I had planned to go over to a friend’s house one Friday afternoon to hang out. Instead, I got to call her and say, “So, um, we can’t come over. My husband has been having headaches and is having a CT scan today, so we’re going to sit with him at the Urgent Care for a few minutes. I’m sure it’s nothing serious.” And then I got to call her back an hour later and say, “Actually, they found a mass in his skull pressing on his brain. They are admitting him to the hospital. Please pray.” She did.
We had planned to go out to dinner with another family. Instead, I got to call them and say, “Turns out, my husband is in the hospital. They’re keeping him for a few days and probably doing brain surgery on Tuesday. Please pray.” They did.
My husband had planned to play basketball Saturday night. I got to call his friend and say, “Best excuse to get out of basketball ever! Brain surgery!” And his friend said, “Wait, what?” After he figured out we were serious, he offered to donate half his brain to help the cause. I almost told him I didn’t think he could spare it, but I didn’t want to insult him, him being so kind as to offer us half his brain and all. (We both apparently deal with stressful situations with questionable humor.) Then he said he and his family would pray. They did.
Friday morning I had read on the church sign, “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth.” And thought, yep, sure are. Even those hard paths. Not that I really have any of those.
Then Friday afternoon came. And Friday evening with the MRI that confirmed the growth. And Sunday with the discussions of risks of surgery and potential negative outcomes, you know, like blindness and death, and the talk of oncology. And Monday morning with the meeting with the surgeon and seeing the growth, the size of an egg, fat and white, right near my husband’s optic nerves. And hearing the surgeon say, “It could be an abscess. Or it could be a malignant tumor. They can look just like that.” (An abscess is a brain infection, I learned, which you would think would be bad, but compared to cancer, looks pretty good. They remove it and treat with aggressive antibiotics.)
Still mercy and truth. I didn’t like it, I didn’t like this path at all, but this was the path we were now on. And God was still there. We decided after much prayer, and a whole two hours to make a life-or-death decision, that we needed to go ahead with surgery on Tuesday in Tulsa. A friend who had been in many brain surgeries encouraged us with a good report about this surgeon, and looked at the MRIs and helped us feel a bit better. It was still completely terrifying, but we had to do it.
My main fears were that 1) my husband wouldn’t wake up from surgery. It was brain surgery after all. Things happen. 2) It would be cancer and 3) I’d have to explain to my kids, and hold them sobbing nightly, why Daddy was gone. That was the worst. Me, my own grief, was one thing, but my kids. Oh, my kids.
I realized, those sleepless nights in the hospital, that no one can love my kids like their Daddy. Oh, I know God can heal, and many step-dads can be wonderful and love their kids so well, but I wanted my husband. I wanted him to be Daddy for my kids.
You know what else I realized? If he did nothing else but live, that would be enough. He is a humble man who loves the Lord, and cherishes me, and adores our children. No one else can be Dad like him.
How many times have I gotten annoyed because the backyard hasn’t been mowed, or he hasn’t done every single thing on my long list? I really saw how much I take him for granted and how very blessed we are to have him in our lives.
So. We hung out at the hospital, my husband and I, a lot that weekend. (The kids came up too, but didn’t stay too long.) We ate the hospital food, which was actually very good, and read books and worked crosswords, read and prayed and cried, and watched a few movies. It was kind of like an extended date! With a little life-and -death drama thrown in just to keep things interesting.
The kids came up on Monday evening and we all signed Daddy’s arms with a Sharpie marker, so he’d have us with him in surgery. He wrote love notes on their arms so they’d know he was with them. (And we were being very casual the whole time so they weren’t scared, “Just going to get that thing out of Daddy’s head so his head doesn’t hurt anymore.” We were blessed to have family and friends taking care of them during most of this.)
Tuesday morning came. They wheeled him into surgery. I kissed him goodbye. Then I cried for an hour. My friend was on her way up but meanwhile I cried and prayed. Every 30 seconds or so we’d get another text (I learned how to text because of all this!) or Facebook update that someone was praying. Oklahoma, Asia, Africa, Texas. I knew people were praying around the world. Which I really appreciated because I was a basketcase.
I tried to read a magazine and just kept thinking, “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. Who cares?” But then I’d put it down and start feeling like I was going to pass out or throw up from the stress, so then I’d have to pick up a stupid magazine again. I read my Bible and a bit out of a Spurgeon book that was great. Those were good. Psalm 25. Psalm 59. “You are my refuge and strength in my day of trouble.” Day of trouble? Yep, that would be today. I’d pray again. Then cry. Then pray.
Finally my friend came and brought me McDonald’s breakfast (bless her). Then we alternated crying, praying, and playing Book Lover’s Memory, which would be really fun to play some time when my brain is capable of working.
The phone in the surgery waiting area rang and it was the surgeon’s assistant telling us they were in surgery and just found that it was an abscess. (This meant that it was NOT cancer, so no chemo/radiation and much, much easier to treat.) “Oh, thank you. Praise the Lord,” I gasped. I have never been so happy in my life.
I hung up and sobbed. I mean sobbed. Then more praying, crying, playing Memory. Another friend came, then another. They brought me snacks and games and most importantly, shoulders to cry on, quite literally.
The surgeon came out and told the surgery was over and it went well. I gave him and his assistant a big hug. Then lots of people came, lots of stuff happened. ICU, more doctors, family, friends.
My husband is home now and recovering very well. I’m giving him IV antibiotics three times a day (for 8 weeks total, and we’re almost done with week 4 I think). It’s going well except for the time I filled him with an entire tube full of air. Not a problem, they told me after the fact. After I had called the hospital in a panic, then cried for two hours about almost killing my husband. Apparently a little air in the veins (right near your heart) is no big deal. Who knew?
It’s kind of like when you leave the hospital with a new baby the first time and you’re thinking, “Why are they just letting me walk out of here? I have no idea what I’m doing!” And they act like it’s as normal as getting a pizza. “Here you go, here’s your IV pole, three bags of medical supplies that you hadn’t seen until an hour ago, and dressings for the head wound. Have a nice night!”
So my husband is still alive, despite my questionable nursing skills, and I’m really glad. I know God would have been faithful to walk with us through cancer, or death, had those been the paths He chose. But I’m so thankful for his mercy to us.
I don’t much care what happens right now. My husband’s alive. It’s a pretty great thing.
One thing I’m going to do my best to do is to remember how it felt to have him at the top of my list. You know how in all those homeschooling seminars they say to keep marriage on the top of your list and you’re like, “Blah, blah, blah, can you tell me a little more about how to plan my schedule? That’s what I really need to know.”
But this brain surgery thing got my attention. That, and the fact that I keep seeing marriages dissolving all around me.
It’s like we’ve been given a million dollars: husbands who love us and love the Lord, precious children, and Jesus. And we’re just so busy cleaning the kitchen we forget to notice and be grateful.
I’m going to do my best to have less on my list. I want to sit and just look at my husband and be near him. I have a hard time doing that because it feels like a waste of time—I have so much to do! I can’t just sit here!
But at the hospital I was forced to just sit there and it was a wonderful time of connecting with him. He needs me to be around, and I need him, and our kids need us to be together. I’ve got to focus less on the tasks and more on the relationships.
I was walking in the woods yesterday and I finally noticed the scent of honeysuckle. It took me a while. I realized how that’s like my life so often: I am so busy trying to stack up all the twigs in the forest perfectly, or worrying about which tree might be deficient in which area, and noticing the litter or the sound of cars nearby, that I forget to enjoy the honeyed air.
I get sidetracked by my self-imposed tasks and forget to notice the sweetness and beauty all around.
Our family had planned to go to Kenya this summer. Instead, we got to sit our two older children down, explain that our ways are not always God’s ways, but that His timing is always best. We trust Him. It’s not safe for Daddy to go on that trip right now. So instead of Africa, we’re finding ways to serve here in Oklahoma. People who need things like homes or blankets or hugs.
Bottom line, my husband is still here with us. Who cares what our plans were? He’s here. We are so thankful.