L I V E.
We are able to open her airway.
She takes a HEAVING deep breath.
And in complete, unison, screaming and crying at the top of our lungs, my dearest sweetest husband and I hold hands and shout, "PRAISE GOD! PRAISE GOD! SHE'S ALIVE! THANK YOU JESUS!"
And the tears keep coming.
And she opens her eyes.
She cannot speak - sounds come out of her mouth, as if she is speaking in tongues.
But she is ........A L I V E.
Her toe is mangled, her body is bruised, broken.
Her eye is badly bloodied and bruised.
She starts to regain consciousness.
She starts to panic and scream and wail and flail.
I have no idea what happened to her.
But she is.....A L I V E.
The paramedics are there in 3 minutes.
And our baby girl AMAZINGLY survived.
When she most probably, against all odds, should have not.
And four days later, she came HOME.
And we hugged her and kissed her and slobbered on her until she was grossed out.
And then everything got back to normal.
Our daughter didn't die that day. But God used Sue to teach me that I am actually GRIEVING, even though she is still alive. Even though I praise Him every day for allowing us to keep her awhile longer. Even though I hug her tighter and kiss her more and stroke her hair longer and let her sit on my lap even when it hurts me. I am GRIEVING. And as much as my family has been blessed...........
We continue to suffer.
With my health.
With our bank account, even though our love affair with money was healed by God YEARS ago.
With our grief.
With a marriage between two people who are still so in love, ten years later, who have endured more than most couples can wrap their heads around, in just one decade.
A marriage between two people who could not be more opposite, yet which has produced the commonality of our sweet, God-gifted miracle babies.
A marriage which is starting to show cracks in its foundation.
A marriage that absolutely, positively, will NOT, by the grace of God, come to an end, no matter how delightful Satan desires that conclusion.
One cannot be healed, until one has suffered.
One cannot die, until one has lived.
One cannot receive, until one has given.
This final lesson has been the most difficult for us to master, as sinfully prideful as we tend to be.
Yet it has been this lesson, heeded by our Christian sisters and brothers, that has SAVED us.
A BP gift card, to offset gas expenses for the trip to bury our Grandpa.
A cashier's check for two hundred fifty dollars.
A gift card for Walmart, Walgreens, Target, Publix, Visa.
A personal check in the amount of ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS.
A tithe of two hundred fifty dollars sent to us by a struggling family of six, who heeded God's call to give to their brethren.
A card with a 5 dollar bill with a note that says, "I'm sorry it couldn't have been more".
A prayer shawl, knitted by a stranger, in a state far away.
A twenty dollar bill stuffed into the console of our car while we weren't paying attention.
Another gift of.................
Though our burdens are great, our blessings are many.
Though we would much rather give than to receive, we have now learned to give in ways we never dreamed.
Though our financial struggles are far from over, GOD has fulfilled our needs.
And He has done so through HIS people.
So as God fills our mailbox and our pockets with the hard-earned wages of so very many, so has He filled the hearts of the givers.
As we continue to follow that which we believe to be God's plan, He keeps his promise to care for us and to love us unconditionally.
As we need prayer, it is prayed before we ask.
As we walk, so doth He.
I did not die today.
I did not suffer today.
I received and discerned a message from God from an unexpected friend, on an unexpected day, at a time when I was expecting misery, and pain, and physical anguish.
I did not suffer today.
For God was with me.
As He always is.
I, and those three most precious to me, spent special snuggle time together this evening, after I got home from my 'shots' as the kids call my Remicade infusion.
There were no fights.
There were no arguments.
There was no yelling.
There was no pre-conceived expectation not being filled.
There were no intrusions.
There was no disrespect.
There was love.
Those cracks in the marital foundation?
God is beginning to fill them.
That grief that continues to consume us?
God is beginning to ease our pain.
The financial burden we can't seem to lift?
God is throwing his arms around us as we heave it together.
This post today? The first in many, many months? The words that haven't come?
Inspired by one of the most special people my family has ever been gifted to know.
Her name is Miss Pat.
She has prayed our names a thousand times.
She prayed our two miracle babies into this world.
And she is praying our way out of suffering.
And Miss Pat?
She's just the beginning.
Just like my Sue.
I saw God today.