Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Place Where Life Changes in an Instant

It's almost funny now.  In those relatively uncomplicated days before I fell, I was often seized by a sense of pending deja vu. Yea, I know. That doesn't make a lick of sense as we say in the south. I guess God was trying to tell me something? I could feel him hovering near every step I took. It was a precious time.  I had folded my resources around me, my encouraging books and my multiple versions of the Bible, and nestled in their blanketing comfort.  Even tho' God had not sent the cavalry over the hill at the last moment in 2003, I still hoped he might dispatch them this time. 

I wasn't sure where my good God was taking us, but surely we had seen the worst outside of imminent death.  There was still a chance I could be God's cheerleader and would tell the story I had envisioned. My city was groaning under the stress of unemployment. The traffic on perpetually busy streets dried up. The roadways were often so deserted that I would reflect back to the start of the Persian Gulf War or the night after 9/11. I would find myself uneasy about what I'd find on the 'breaking news' when I got home.  It was only more news about unemployment.  We'd escaped by the skin of our teeth. Surely we'd still find a way to be the poster family for restoration after total loss. Surely, I'd be able to comfort other wives who were now looking down the barrel of a loaded economic gun?

A series of events unfolded in the community around me that summer after Jeff moved. All of them involved sudden and unexpected change.  I left home to run errands. On the way home, I noted that a house 2 blocks from mine had burned to the ground in the interim. Later that day, I posted a Facebook status update reflecting the chilling effect.  It went something like, "I went about my day as usual, thinking that today would be just like yesterday. So did a neighbor.  Life changed in an instant. Their house burned down. We go on as if today will be the same as tomorrow...and then life changes in an instant."  If I had to guess, I'd say I had about 10 of those 'life changed in an instant' moments as Facebook updates in the days just prior to my fall. God's funny sometimes, isn't he? Yea.. Ha-ha.

When the boys and I gathered at night after Jeff had moved ahead of us to Tennessee, I'd often tell God how mindful I was of his protection. I'd note with awed humility that none of us had even  broken a bone, other than my father and grandfather, that I could recall. Ain't that almost funny? Ignorance is bliss as long as you don't know what you don't know.

I could sense the fragility of life and the serendipity of circumstance every day as my summer of uncertainty unfolded into an autumn of despair. The irony of my oft given thanks was not lost on me as the EMS van wound its route to the hospital. After I posted last night, I remembered more of the conversation my hand-holding paramedic and I had.  I told him about my good God and how I wasn't so sure anymore that he had good plans for my little family of 4.  I told him he left my broken heart and spirit laying in the mud, but I didn't ask him to go back and get it.  Guess that was one ride he maybe won't forget?

The Physical Therapist took one look at me on crutches the day after surgery and ordered a walker.  I told you...pain meds and I don't mix.  I saw the orthopedic surgeon's eyebrows lift as I hopped past him down the hallway.  He didn't have to say it. I could read it on his face. He didn't think I had it in me.  I had no choice. I had a 3-level house and a helpmate living 6 hrs away who would be home about 48 hours every 2 weeks.

I hobbled on my one leg telling myself with every step that there were thousands of women all over this country facing far worse with husbands in a war zone dodging bullets. I might have lost my good God, but I wasn't going to be a wimpy whiner about it.  No matter what I was facing, I had it easier than they did.  Ok... I wasn't going to be a weeping, wimpy whiner until late at night when it was just me, the television, and the chasm in my soul that used to hold my heart.

The cheerleader in me would tell me to get up and get one of my safety nets. I couldn't even bring myself to turn my head toward the bookcase that held them all.  I wasn't mad at God.  I wasn't feeling rebellious. I just felt utterly lost, utterly abandoned, and utterly empty.  Emptiness as dark as the far off corner of space overwhelmed me. I had been big and brave for 10 years. I just didn't have anymore to give toward that effort, I guess.

My boys, my sister, my BFF who presided over breakfast, and I began to learn systems and approaches that would make life easier.  The 1st trip up to shower and back down took over 2 hours as we figured out what we were doing.  By the end of the gauntlet, we had it down to 40 minutes or less. I'll spare you the arduous details, but naps soon followed the shower for the 1st 3 weeks or so.  Physical therapy x2 per week gave me a reason to get out of the house. We got brave enough to go to Target and roll me around.  Once, we even did Walmart.  In a few weeks, I was getting the coffee ready for my breakfast BFF after unloading the dishwasher and sweeping the kitchen floor.  I am woman hear me  roar....meow.

I thought a lot about quad and paraplegics. I thought alot about babies in strollers.  I told myself life could be worse. And, even tho' my head fully acknowledged that fact, my heart was unimpressed.  Well, it would have been if I had had one anymore.  All I had was emptiness. As good as it was to have everyone helping me, I did not have the one person I wanted most of all.  He was 6 hours away through no fault of his own and lucky to be there to boot.  We sucked it up and kept on keeping on doing what we both had to do.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Occasionally, I'd try to tell God about the inequity of it all.  Through all of Jeff's health crises, he'd had me there to lean on, to depend on.  For the 1st time in our marriage, I was as needful, if not more, and he was not there. On his quick trips home, he seemed lost and left behind, grasping to come up to speed with the processes we had developed in his absence.  "God, we'd just gotten back on both feet. We had just escaped the monster in the shadows. We were just feeling married for the first time in our marriage.  Now we are more and more like 2 ships passing in the night again.  What kind of good God are you?"  Only silence filled the air.

My 4 week post-op visit loomed large in my mind.  If I were a drowning swimmer, it would have been a flotation device. My anxiety increased exponentially as the day approached. The morning had gone smoothly, and we were in the car ready to go.  Only, the car would not go.  Our house sits on a downgrade with a steep driveway. We were trapped at the bottom of the hill.  When I tell you it was a pure miracle that my sister resurrected that thing, you can't appreciate the truth of the statement. By the time she got the van to lurch and then bolt like a rocket out of the drive, I was screaming and begging my absent God to PLEASE just let me get to that doctor's office. Once the sobs and screams began, they wouldn't stop.  I told him that I needed my husband for days just like this one.  I begged him to let my husband come home since I couldn't go to him for months on end yet.  It was horrible.  I don't know how my sister endured it.  Even today, I can hardly bare to remember.  I cried till I had dry heaves.  I screamed till I was hoarse.  I wondered where God was and if he could hear me.  Desperation is an ugly thing when you think you are all alone without your good God to run to. 

And mask is off.. Have I scared you as much as you would scare me if you took yours off? This world is a scary place where life changes in an instant.  It is a scary place where truth, as well as right and wrong, have become relative.  It is a scary place where neighbors barely wave much less know each other.  It is a scary place where 12-year-olds commit suicide and 27-year-old rock stars die too soon because of demons they couldn't escape.  I'm afraid that if we don't find a way to drop our masks and stick together, there isn't much hope for any of us.

Thanks for being brave enough to come back again.  I hope you brought a friend. If you know someone whose soul is hoarse from crying and whose tears now only produce dry heaves, maybe you could tell them you've found a place to call home? Tell them it is for those who are tired of explaining the chasm where their hearts used to be.

Genesis 32: 28,30(NIV)
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”


  1. I thank you kindly for your comment as this post was a very, very difficult one to write. Bless you.