“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you…Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:36
Out of the blue, and with no warning, I awoke on a beautiful, fall Monday morning with a headache, some occasional bright “sprinkles” as a part of my vision, and with a slight numbness in two of my fingers on my left hand. After all, it was Monday – always a day to chill out from the normal stress as a pastor whose busiest, most stress-filled days of the week are Sundays. I was hoping for time for a little nap in the late afternoon – that would be all I needed to feel better.
I dressed and started my day as usual, with an appointment to meet with my friend Ruth who was the secretary at the First Baptist Church about some business procedures for our community Food Pantry that I was learning to manage. Of course, our first exchange was “How are you today?” to which one usually replies, “Fine.” However, I learned a long time ago that “fine” is more typically a habitual response – it can mean something entirely different! Fine is what we usually say…when what we really mean is…
F = frustrated I = irritated N = nervous E = exhausted!
But this time, I did mention to Ruth that I was feeling a little more different than usual. She asked “Why?”, then advised I get it checked out right away, so without promising anything, I said I would think about it…but THERE WAS SO MUCH TO DO! “By the time I take care of everything else, I’ll be just fine.” I said to myself. So, I busied myself with all sorts of errands for another couple of hours, only to realize that I was not feeling any better at all.
I found myself doing something I had never done before – why, I don’t know, unless it was my following the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Rather than go to my doctor’s office, I drove straight to the emergency room at East Texas Medical Center in Tyler – about a 40 minute drive from where I lived. Fortunately I had also left the back door of the parsonage open so my cocker spaniel puppy could get in and out as needed. I lived in the tiny, tiny town of Arp in deep East Texas – and leaving one’s door unlocked and/or standing open was usually not anything to worry about.
As I checked into the ER, they took my vital signs right away as they always do – and the next thing I knew, they had me hooked up to all kinds of equipment and were asking all kinds of questions about how I felt and what had I been doing the past 24 hours or so. This went on for about three hours until several doctors came in and informed me I had had a “TIA”. Transient Ischemic Attack/Attacks. Multiple mini-strokes. I had never heard that term before, so it was my time to ask all the questions. Then they admitted me to the Neurological ICU unit for observation and called my local emergency contact, who in turn notified my family of what was going on.
Without going into all the details, they kept me on full bed rest in the ICU while I continued to have more TIA’s — which eventually led to stronger and stronger strokes, one after another. By Saturday morning, I had experienced 36 strokes and was paralyzed on my entire left side – from head to toe. I remember how strange I felt – it was as though the left side of my body didn’t exist any longer. Both my sons had traveled from long distances to be with me, for the outlook was growing more dismal as time went on.
By Thursday evening, the doctors had insisted on my having no more visitors. Two days later, very early on that Saturday morning, they suddenly allowed me to visit with my clergy brothers and sisters, and some members of my church family who had come to pray with me. My District Superintendent, Jack Cox, came in for another visit and happened to be with me when my medical team came in to speak with me.
Jack offered to leave, but I felt I needed him, so he stayed and held my hand while the doctors told me they had done all they could do, and that based on the pattern of the strokes I had had, it was only a matter of time before another more massive stroke would be fatal – more than likely within the next 24 hours. Just as the doctors walked out, my sons walked in. God provides. Jack was there to help me tell my sons what we had just heard and then they were able to speak with the doctors themselves.
For many years prior to this, I had learned that whenever I had found myself in a situation that seemed hopeless (and there have been more than a few of those, believe it or not!) I had always believed that rather than pray for a specific outcome, one needed to pray to submit to the will of God. Up until this moment I had truly believed the doctors would be able to assist me back to health. It might take a while, but I would eventually be just fine. (There’s that word again!) In all reality, I guess there was a part of me that did not want to face what had seemed so obvious to others.
So my prayer in this situation became…”Whatever you want God. They don’t know what else to do. If you’re ready for me to come home, I’m ready. If you still have something for me to do, then You’re going to have to be the One who does the work.” And knowing what strong prayer warriors my sons are, I not only prayed this prayer with them, I assured them I was ready, and I also told them that should I go home, “Don’t you pray me back! Let me go on to glory!” As much as I have always loved where I was and what I was doing, I know glory is gonna be a whole lot better! Hallelujah!
Late that night, I told my sons to go on home and get some rest and we would see what tomorrow would hold.
By this time they had moved me out of the “ward-style” part of the ICU into one of three “private” rooms they made available to people whose time was limited – to give them what privacy they could and help them die with dignity.
The next thing I recall is waking up and looking at the clock on the wall. The room was darkened, but there was just enough light coming from under the door that I could see it was 4 o’clock, and I already knew I had made it to see another day. Just as I was checking myself for signs of further paralysis, the door to my room swung open wide – the light was so bright coming from the doorway that I could see the “outline” of the person standing in the doorway. It was a young man, with lots of curly dark hair, who was dressed in green hospital scrubs. He looked in my direction toward a part of the room that was just beyond my right shoulder, and said in a loud, stern voice, “That’s enough!” This startled me so much I looked to see to whom he was talking, but no one was there. When I looked back at him, he had stepped a bit closer and was looking into my face. With a smile and a gentle laugh to his voice he said, “Now — get up and walk.”
And I did!
That is, as soon as I had fought and argued with two other nurses at first! While I was trying to sit up and get myself unhooked from all those tubes, the male nurse had left and I had to shout and use the call button to get some more nurses in there. One nurse was trying to get me to lie still, and another came in to see to it that I calmed down. I kept telling them I needed to walk, that I could walk – that the other nurse had said to get up and walk. All I wanted them to do was take out all the tubes and help me get to my feet. We kept arguing back and forth, when one of them said “What nurse told you that you should walk? So I told them, and they both said the same thing – “There’s no male nurse on duty tonight.”
To make a long story short, as more nurses came into my room, I kept insisting and fussing with them until they freed me from all the paraphernalia I had in my arms and legs and elsewhere, and helped me to my feet. Of course, I wasn’t ready to run a foot race, but all the paralysis was gone, and after a few first tiny steps of shuffling my feet, I then took small steps for about 10 minutes.
By this time there were three doctors in my room with strange looks of wonder on their faces, talking quietly to each other. I spent the rest of that beautiful Sunday taking yet another battery of tests, answering a lot of questions, but most of all, enjoying my family!
I went home the next day.
Beloved, when God is all we have, He is all we need! Let go and let God be God!
From my heart to yours, Kay