Post Title: Reaching for God In the Hard Places, Part 3

Warm Reminders to Laugh

Nearing the end of my shift as a cashier at the local grocery, I heard a familiar voice.

“Can ya’ ring up this Dr. Pepper fast? C’mon! I’m in a hurry!”

I looked up to see my cousin, Ron, tapping the lids of the six-pack on the small shelf near the register—as if that were his only agenda.

The smile came unbidden and for a moment, the fact my brother was in a critical care facility left me. Ron liked teasing me about my difficult customers by acting like one of them. He had such a special way of encouraging me.

“Hey, I’m ready to clock out. How is Mike today?”

“‘Bout the same.” He shrugged. “We had him sitting up and Nancy even got him to eat some pudding. He’s asking for ya’.”

I switched off the light and placed the Closed sign at the end of the conveyor belt. “Meet you at the door.”

On the way into the hospital, I laughingly recounted  more from my  problem customers. “I wear a pin saying I’m legally blind and they still say ‘Did ya’ get that?’ I don’t know what THAT is, or WHERE that is so how could I attempt to answer? I swear…”

“Just say, ‘Let’s play I Spy With my Little Eye—he paused—”Well that wouldn’t work for you…”

If only the vague “that” and the various possibilities of “where”  that could be found were my biggest worry. But really, these minute frustrations distracted me from bigger tensions and fears—those waiting for me in the hospital.

I smiled frequently on the drive into Erie. Ron purposely kept the atmosphere light. But on occasion, he listened and responded to my fears.

Ya’ Gotta Eat

Ron and his wife, Nancy, saw to it I ate twice a day. We typically stopped for a late breakfast on the way to see Mike. After leaving the hospital at eight pm, we rounded out the day with another meal. But I didn’t always feel like eating.

“I’m so tired. I just want to sleep,” I groaned.

“What is it with you Bovairds? Doesn’t anyone eat in your family?”

“My mom did. She never missed a meal.”

“Then you follow Aunt Kitty’s example and EAT!” She shook a finger at me.

They often ganged up on me.  Ron started the battle. “Amy needs to take care of Amy.”

“If you don’t, we will have two patients in the hospital,” Nancy pointed out. “Ron and I talked about it and decided you need a day away from the hospital.”

I shook my head. “No way! I have to be there.”

Ron crossed his arms. “Nope. You can come the next day. Besides, only two people can be in the room at one time. Nancy and I can do whatever Mike needs us to do to help him. We will have no trouble finding Jeopardy.”

I laughed. In my initial desperate phone call, I had wept about how hard it was to find Jeopardy on every remote in each hospital Mike had ever stayed in.

Infectious Specialist

While Mike’s team sought out the expert to start up his dialysis needs, an assigned infectious Disease Specialist studied Mike’s daily blood cultures. Her title reminded me of my time  of living and traveling in third world countries. But while no tsetse fly bit my brother, she informed had a bacteria called E-Coli and an unknown skin contaminant. Mom had always worried about me contracting malaria or dengue fever. We never thought to worry about Mike. I didn’t even know E-Coli existed in the United States.

Mike had fallen in the bathroom in a short stay at a nursing home, which he went to in order to gain his strength back. But since the days of Covid-19, nursing facilities have been short-staffed. As we later learned, Mike had a Urinary Tract Infection and had to go to the bathroom frequently. Unable to get a nurse, Mike attempted to go to the bathroom on his own and that’s when he fell. He skinned his knee.

You wouldn’t think a skinned knee would be dangerous but that’s when the “unknown skin contaminate” and E-coli attacked him, causing sepsis. At the previous hospital, the sepsis had been resolved but they still needed to treat the bacteria and find out what the unknown skin contaminant was. The seriousness of the different facets of his situation made my head spin!

Image with a woman that has her arms spread wide over her head looking joyful with text that reads: but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 NIV

Family Guidance

Nancy and Ron helped me cope, making sure I had rides to and from the hospital and work each day. “You need to keep that job,” Ron said, “you still have bills to pay. “

They also held a family meeting with my younger brother, his wife and daughter.Nancy told us all the plan was to get him out from where he was to a rehab center for physical therapy.

 “If he makes it out,” my brother said. “‘Been doin’ a lotta praying.”

“He will,” she said confidently.

My Cousin’s Visit Ends

Mike received two days of dialysis in a row. But the following week, he was put on a schedule for dialysis at the critical care hospital on Monday Wednesday and Friday. With the toxins exiting his system, he seemed to perk up a bit.

Nancy said, “Sorry to  say but we need to get back to our lives in Virginia. You know, the place we really live.”

We both laughed. I wish they did live in Pennsylvania! 

Something must have shown in my face because she said, “Remember, we are only a phone call away. ”

I felt like such a poor substitute for them! Mike was stuck with me—clumsy, unable to hear him well or meet his needs in the same way. My spirits sank.

But soon I felt God readjust my thinking.

I called myself “The Low Vision Motivator with High Expectations” So were those just words?  No! I gave myself a talking to.  God did not want me to give up or feel sorry for myself. No!  He made me this way for His purposes. I needed to raise the bar and realize my worth to my brother. God would fill in the gaps again.

That night, my neighbor, Susan, picked me up from work so Ron and Nancy could pack after they left the hospital.

“Let’s stop at the Dollar Tree,” I cried. “I need to get some balloons!” I decided Mike and I would celebrate. He had made it through the crisis. He was ALIVE!

Susan waited in the car while I purchased the most colorful, cheery balloons that I could find—blue, red, yellow, white and gold! One had a smiley face. Another, Get Better. Yet another, Wow! One had a sun on it. And my favorite: a blue glittery star-shaped one. The clerk hooked them into a palm tree lead weight for me.

Then I spied some mini candy bars and decided to put together gift bags to show my gratitude to my cousin and his wife, adding this and that as I went along. I tried to match the little gifts to their personalities. Finally, I bought them, too, a balloon.

The clerk eyed my white cane and the bags I had to carry. She held the strings to the balloons in her hand. She said, “Let me help you take these to the car.” My heart swelled at her thoughtfulness. She followed me into the dark parking lot and handed the balloons to me.

It had been a long day, with a trip to the hospital then my work shift. But the thrill of focusing on others gave me new energy. A fifteen-minute shopping spree in a discount store.

Susan helped me carry the balloons to the house while I bubbled over with laughter at the way they bobbed in the light breeze.

God was providing at this very moment. He would see Mike and me through this emergency—and bring him home. After all, his situation was temporary. We had to stay encouraged. I couldn’t wait to give him the balloons and Starlight mints and reflect my new optimism.

What rejuvenates you? What brings optimism to your tired heart?

You have just read “Reaching for God in the Hard Places, Part 3” by Amy L. Bovaird. © June 27, 2023. All rights reserved.