On Monday, March 9th, Mike and I headed out the door into a beautiful Northwest evening for a simple walk. Easter morning, just shy of four weeks later, Mike finally walked back through the door from what we sense is maybe still, just the beginning of a life-altering journey.
Our first day of liberty (a trial run … Mike’s real date of release is on Tuesday) started a little rough. I try not to be nervous about the Life Vest, and Mike tries not to hate it. It didn’t help that it beeped at him as we prepared to leave the hospital room. A few adjustments of his clothing, and it stopped. Wheel chair ride through the halls of the hospital, one step towards the car … the thing beeped again. More adjustments.
We had decided to worship at a church close to the hospital … wanting to give Mike time to adjust before embracing dozens upon dozens of wonderful, familiar faces at once. So, just moments from slipping anonymously into a beautiful, historic church in downtown Tacoma, a siren went off in Mike’s shirt. “Preparing for treatment,” the monitor read. In real-person-terms this meant he was about to get jolted.
Now MY heart was racing. Was he having an episode just ten minutes after driving away from the hospital? He obeyed the commands and turned it off. “I feel fine,” he insisted. He had a head ache earlier … what should I believe? The nervous, fussing wife is such an easy role to slip into.
We glanced at each other and moved forward. “Just a fluke,” our silent language urged each other to believe. Three steps inside the church door and the siren screamed again. “What’s that?” an usher stared. “Do turn it off!” I glared at the man and then turned my attention to Mike. (I felt guilty later for the mean look … how was he to know or understand? Even most of the nurses and doctors we work with have never seen the vest.)
“Really! I’m fine.” Mike had turned the siren off. It only shocks him if he can’t follow the commands to turn it off because it assumes he is passed out and in need of a “treatment”.
I stepped out and called the number on the device. A very nice man talked me through the reasons why the siren might go off when there is no emergency. I relayed the info to Mike. Calm returned … there were no more incidents the rest of the day.
I was concerned that this rough start might rob us of the wonders of celebrating Christ’s resurrection. It did not.
Surrounded by people we didn’t know, with a worship style different from our church … we sat in that back pew and wiped away tear after tear after tear … both of us … God’s presence heavily evident.
It was not lost on us that on Resurrection Sunday, here sat Mike … resurrected by God’s power and for His purpose.
I thought of the tears shed by nurses in the ICU when we made our last visit. “I really didn’t know if he would make it,” one whispered …. “and now look.” Mike was walking, talking … making jokes.
And now … here he sat. Every song … every promise of God spoken aloud … every message of Truth … they hit us in the most raw, tender, You-have-our-full-attention-God, ways.
We are still finding ways to put words to what God is doing in us. This “brush with death” had nothing to do with death at all. Mike stood on the brink of the most peaceful, beautiful, freeing experience that he will one day know fully and permanently. But the Lord gave him back to us for now so that He can continue to work through him and through us. Even in our imperfections … even in the health and other challenges ahead … God is showing Himself.
That’s all we need. That’s all we desire … and that’s why we can’t stop the tears every time He is acknowledged.
It was an Easter Sunday we will never forget.