Our life took a chaotic turn this past weekend. On Thursday, Keith mentioned that his stomach hurt. He didn’t seem overly uncomfortable, and there were no other concerning symptoms. On Friday, he thought he felt a little better, but then later it hurt again. I told him that if it still hurt in the morning, we should go in.
Saturday morning his stomach still hurt and I quickly realized that he was rather disorientated and off balance. So, by 7:30 that morning we were on our way to the emergency room.
While we were sitting in the exam room waiting to find out what was going on, my sister called with the news that my mother had a massive stroke that morning. She was unresponsive and the doctors were not hopeful of recovery. She had suffered a very minor stroke earlier in the week, and so was already in the hospital, but she had appeared to be doing well and was expected to recover. This was not altogether unexpected, therefore, but was shocking all the same.
A short time later, they told us that Keith needed an appendectomy. With my mind still reeling and trying to figure out how to travel the 600 miles back to my home town, I waited with Keith till they were ready for him in surgery and then, unable to stay on the patient floors, kissed him goodbye.
Several hours later I received the call from the surgeon that, not only was Keith’s appendix ruptured, but it was the worst she’d ever seen and he was in septic shock. He was placed in the ICU, where he has been receiving excellent care. The infection seems to have cleared at this point, but he’s been dealing with something they call “ICU Delirium,” and problems with his heart and lungs. Fortunately, I can go up and visit him, and have done so every day for a couple hours. He’s doing better, but still has a way to go.
Meanwhile, my mom has been transferred from the hospital to a nursing home and is receiving comfort care in their hospice area. My brothers and sister have been able to see her, but they all agree that I need to be here with Keith. There is nothing I can do for Mom now and the kids and Keith need me.
It’s been an exhausting week.
One of the biggest questions throughout this week has been, “HOW can these two events be happening at the same time??” It seems surreal. On what planet does a 62 year old man have a ruptured appendix the same day as my mother has a massive fatal stroke?? It just doesn’t seem possible.
As you can imagine, there have been many conversations happening. One of the most important was one I had with one of my daughters on Sunday. She commented that it seems like our family just keeps getting “tested” all the time and she wondered why God was letting this happen. I had been doing some thinking of my own already that day, but was coming to different conclusions.
Several weeks prior, we had planned to have all the kids over on Sunday to celebrate my birthday. The previous weekend, I had been gifted a large, 10 pound tube of frozen ground beef and a 5 pound package of mozzarella cheese. It popped into my mind to make lasagna for when the kids come over. Now, believe me when I tell you, never, in all my days that I can recall, have I ever actually followed through with such an idea. I might have thought many times how great it would be to make something ahead and freeze it, but I have NEVER actually done it. But, this time, I DID! I cooked all 10 pound of beef, I put together two beautiful pans of lasagna and tucked them away safely in the freezer, I bagged up all the rest of the meat and froze it, I even cleaned up my kitchen so that you would never have known that such miraculous happenings had occurred there. I felt like I was on FIRE!!
And then came this past weekend. As I sat here on Sunday, numb, going through the motions, just barely functioning while wiping rogue tears from my cheeks at random moments, my thoughts turned to those lasagnas. Thank God (literally) I had the foresight and the energy to make those lasagnas the previous weekend because I sure wasn’t up to making anything now! All I had to do was pull them out and pop them in the oven.
And that wasn’t all. I thought about how, on my actual birthday, earlier in the week, all my adult kids (except the Hawaiian contingent) were able to go out to dinner that night. It was rather unexpected and unplanned, but ended up being the best birthday I can recall.
See, God knew what we were going to be dealing with, and, in His infinite goodness and wisdom, gave us what we needed to handle it. He wasn’t testing us or sending a bizarre punishment for some misdeed. Rather, he had already laid into place things that were going to see us through this incredibly difficult time. I suppose one could ask, if He knew it, why did He let it happen? That’s a question above my pay grade though, I’m afraid. We simply don’t know why this is happening in this way. We may never know. Or maybe we will. The one thing I know for sure is that I have seen God’s hands in and out and through this whole situation. I don’t know why I need to be here tending to Keith, as well as my worried and grieving family, instead of sitting at my mother’s deathbed, but it is clear to me that I am. I know God has a plan and, even if I don’t know what it is, I can keep taking each day as it comes, watching and waiting to see where He leads us.
I intentionally don’t talk a lot about religion on here. This is probably the most I have ever said about God and my faith. Today I want to share with you though, that my faith is the deep current that flows in the depths of my being, keeping me moving forward, even when the surface becomes turbulent. In times like this, it is this deep knowledge that brings me peace and enables to me to continue going about my routine and doing what needs to be done, even when I really just feel like falling apart.
On Sunday, the last thing I wanted to do was go to church. Everything in me just wanted to curl up on the couch and be overwhelmed by my misery. But I got up. I showered. I dressed and got ready to go. I sat in the pew feeling shell shocked and on auto-pilot. Then Mass started and the Scripture passages were read. We began with Job 7:1-4,6-7. (By the way, if you ever think you have a rough life, go read about Job.) ” . . . So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me. . .My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.” Father focused on this for a lot of his homily. Even though Job says that his days come to an end without hope, he is not actually hopeless. In the depths of his sadness, he is talking to God. He may be complaining, maybe even ranting, but that’s ok. We can tell God when we feel like He’s being unfair, or even when we’re angry with Him. The important thing is that we keep talking to Him and allowing Him to work in our lives.
Then the Responsorial Psalm, Psalm 147:1-6, “Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted,” was sung, a reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, and finally the Gospel, Mark 1:29-39, in which Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law and many others. At every turn, I could feel God reaching out through His Scriptures and speaking to me. “I am here. I know your troubles. Everything is in accordance with My plan and My plan is good, even if you can not see why right now. Trust in me. I am with you.”
I can assure you, I am still a mess. I am occasionally a full blown basket case. Fortunately, I am blessed with a lot of supportive friends and coworkers who are so incredibly kind and prayerful. I don’t know what is going to happen in the end, and I don’t know how we are going to get through it, but I do know that somehow, someway, we will.
The thing is, blessings come to us in all different ways – a kind word from a friend, a Scripture passage, even a couple pans of lasagna (and the friend who gave you the ingredients!). I truly believe that, when we are open to seeing them, we will always find these little lights, even in the darkest and most difficult circumstances, and when we gather these lights up, they become the lamp that guides us. We don’t often see it when its happening – I didn’t know when I made that lasagna what my life was going to be like in a week or what it was going to mean to me to be able to have it ready to go when we needed it – but if we look for them, they’re there.
Thank you for any and all prayers. I will try to update soon.
Until next time . . . this is dementia.