Mike and I cried in church today. He started it, but it only took a moment for me to join.
No one else was crying. Anyone who noticed may have been puzzled. They were probably wondering if we had just had a fight.
No fight. Just remembering.
Exactly one year ago, on this very Sunday, the girls and I were at St. Joe’s ICU ward, watching Mike struggle to come out of a coma … a coma he should have come out of a week earlier.
It had been a traumatic week … the collapse during our walk on March 9th … the mystery for doctors as they fought to figure out why his heart had suddenly stopped … the suspicion that more damage had been done to his brain than originally thought … the warning that they might not find any”real” brain activity … the confusion at finding a huge pituitary tumor that should have been causing a whole lot more damage at that size … the relief that once the tumor was discovered, he started miraculously coming out of the coma.
“You know, there is no connection between an MRI and the coma, right?” I will never forget that stern reprimand from a doctor as I commented on the timing.
“Exactly,” I answered. “But would you have asked for an MRI if he had come out of the coma earlier?”
The answer was no. Further proof to me that Someone else was in charge.
“He came out of the coma when he needed to.”
The doctor didn’t seem to hear me, but it didn’t matter. The timing was just one more reminder that we didn’t need to have all the answers; all that was required was that we trust God no matter the outcome.
The week that followed was almost harder than “Coma Week”. Mike wasn’t strong enough to have the breathing tube removed immediately. He was groggy and combative. Confused. Hungry. Forgetful.
This meant sitting up with him all night, wrestling him back into his hospital bed. Once the tube was out, he became a terrible patient. He set the alarms off multiple times as he pleaded for pizza, ice cream, and home. I had to pull my chair to his bed and lay across his chest to keep him calm. The only other way I could keep him quiet was to read to him. Like a little kid that you are trying to rock to sleep, the moment I would pause for longer than two seconds, he would start fighting again.
Even harder that week was hearing doctors try to piece together our future. Brain surgery? Radiation? Defibrillator? Life Vest? Heart Surgery? Medication? Rehab? Full-time care outside of the hospital?
One doctor bluntly told me not to expect too much. “He is likely to be an invalid. He may never recover his full memory or abilities like adding and subtracting or other simple life skills.”
They had caught on to him for cheating when asked who he was and why he was there. He had learned to look over the nurses’shoulders to the calendar and info board behind them, which contained most of the pertinent info. At least he could read.
When I mentioned that Mike had been six weeks out from completing a Masters in Special Ed, the same doctor urged, “You really need to think about what you need to do for you family. It is on you now. You may need to be the on who get the Masters or pursue a second job.”
Another doctor said, “Expect everything.”
“I saw the same reversal in numbers that you did, when it came to the strength of his heart,” she coached. “That doesn’t happen unless something bigger is at work. Expect everything.”
If this woman was a Christian, she didn’t say so directly, but I’m grateful that of the two doctors she was the one who was right.
We haven’t talked much about the anniversary that this week holds. In honesty, I confessed to a friend two weeks ago that I was a little stressed as this week came closer.
“I know this is stupid. I know the same thing won’t happen again, but sometimes all of the memories hit me harder with more emotion now than then. There is still more healing needed. What if – ?” I have to make my brain stop.
Also … there is another side of me that is a little embarrassed (that’s not really the right word, but I can’t think of another one), that we are still so ordinary. We haven’t changed the world in any outlandish way … although we do pray more and we worry a little less. But we haven’t stopped worrying altogether … and we … well … we’re just ordinary people who have been graced by a kind and powerful God.
In our ordinariness, we have stuck to one thing that we believe God has called us to. We’re teaching kids.
After struggles with Mike’s university that were nothing short of awful, he returned to his student teaching program. The university didn’t have much faith that it could happen. The one doctor (and a few others) said not to ever expect it.
Yet here we are … in little over a month from now – two days after his 53rd birthday – Mike will be attending his graduation ceremony in Phoenix. The day before that we will all attend Sallie’s graduation from the same school.
Between now and then, Mike is enjoying an amazing experience in his student teaching program and has approached it with more clarity and passion than maybe anything I have every seen him tackle.
So today, we thought about it all … we remembered and we cried … thankful and touched beyond words.
The card we gave to the medical teams in the ICU. On Mike’s last visit, it was still there. They like marveling at miracles too.