Post Title: Reaching for God In the Hard Places, Part 5
Once Mike began receiving dialysis, he started to feel better. But that was on the days he didn’t have dialysis. That process wiped him out. But now we had the dilemma of getting him moving again. He had been in hospitals for over a month, which had taken a toll on his muscles. They began to atrophy, and he couldn’t even sit up without the help of two attendants or an electronic lift.
Mike needed physical rehabilitation. But where he would go would be determined by the insurance company. He had had bad experiences in two different nursing homes. But he had recovered quickly –in just a week and a half—earlier in the year at a place that offered intensive physical therapy. So I prayed his insurance company could place him there.
In the days leading up the determination, I spent several anxious nights praying. “God, please show us favor. He needs to get into a good place that will motivate him to recover. They even have a dialysis room there. Please God!”
When he had been in the ICU hospital just over two weeks, the patient liaison contacted me. “The insurance company approved the move,” she said, pleased with the result. She had recommended the institution I wanted, even though it was costly.
“Oh Mike, you’re going to go to the ‘good place!’ I informed him with a big smile.
“I think today!”
The Recovery Hospital
The new hospital had strict rules, too. Only two visitors to a room per day. Dave and Debbie, my brother-in-law, and his wife. Debbie arrived first. I found a way into the new hospital after my shift at work. The move had taken so much out of Mike he could not feed himself. So, they did that.
After Dave and Debbie came to the lobby, I asked to see him. But staff in charge of visitors refused me. I argued that as his caregiver, I had the right. But they wouldn’t bend. No exceptions. That upset me. I needed to reassure Mike I was in his corner. I don’t think he had a phone. Even pleading yielded no different results. At least Dave and Debbie took me home.
Anticipating Marcelina’s Arrival
Three days after Mike transferred to the new place, Marcelina was due to arrive. I made sure no one but she and I were on the schedule to see him.
The trip to Cleveland, Ohio had been in place for about a year. Marcelina had written me shortly after her visit the previous summer telling me about the wedding of a college roommate’s daughter. She wondered if she could meet up with me. She had met Mike then when we took her on a sunset cruise around the peninsula on Lake Erie.
Marcelina, a teaching colleague at the United States Department of Defense in San Antonio, Texas, actually knew Frank, too, from Taiwan. She and I had served on the same mobile teaching team to Kaosiung, Taiwan. ‘
Too bad you can’t come when Frank is here,’ I had said.
‘Never mind. We’ll have lots of time to spend with your brother,’ she had responded sensibly.
After all, it was no longer a simple social visit. She had come to support Mike and me in any way she could. Providing transportation, encouraging Mike and me, and taking me on any errands I needed done since transportation was a big issue for me.
My Colleague Arrives in her Rental Car
“What a beautiful drive from Cleveland,” she remarked. “So many green trees.”
Mercelina lived in California, an area that was mostly desert and beach. “Oh yes, very green.” I took it for granted. “How was your flight?”
As we caught up, I looked at my watch. “We have a couple of hours before Mike is allowed to have visitors. His physical therapy stops at 3 pm and we can visit then.” Everything in my life revolved around Mike’s clock. I felt nervous, tired, anxious.
Mike had refused some of his physical therapy earlier in the day. I wondered if it was too much, the therapy and dialysis all at once. What if the insurance cut him off if he didn’t participate in all the therapy? What if he couldn’t handle both? It worried me.
Hand Lotion for Mike
“Look who I found hitch-hiking along the road?” I announced when we entered Mike’s room. “It’s Marcelina!”
That brought a smile. We chatted for a bit.
“I brought you something.” Marcelina reached into a small gift bag she had carried in. “Amy said your hands are very dry. So, I bought some sandalwood lotion for you. Would you like for me to put some on now?”
Mike nodded, and she squeezed a small amount directly onto his chapped hand. She smoothed it over each hand in a smooth action. The scent wafted in the air.
Her kindness touched me. I had not thought to bring in such a practical and wonderful gift.
Marcelina helped me adjust the bed—something I always struggled with—and then she turned on the television, as if she had always done these tasks. She went to get a nurse to help with the remote.
After a long time, the nurse found the Jeopardy station. The show wouldn’t come on for a while. But I wanted it to be on the proper channel when it did come on.
Suddenly Mike saw an advert for the local Barbecue Rib Festival. Mike looked up hopefully. “Do you think we can get a barbecued chicken or pulled pork sandwich?” Mike and I attended the festival every year in downtown Erie.
I paused. He usually drove. Marcelina and I briefly exchanged looks.
“Absolutely,” she said. “I have a rental car and it has a GPS.”
“It’s not far away at all!” I cried, thrilled to bits. “Mike, what do you want?”
After he decided, I practically flew to the elevator. “Marcelina, thank you so much! I could never do this on my own. It’s marvelous. He’s hungry.” That we could do this for him, carry on a tradition nearly undid me. I bit my lip and brushed away the tears. Happy tears.
Mike and I started going to the cook off at the Rib Fest in 2009 the year after my mobility training. We had gone every year for fifteen years. With Mike being so sick, life outside the hospital had receded to a mere backdrop. Somehow bringing the sandwich to him meant bringing a little bit of life back to him—for us both, I imagine.
Eating in the Park
Of course, liked looked endless. And then we sat in the park and ate. Marcelina ordered a BBQ sandwich, and I ordered ribs and potatoes. A phone call from Mike brought me back to reality. “Oh Mike, we’ll be right there with your pulled pork sandwich!” Guilt flooded through me. What was I doing? We should have eaten it together.
As we hurried back to Marcelina’s rental vehicle, I once again thanked her. And God. He supplied this gift of all gifts!
Mike only ate a few bites before he lay back down. But it was a slice-of-life moment with barbecue sauce oozing out of the bun like my tear as he took that first bite. I couldn’t speak.
That Marcelina could drive in an unfamiliar city and find the key to making us feel normal for a short time in our anxiety-ridden lives touched me deeply.
Our Visit Wraps Up
Jeopardy came on and we all tried to answer the questions. As usual, Mike did the best. Oh God, oh God! He’s doing better after all that toxicity floating in his system. Encepalapathy, that condition was called. The confusion affecting his brain Thank you, God, for this evening. For giving him back some of the lost desires of his heart.
God Reveals His Truth
On the drive home, I didn’t say too much. In the midst of my fears, the lengthy hospital stays, Mike’s physical weakness, up until this point, I felt like I’d been living on the sandy shores of fright. But for a short time, I had stepped out on a verdant green oasis. Rest and hope encompassed me. Comfort. Joy. I was too overwhelmed with gratitude for words.
I looked over at Marcelina, who drove so confidently to my home. God chose that moment to show me why he had timed my friend’s visit as He did. He wanted to give Mike and me this extraordinary gift from the Rib Fest. A moment drenched in memories, both sweet and tart. Rich. SO rich in love.
In the comments below, share a time in your life in which you simply had no words.
You have just read “Reaching for God in the Hard Places, Part 5” by Amy L. Bovaird. © July 4, 2023. All rights reserved.