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Life Interrupted

Oh my gosh! It’s October already! Where has the year gone? Am I really supposed to put out the fall decorations? Where did I put that pumpkin candle?

I know where the year went. It has been a difficult year, on the one hand. But it has also been a year filled with joy and God’s blessings, on the other hand….the better hand.

We faced the beginning of 2015 with hope and anticipation. Our younger daughter was in the middle of making wedding plans, the date was set for June 27th. It was an exciting time. Having just found a solution to an unexpected problem with the intended reception hall, we could move forward with the rest of the arrangements: the pastor, the caterer, the photographer, the florist, music, dinner selections, invitations, bridal showers, and … the list continues seemingly without end. Without a good project planner (our daughter) and calendar (mine), I’m not sure we would have been ready.

It seems that the first six months of 2015 are just a blur, a sometimes stressful blur and a sometimes joyful blur. Then, as we were nearing the date, just two weeks before the wedding, things took a serious turn for the worse. It was 12:15 a.m. when the phone rang.

Waking out of a deep sleep, my husband answered the phone. It was the emergency room doctor, at a hospital in Louisville, KY. Unless your spouse is an emergency room doctor, a call at that time of night will almost always bear bad news. “I’m calling to let you know that there has been an accident,” the doctor said slowly. Get to the point! My mind raced. What happened? It’s got to be Mom. She was likely in that area.

Yes. It was my mother. She was a passenger in a vehicle that was t-boned at an intersection. Their car rolled over due to the force of the impact. All three people in the car were alive, in spite of their ages, 84, 85 and my mother at 88 years old. They were moving Mom to a different hospital, one with a better trauma unit.

Life interrupted. Mom’s life was interrupted with a broken neck, back, sternum, shoulder and rib. My life was interrupted: traveling to Kentucky; flying with her on a medical transport plane so that she could be cared for in our home state, Wisconsin, helping her in the hospital, then the rehab facility, and finally moving her to an assisted-living facility. Mom’s care suddenly, in a moment, became a full-time job.

The accident occurred just two weeks from the wedding. The wedding was just one week away, when Mom was released from the hospital and moved to an inpatient rehab facility. The wedding became a blur. I found it emotionally impossible to give our daughter and, within days, our new son-in-law the time and attention appropriate for such a momentous occasion.

Mom needed my time. Life was interrupted. But I did what I could. Fortunately, my sister lives nearby and she was able to help. As time progressed, we have learned how to share the job of caregiver, giving each one of us windows of rest and opportunities to take care of our own homes, families and jobs.

Although I was exhausted, living in the present each day, simply trying to keep my head above water, God showered us with good fortune and blessings.

Even though the accident was in Kentucky, and Mom (and most of her family) lives in Wisconsin, helpful hands and loving faces were quickly in Kentucky to help her.

One granddaughter and her family were driving to Florida for a vacation, traveling through Kentucky at about noon the day after the accident. She and her family were the first visitors at the hospital, presenting to Mom five hearts of love and five smiles of encouragement.

They brought her hope.

Our daughters, the oldest one’s husband and the younger one’s fiancé, traveled to Kentucky and arrived at the hospital at about 7:00 p.m., less than 24 hours after the accident, to help in any way that they could. Mom was in a cervical collar, and a body brace. She was unable to raise her bed. She could not eat on her own, so our daughters fed her as she laid in bed. They stayed overnight and did what they could to help her, being signs of love during such a dark and painful time. I view our daughters as the first responders. Their time enabled me to organize some things at home before driving the 9 hours to Louisville, Kentucky.

My brother had offered to ride with me to Kentucky if I could wait until Monday. Knowing that our daughters would be with Mom for most of the day on Sunday, I believed I could wait until Monday. However, God had a different plan. As my husband and I sat in church that Sunday morning, I felt an overwhelming urgency to leave for Kentucky immediately. And so I did. We left church after only the first hymn. I packed a bag with enough things to last a week, not knowing what would really happen in a week; but knowing that I needed to be home for the wedding and the last minute organizational details.

When I got the hospital at 8:45 p.m., I found Mom lying flat on her back with chocolate pudding on her fingers, having accidently discovered the pudding when looking for a drink of water. Being unable to sit up or turn her head, she didn’t even realized that someone had brought to her a dinner tray. I’m lucky to have arrived that evening. I was able to feed her the dinner. No one had checked on her. No one had fed her, and due to her condition from the accident, she was unable to call the hospital staff for help. I was glad that God sent me out of church that morning and said, “Go now.”

On Monday, in addition to helping Mom, I spent the day working with insurance to get Mom on a medical flight back to Wisconsin. I was lucky to have been in Kentucky on that day. I believe that the medical transport plane would not have been approved if I had not been there to work closely with the nurse to get the necessary approvals. Again, it was great that God had said, “Go now.”

Three of my sister’s adult children were going to be driving home from a vacation in Tennessee, initially expecting to drive through Louisville about noon on Monday. However, they were delayed and didn’t arrive at the hospital until 4:00 p.m. They might have been tempted to conclude that they could not stop because they had such a long drive home. However, with God’s quiet nudging, they stopped to visit their grandmother. While they were at the hospital, I received a call from the insurance company. The woman on the phone said, “The flight has been approved. You’ll be leaving at noon. You will fly on the plane with your mother. If you have a car in Kentucky, make arrangements for its handling this evening.”

My car! I need a driver. My mind raced momentarily, until looking at my sister’s family. There were drivers! Thank you, God. If their trip had not been delayed, they would not have been at the hospital when I received that phone call. My nephew drove the car back to Wisconsin.

The miracles in the details continued to happen almost hour by hour, clearly day by day. God was in the details helping Mom, helping us, enabling her to reach a strong recovery. She attended our daughter’s wedding (in a wheelchair and with the aid of my sister and her family). She is walking with a walker for weight support to reduce back pain and to reduce the risk of falling. Mom’s cervical collar was removed on September 2nd. She is living reasonably independently in an assisted living facility.

My full-time job of caring for Mom is a part-time job.

We are so grateful for God’s many blessings.

It’s good to reflect on our blessings, as it helps to keep things in perspective. Although bad things might happen, the ultimate result might either be good in itself or it might be used by God for something good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV)

Sometimes it is hard to see the good or the potential for good when we are caught up in the current personal, community, or national disaster. In the initial weeks and months of Mom’s recovery, I found myself overwhelmed. I’m just me. I’m just one person and I’m not good at caregiving. I came home exhausted every evening, once explaining to my husband, “I’ve never had to be so kind, so patient, and so caring for so many hours at a time. It exhausts me. It’s not my gift. I’m not good at this.”

“But with God, you can do it,” he replied.

He was right. With God, I can do it. I can with “I AM.”

Please tell me your story. What happened in your life that needed your immediate and total time and attention? What did you do to help a loved one that was dealing with life interrupted? How did God show His hand in the situation? How was your life interrupted?

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