About a month ago my husband started having TIA's, otherwise known as mini-strokes. He was in the hospital for 12 days and underwent life-saving surgery. Writing has always been a way for me to deal with the ups and downs of my life. These 4 weeks have had plenty of both. Here are some of the moments that have stayed in my mind, like snapshots in a picture album.
It's the call you never want to get. It is my pastor. My husband has had some kind of attack at church. He was in the middle of doing a baptism. An ambulance is there and what hospital do I want to send him to? They put him on the phone and he tells me he is OK. Don't worry, he says.
Don't worry? Right.
Today is our 33rd wedding anniversary.
I walk into his room and his mouth is drooped to one side. His speech is slurred as he tells me what happened. Doctors come in and out. Tests are done.
His speech is clear for an hour or more. Then his speech starts to slur again. I run to get a nurse so someone can see exactly what happens to him. Seven hours later he is finally admitted to the hospital.
His carotid artery is over 70% blocked. He needs surgery or he will have a major stroke within the month. He continues to have TIA's everyday. Often 3 or more. The surgery is risky but it is more risky not to do it.
I watch as they wheel him away to pre-op, looking frail and alone and I would give anything to take his place. I have never seen him looking more vulnerable. I hold back the tears so he doesn’t see them, but fear grips my heart.
My children and stepchildren are all there with me and their father at one point or another. I remember thinking how grateful I was and relieved that I was not alone. As we wait during surgery, there are at least 10 of us there. One of the volunteers in the waiting area remarks that I have a large family and what a support they must be. Oh yes, I say. I don’t know what I would do without them.
The surgery was supposed to be about 2 hours. We wait and we talk and we try to read. I play a silly game on my phone. I cannot concentrate. After 2 hours, I can feel my anxiety increasing. Why is it taking so long?
Then, just when I think I cannot wait one more minute, someone says, there is Dr. K. As he walks toward me, I struggle to stay in one place, not wanting to run ahead of my family who also needs to hear what he has to say. His face has just enough of a smile that tells me it is good news. And it is.
I turn to my family and cannot hold it in any longer. I sob like a baby.
Two shall become one.
I have experienced this many times in our marriage but no more so than now. I feel each hurt. Each fear. Each needle stick. Each anxious moment. They might as well be doing all of this to me.
I feel better when I am with him and I am a mess when I am home alone. And I cry myself to sleep every night, wishing I was the one who was sick.
The anniversary card I gave him said this - "I couldn’t have dreamed of a better you or asked for a better us."
I am a person of faith. And I know that it was God who carried me through these days.
God was at that baptism where someone was alert enough to know something was wrong and went to go get my pastor.
God was present in my friend who met me at the ER.
God was present in my stepchildren and children and their families. And the nurses and doctors who cared so well for my husband.
God was there in the prayers of deacons, parishioners, co-workers, families and friends.
God was present in the hug of my 8 year old grandson and the peaceful face of my sleeping 4 week old granddaughter.
Thank you Lord, for being with me in these snapshots. Don’t let me ever forget that my life can change in an instant and that each moment is precious. Each moment, whether full of fear or pain or joy, are moments to be cherished. For they are the moments of the life you have given me. Help me to live each moment, being grateful and loving and always aware of your presence. Amen.
Copyright 2012 Colleen Spiro
About the Author
Colleen Spiro is a Catholic mother, grandmother and a deacon’s wife. A certified spiritual director, Colleen loves to share her faith and encourage others through her retreats and writings. You can read her reflections at her website, Catholic Prayer Life and read or listen to her podcast at Finding God in the Everyday.