I wrote this in February 2011, and have held on to it since then. I received permission from the family to post it on my blog, and I'm so thankful that they have. Since I wrote this story, this family received and accepted a referral of a baby girl from Ethiopia. I believe she is the child God had for them when they began the adoption process four years ago. They have had a long adoption journey filled with many obstacles and heartaches, but through it all, they believed God had a purpose and plan, and never waivered that He had called them to adopt a baby girl from Ethiopia. In my work, I have asked God to place those He would have for me in my path. He answered my prayer boldly with this family. This is their story:
Today started as any other. I went to the office, checked my email, chatted with my co-workers briefly before heading out on a visit. I was looking forward to seeing this particular family, as it has been nearly a year, and my update was to be on the health of the husband. I went to their house knowing that he, a young and fit looking gentleman, had suffered a heart attack early last summer, and that I must report on whether or not he was now ready to parent an adopted child.
One of my greatest blessings is the clients that God places in my life. I have been privileged to get to know amazing people who teach me as much about myself as they do about themselves through their stories. And I have always liked the couple that I met with today. Their adoption journey has been long, arduous and filled with obstacles. But in spite of that, they are always warm and friendly, but today, as soon as I they opened the door, I sensed a difference in them and in the very essence of their home. He looked different. She looked different, but what was it? Nothing I could say definitively. It was in their eyes, the way they carried themselves, the ease of their movements, and the love between them was palpable on a clearly spiritual level.
I, there with file in hand, sat and began asking the appointed questions, and they dutifully answered, but deeper questions filled my mind. And soon, we got past the surface and into the story, and I was transported to a place of peace. Thankfully, this couple plans to write a book on their experience and you will not have to rely fully on my retelling of what is clearly their miracle, their gift from the Lord. But today, I sat in awe of the God I serve, Jesus, my Savior, and felt inspired to share with those I know. I have asked this family for permission to share their story and they so graciously agreed.
It was Sunday morning, around 7 am on June 6, 2010, and they had just woken up. She recalls that her husband kept getting in and out of bed, which is unlike him. Finally, she asked him what was wrong, and he complained of his right shoulder hurting, and eventually complained that his stomach was hurting as well. When he began sweating, she decided that she needed to take him to the emergency room - he must have been in great pain to be sweating, after all. He tried to balk at the idea of going to the hospital, but she insisted. When they arrived at the hospital, he refused to allow her to drop him off at the ER door, and instead walked in with her. She told the triage nurse that he was suffering from right shoulder pain, stomach pain and chest pain. The triage nurse immediately “diagnosed” him with having gall bladder issues, and ordered shoulder x-rays to that effect – after snipping at him that he needed to breathe better.
He endured the lengthy x-ray process, and as the ER doctors left to assess them, he, standing up, grabbed his chest, looked at his wife, and fell over the gurney. She ran to him, believing he had suffered a seizure – as he was lifeless and distorted – and somehow turned him around in the seated position, so he was leaning on her. Then he fell over, lifeless in her arms. Then, she lifted him back onto the gurney, laying him down, with his head on the pillow – yelling for help. They whisked him away, leaving her with no answers. A doctor came out and spoke to her saying, “You need to call immediate relatives and your pastor,” and though she knew what he meant, she did not break down, but called them and went to an empty room to pray. When her pastor arrived, they prayed together, until a nurse came and told them that they could see him, “But he will not move, and he will not know you are there.” She went to him and laid her hands on his chest praying for him. But he did move and he raised-up when she told him that she was there. Shortly after, she and the pastor were told to leave as they whisked him out of the room again. She did not notice, as the pastor did, that he had flat-lined, again.
In the waiting room, family arrived and she recounted that he had had a seizure and passed out. Hearing this, a nurse corrected her by saying he had not had a seizure, but that they had lost him due to a heart attack – and later she learned that he had been gone for 35 minutes. Doctors did not believe that he would be able to recover, but that he would be unable to move or function cognitively due to severe brain damage from a loss of oxygen. The waiting room filled with church members, who prayed unceasingly. She, due to her firm foundation in Christ, knew that somehow she would be ok, because He would take care of her, though she, of course, prayed that He would heal him.
In the flurry of activity of the crowd that had formed in the waiting room, she felt that she had to be alone and take the steps the two of them had walked that morning into the ER. As she did, she realized that she had walked in front of him and felt an enormous wave of guilt wash over her. “Lord, forgive me, for walking in front of him and not being there to help him.” In response, He said, “It was not yours to do, I had him.” And He showed her a vision of him walking surrounded by angels and angels surrounding her as well. Later, she felt fear realizing that he had died before her eyes when he had dropped to the gurney. But God gave her a vision of something – like a figure - behind him as he fell, and God said to her, “Death is ugly, but he was with Me.” Also realizing and wondering how she had lifted him to the gurney after he died, God showed her a vision of angels helping her.
Late in the evening of that Sunday, it was apparent that he would live and was making enormous strides – beyond the imagination or understanding of the doctors and nurses. One of the ER doctors who had been there as they tried to revive him came out and apologized for wanting to give up (the cardiologist wanted to continue), and asked her how she was handling it all so well. She told him that she prayed and the Lord was comforting her. The doctor wept and acted profoundly humbled. It is her prayer that he will never give up on another patient again.
I asked him if he went to Heaven. I recently read the book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, which I feel was God’s way of preparing me for this visit. In it, the boy, who also suffered a massive injury (internal decapitation) which he should not have been able to recover from, went to Heaven and was able to describe his experience in vivid detail. I was intrigued. “Yes, I did,” he said. And the moment that he did, the Holy Spirit entered the room. It was a physical sensation – a powerful tranquility. He recounted that by Tuesday he was coming out of the drug induced stupor and beginning to have brief visions – fields and cliffs, but nothing clear or concise. He spoke to his pastor about it, and his reply was to pray for God to reveal it to him. So, he prayed. And one night, lying in bed, it was revealed to him. He rolled over to tell his wife, and when she saw him, his face was glowing supernaturally – as Moses when he came down from the mountain after being in God’s presence – and he whispered, “I remember.” He recounted that he was floating – lying on his back – over a beautiful field and could see a cliff and in the sky he saw two clouds. Out of the clouds came rays of light – brighter than the sun, but didn’t hurt his eyes and he wanted to be in the light - and then above the clouds, as big as the sky was the silhouette of Jesus – but he could not see his face. Jesus shook his head and said, “Not yet. Not yet.” And he came back.
I suddenly understood why they seemed different. They are no longer “of” this world. They are still in this world, but they have reached an understanding of God that few of us ever will. God has chosen them for that purpose. I wanted to stay there today, because their house is full of peace. Their eyes are full of wisdom, and love is pouring from them. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I understood and believed God on a deeper spiritual level, and I knew that I would never be able to describe that to anyone who was not in that moment.
Some would dismiss the spiritual aspects of this story. But the facts are hard to deny:
He died from a massive heart attack on Sunday. He was dead for 35 minutes. He was not supposed to recover. He was not supposed to regain brain function. He has no brain damage, and is fully functional. He was shocked 11 times. He had no bruising on his heart or other heart damage. He walked out of the hospital on Friday.
As a result of his heart attack, they have experienced many more miracles than I have recounted here. And I am thankful that they plan to share their story in book form one day, because it needs to be told. It will bless many people in countless ways.
I am so thankful to God for the life He has given me, the people He has placed in it, and the path He has set me on. In this crazy, turbulent world, it is my desire that everyone feel the Peace of Jesus Christ.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. - John 14:27
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
August 6, 2011
Next month, I will be 39 years old. To me, this means my life is half over, which isn’t scary or sad to me, at least not yet. What I don’t like about getting older is that it means my grandparents and parents are too. I’ve already lost three of my grandparents, one to whom I was extremely close, my grandpa Joe. He was my mom’s dad. A dairy farmer in Wisconsin. He wore pin-striped overalls every day, had a quick wit, spoke Norwegian to his brothers so no one knew what he was saying, and loved me with a love that was tangible. He called me “Annie”, and I looked forward to spending summers with him at the farm. He’d always “give” me a calf during my stay and, interestingly, her name would always be Daisy, even if it was a boy. Grandpa would tear up when it was time for me to leave, and promise to buy me a pony if I would come to live with him on the farm. Many times I wanted to take him up on it, because I loved him, my grandma and the farm so much.
I have many memories of my beloved grandpa, but two really stand out. The first was when I was about 14 years old, and life at home was complicated. I was also in the midst of my early teen years, moody and sad. He came in from his chores one day at noon, and I was crying. My grandpa sat down at the kitchen table and asked me why I was crying, and I told him. He sat and listened to my adolescent rantings, taking every word very seriously, listening hard and looking me in the eye. This was not our normal scenario, and I was struck at how he cared. Then he told me that he loved me, and that he knew my feelings were real, but he told me to hang on, nothing lasts forever and things will get better. Time has a way of taking care of things. When he died, this was the first thing I thought of, and I felt so blessed to have this moment that was just ours. The second memory was another time we were alone, talking. This time, I knew he was sick, but I didn’t know it was the last time I would see him. My grandmother was in the hospital and my mother and step-father were visiting her. My grandpa was having trouble with short term memory. He’d ask the same questions over and over, but he clearly remembered the past, and in vivid detail. He had been a sergeant in the army during World War II, stationed in Italy as a medic. I’d always loved his stories of that time, and he loved telling them. So, we spent the entire afternoon talking about his life, the war, meeting my grandmother, and his dreams. What a gift he gave me that day, and I am so glad I have such an amazing memory to unwrap now and then.
I’m also losing my grandmother to Alzheimer’s. What a beastly disease it is. She has always been the picture of health physically, as well as spiritually. But her mind has just been robbed, and with each passing year, she is farther and farther away. My grandmother is the most amazing person I have ever known. Pure, kind, godly, loving, innocent, compassionate, simple and good. She is a saint. I can still hear her voice saying my name, while patting my leg and hugging me in her cozy farm house that was my favorite place on earth.
And so, what makes me think of this today? Receiving a phone call that I have feared, and finding out how it feels to confront the fact that my parents are not invincible. And waves of grief, fear and powerlessness overtaking me, reminding me of when my grandfather died.
My step-mother called today while I took my children to an indoor pool. Because of the noise I did hear the call, so she left a message. “I hate to tell you this in a message,” she began, and I knew instantly that something was wrong with my Daddy. “Your Dad is in the hospital in Dearborn, Michigan, after having problems breathing and pain in his chest. They think he’s had congestive heart failure.” At that moment, my heart stopped. She’s talking about my Daddy. The man who has and would move heaven and earth for me. Immediately, I sobbed. Deep, guttural, and painful. My Daddy.
See, my Dad has always lived his life sacrificially for others. He wants everyone to have a good time and be happy. He sent my brother and me to a private Christian school. We were not rich, and my parents sacrificed a lot to send us to that school. But he never once complained, or even talked about it. He just wanted us to have the best education we could, and that made him happy. It was my dad who drove me to Wisconsin every summer – a 12 hour drive one way. He’d sleep, and drive back to Tennessee the next day. And, when my stay was over, he’d come get me. He’d drive all weekend, and go to work early Monday morning, happy that I’d had a good time with my grandparents. That is my Dad.
Christmas is my Dad’s favorite holiday. Christmas is a big deal in our family. The tradition we’ve created of shopping together on Christmas Eve day, then wrapping our gifts together in Santa’s workshop fashion and finally savoring the opening of each gift. It is my absolute favorite day of the year. The Christmas of my fourth grade year, my Dad bought a horse for me. He wrapped the key to the gate where my horse was being kept, as well as a saddle, bridle and halter. My dad bought a horse! Christmas morning, we went to meet my horse, who promptly bucked me off, but I was not deterred. That horse became my best friend for years and my Dad and I bonded while mucking out stalls. That is my Dad.
Before I was married, I lived in a condo with a friend who was never there. My car was stolen one night, and for weeks, I was scared whoever stole it would come to break in my condo. One morning while getting ready for work, I heard a crash downstairs, and I called my Dad. He worked about 15 minutes away, but I swear he was there in less than 5 with one of his coworkers, weapons in hand to catch the perpetrator. Turns out it was a large mirror that fell off the wall that crashed, but he was there to hang it back up. That is my Dad. It was also my Dad who found my stolen car when the police did not seem interested in investigating our case. He found it in a neighborhood known for drugs and other criminal activity. He called the police, and personally accompanied the officer to the front door to confront the thief. That is my Dad.
When Brian and I returned from China with our new daughter, my whole family and Brian’s mom were there to meet us. Dad, my step-mom, brother and sister-in-law had driven for two days to be there (we lived in Denver at the time). Everyone was all smiles, but I don’t ever remember my Dad smiling so big as when he met his grand-daughter. He told me, “She is truly a blessing!” I had a rough start into motherhood, and it was on my Daddy’s lap I sat and cried like a little girl.
And I wouldn’t be talking about my Dad if I didn’t mention his love for family vacations. He loves to get away from it all with the family, whether it’s a big trip like Disney World or a trout fishing trip in East Tennessee. I don’t think he’s ever happier than when my brother, sister-in-law and my family are with him on a vacation. And he never does anything small. It’s always with a lot of thought and preparation. He’s known to sit over maps for hours to plan out the logistics and details. He will sweat and toil to make sure everything is perfect. And it is, cause he’s there.
So now my Daddy is in a hospital hundreds of miles away, and I can’t run to him to make it better, like he ran to me when my mirror fell. And I’ve cried all day unable to turn off the tears.
My daughter said a prayer for him on Saturday night, “Dear Jesus, please send an angel down from heaven to comfort Poppy tonight.” Then she asked me if I thought He sent one right when she asked, and I said, “Yes baby, cause you believed with your heart and asked it in His name.” Thank you Jesus for sending an angel to comfort my Daddy when I can’t.
And this afternoon, I talked to him on the phone. He sounds weaker than normal, but he says he feels fine and wants to go home. A nurse was in the background, and in his usual way, he was making her laugh, cracking jokes and being friendly. He said he was in good hands, and told me not to come, not to worry, he was fine. But, that’s where my mind is. That’s where my heart is. When he comes home later this week, that’s where I’ll be. Probably sitting on his lap again, crying, cause I still can.