Three weeks ago, those words altered my August, finishing off a summer that will go in the record books as my worst.
It had already been the hardest summer of my adulthood. I’m working on a book I’ve dreamed of writing, but it’s the hardest one I’ve ever tackled. We’re slammed at my day job. Short-staffed, but no shortage of families in crisis.
(Add mine to the list.)
In July, I was on my front porch writing when Dad slowed his car and yelled out the window, “Mom’s been in a car accident by the Dunkin Donuts!”
We arrived at the second Dunkin Donuts on her route to find a tractor-trailer carrying an excavation truck had backed into her tiny car. Physically, mom’s back was injured, but she walked away. Emotionally, the incident triggered acute post-traumatic stress disorder, and mom’s still reeling with the effects.
A couple of weeks later, Mom and Dad’s much-loved dog, Hercules, a little Schnauzer who brought them daily joy, was laid to rest. Heartbreaking how dear a pet can become and how searing the loss of pure, unconditional love.
Through all this, we frequently remarked at the miraculous improvement in my dad’s health.
February 2015, the doctor gave him six-months to live if he didn’t change his life – maybe two years if he did. Dad made the changes and we’ve rounded the bend from the two-year mark, celebrating his health at every opportunity.
Then, the fall. To distract himself from grief over Hercules, Dad decided to paint the bulkhead doors leading down to their basement stairs. All at once, he was light-headed, then turning, then falling backward down eight wooden stairs, bouncing off concrete, into the closed basement door.
This was a huge blow to us all. The emergency room felt surreal as we tried to get our bearings and absorb the shock. Dad suffered, not only with the pain, but with the unfairness of it all. I silently pleaded with God to supply words of comfort. Most of them fell hollow seeing how serious his injuries were.
News came in spurts. Cuts and contusions. A T12 vertebrae fracture. With his spine fused above and below, surgery was required to prevent a catastrophic spinal cord injury. Anemia. Low platelets. Now, the surgery would be high risk.
Like when my mom awoke unable to walk from vertigo the day before my father’s transfer to rehab, necessitating my husband to stay with her, while I stayed with dad. Or when my father experienced flashbacks related to his own post-traumatic stress disorder from a fall through a mill floor on fire call in 2014.
Or when the strain of so much intense family drama caused tempers to flare, unkind words hurled like stones, or tears to fall, or dry heaves the doctor diagnosed as anxiety.
And through it all, there’s the day job. Bills. Book deadlines. Church meetings. Meal prep. Decisions. Breakdowns in the hospital bathroom or driving home. And Charlottesville erupts. Houston floods. North Korea builds a bomb. Irma aims at loved ones.
To say I didn’t feel God’s presence is to imply that I felt anything, except tension interrupted by occasional bouts of abject fear. Sleep deprivation diminishes your emotional repertoire.
I heard no whispers. Felt no divine arms. Sensed no special bubble wrap reserved for the redeemed.
In Jesus, all things hold together – including me.
And I acknowledge little miracles – how does an eighty-one-year-old man tumble backward down eight stairs and not suffer greater harm? Not hit his head? Emerge alive?
How is it my son was walking up the driveway in time to hear his grandfather cry out for help?
He made it through the high-risk surgery and already, he’s walking, talking about coming home, recovering his old self.
Plus, the arms of the church, both near and far, encircled us – with care and prayer.
Our adult children showed themselves to be of the age where they check in on us – have we eaten, are we okay, how can they help? We’ve catapulted to a new phase of family.
Blog readers and Christian writers sent cards to cheer my dad. Messaged me to hold on. Assured me that God knew all this would occur and when.
Not because I’m driven, but because writing is God’s gift to me. This is where He meets me and so often, where I become conscious of Him, and how He’s been with me through it all.
Now summer is gone (whew) and I love the fall. I’ve never been fond of summer or heat, much less with hospitals, trauma, fear, and death. But, this is life this side of glory.
We argue. We suffer. We face trauma, loss, pain, division, heartache, catastrophe, and death. We are so small to face down flood and fire and wind and relentless rain and tyrants and war. But, He sees us small and rains down mercy on our burning souls.
Thank you for your prayers. They were a kindness and a balm.
I know so many of you suffer far greater things than my small summer. You are in my prayers.
I’ve asked a couple of friends to guest post in the coming weeks as I complete, The Art of Hard Conversations, and continue to support my parents. Thank you for your patience with me.
The truth is, with Jesus, we can all overcome the Fall.
**All glory to Jesus and much gratitude to the first responders, Hope Valley Ambulance Squad, Hope Valley/Wyoming Fire District, and the firefighting community in New England who’ve come around to support my dad. To the medical staff at South County Hospital and Scallop Shell Rehab Center. To my supportive and understanding supervisor and coworkers. To our church family and local friends. To my children for growing up so well.
— Lori Roeleveld (@lorisroeleveld) September 5, 2017