Twenty-four hours into the HospitalStay with Mama, she and I rode in an ambulance from Warner Robins to Macon, a very painful ride for Mama, only made more so by the driver blasting Q106–Classic Rock. Yeah, there’s another letter to write. I’ll add it to my to-do list.
Forty-eight hours in, I had spent a night in the CVICU waiting room, been home the next morning for a few hours, and then returned mid-afternoon to hang out with Mama again. The game plan was for me to stay until visiting hours were over for the night at 9 p.m. Mama and I talked some, she dozed some, and we sat in companionable silence too. One of the care techs came in and shared her story with Mama, while holding her hand and trying to take her mind off the pain. Mama was like that–folks were always sharing their stories with her. She was a great listener.
As the evening wore on, Mama was getting tired, but the pain kept her from getting good rest. It was about 8:15 when she said, “Why don’t you head on home? It’s almost time, and I’ll be fine.” I told her no. I just didn’t feel like I could leave yet. I am thankful for that still, small voice that told me to stay. It was only a few minutes later when I noticed a flurry of activity at the nurses’ station. Doctors and other staff were gathered and looking towards our room and then moving with purpose towards us. I knew something big was about to happen.
There was a very kind doctor who had a great smile–remember Enos from Dukes of Hazzard? Yeah, that kind of smile. He came in and explained that the latest MRI confirmed what they had suspected, and that Mama would need emergency surgery within the hour. We were both in shock. Mama did not want to have surgery. When my brain started functioning again, I thought about Sandy, my sister who had been there earlier that day for several hours. She had probably only been home for a couple of hours actually. I called her and put her on speaker phone. She talked to Mama about the surgery and listened to what the doctor had to say. She told Mama, “I don’t think we have a choice. I’m coming Mama. I’m leaving now.”
I looked at Mama and she looked at me. I knew her fears on this, but we really had no choice. She finally nodded and said, “Go ahead. Sign it.” She was in so much pain she hadn’t been able to sign anything for herself since being admitted. “If it will make this pain go away…..I’ll do anything.”
There was a rush of getting things together and then wheeling Mama down. One of the last things she told me was, “Don’t let Sandy do anything foolish.” Meaning what, Mama? Mama was worried about her making the two hour drive late at night by herself and wasn’t sure Sandy should come. I tried to reassure her, but I knew it was on her mind.
After meeting the surgeons and anesthesiologist, I was led out to a waiting area. To sit by myself. And wait. I had called my other sister and my brother and let them know. I talked to my aunt again. While I was talking to her, she said to be sure to check my cell phone, that my cousin had texted me. I told her I would, and we said goodbye.
And there was the first gift of the night.
My cousin and his wife had come down to stay with his folks for the weekend. When they heard what was happening, they decided to come and sit with me. When I read this I shed the first tears of the night. That they would make their lives interruptible, travel a half hour up that late in the evening, that they didn’t want me to be alone–have I mentioned how incredible my people are? And they brought me a bottle of water and homemade peach cobbler. There is that too.
In the meantime I had texted my dear friend and minister, who also said she was coming. Bless her heart, I was tucked away in a waiting area that no one knew about apparently, so she wound up wandering the hallways of this enormous hospital complex, until she was rescued by a kind soul who led her to where we were. And then I got the second gift:
My sweet friend had heard all about my experience of spending the night in the waiting area the night before without the comfort of pillow and blanket. On her way out her door, she grabbed these blankets and a pillow for me and my sister to have as we sat through the night in the surgery waiting area. Bless her. Yes, they were as cuddly as they look.
My third gift arrived in a bit of comic relief. My sister was trying to figure out how to get to the right parking deck. We could SEE her from the windows in the waiting area. It was pitch black out, but there she was, trying to get around one way and closed streets to where I was telling her to go. Finally my sweet cousin pulled out her phone and used the GPS to lead Sandy in. I was so relieved and thankful when she was finally sitting next to me. And I looked around. Sitting around us were people who loved us, who made time to be with us during a very dark and scary time. And there were so many more who were holding us in their hearts who couldn’t be physically present. So thankful for them all.
One of my heroes, Hugh Hollowell, who runs Love Wins Ministry in North Carolina tells the story of one of his friends in need asking him for help with her utilities. She became quite upset when he told her he just didn’t have it. “I thought you were my friend,” she said. And Hugh told her he was. And that though he couldn’t keep her lights from going off, he would come and sit with her in the dark…..because that’s what he thinks Jesus does. Sits with us in the dark.*
Tonight I am thankful for family and friends who sit with us in the dark. Who hold our hands and tell us it’s okay to be afraid, it’s okay not to want to do this again. So soon. And who bring us comfort in the form of warmth and a most delicious peach cobbler. Most of all, I am thankful for folks who show up. They may not be able to fix things–things may not even be fixable. But in the midst of the darkness, they show up. In whatever way they are able to–bringing meals, sending messages, making phone calls, dropping off goody bags, delivering cups of coffee, offering hugs in a hallway, listening, sharing muffins on a Wednesday aftenoon, through all of this–sitting with us in the dark. And that is one of the greatest things any of us can do for each other.
*This story can be read in the chapter “The Marine,” in Karen Spears Zacharias’ book “Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide?: ‘Cause I Need More Room for my Plasma TV“. Or you can meet Hugh Hollowell here http://lovewins.info/ or here (yes, it’s 18 minutes long, but I’m pretty sure you will love him):