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I have no idea how many people actually read my blog. For those who were reading it, and interested in my sharing of my thoughts, experiences, insights, etc. – I apologize to you for the lengthy absence of new material here. My silence was not planned, and it has not felt voluntary. I have not written in a while, because I’ve been going through a very difficult time of back-to-back blows to my spirit and body – what the “old folks” in my youth would call “times of hard trials and tribulations;” times that test one’s faith and, pretty much, force one to stop, be still, and get back in touch one’s core beliefs about God.
I think just about everyone who knows me, and/or would have reason to read this blog, knows that I suffered a devastating loss two months ago, when my beloved older sister/other mother/best friend, Jo, died. She had a massive heart attack on June 28th and lived until she had a second attack on July 9th. The days in between were simply some of the most emotionally intense days of my life. First, I was informed that they put a stent in her heart and her prognosis was good. By the next day, though, came word that it was not at all clear that she would survive the next 48 hours. I got on a plane to Atlanta the day after that, where I spent the next seven days and nights with Jo in the ICU. To my surprise and relief, she was conscious and completely lucid. We talked when she was awake. She really did not seem as sick as she was. We knew she was very ill because of the numbers that measured the functioning of her heart and other vital organs. None of them were good. In fact, they were all horrible. By Wednesday, July 2nd, we were told that nothing more could be done for her and that she should be transferred to hospice.
There was one doctor, though, who insisted that Jo should receive dialysis. He said that, in her condition, it could kill her. But she would definitely die within a day or two without it. And, sometimes; not often, but sometimes, in cases like hers, that cleansing of the blood jumpstarts the failing organs and patients experience improvement. Jo decided to have the treatment, making it clear that she would not undergo much more, if that didn’t work. She signed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order before the treatment began.
It worked! By the next day, the improvement in all of her numbers was nothing short of miraculous. Over the next few days, everything kept steadily improving. She was looking so much better; talking and acting almost like her usual self. She was put on a liquid diet, after days of no eating. She got out of bed and sat in a chair for a little while. By Sunday, July 6th, she was eating solid food, was transferred from the ICU, and was able to walk (with assistance) to the restroom. A few days earlier, she had been all but pronounced dead. We just knew God had granted our prayers for a miracle.
Jo was so improved that I felt fairly comfortable leaving Atlanta late that Sunday night, and I arrived home early Monday, July 7th. All reports from that day through most of the following Wednesday were nothing but positive. She was continuing to improve.
Then, as I was on my way to Bible study, Wednesday evening, July 9th, I got a call from my niece who was crying hysterically. While she and Jo’s husband were with Jo that evening, she had another heart attack. At her daughters’ request, Jo had rescinded the DNR after she began improving, so the doctors did try to re-start her heart. They tried several times. But she was gone.
I called my other sister and told her. And then I went to Bible study. I think I was in shock. It felt like I was on auto-pilot. Everything seemed surreal. I just remember thinking that, if there was any comfort to be found in that moment; any chance of me being able to bear this, whatever I needed was not in my home – it was at the church. And so I made my way there, where by that time, Bible study was already underway. And I, sort of, collapsed as I told those who were there that Jo was gone.
My church family comforted me with their presence. This experience has re-affirmed everything I’ve learned, in my life and my ministry, about the critical importance of presence as a ministry in itself. I’m sure they felt helpless; unable to stop the pain I was in. And indeed they were unable to do that. But they were there. They were there, and they cared that I was hurting. And they were willing to sit with their feelings of helplessness and sadness in order to sit with me in my fresh, raw grief.
I will always be grateful to them for that; and not only those who were there, but those who I know would have been there if they could have known how much I would need to not be alone at that time. Presence matters.
So, in case anyone who reads this did not know, I have been struggling since then; a struggle which has had emotional, spiritual, and physical impacts. I am finding my way back up after a very difficult period in my life. My prayer is to come through this stronger, better, more faith-filled and faithful in my ministry. I would be grateful for your prayers as I continue my journey of recovery.