The sun continues to rise

Philmont sunrise

I took this picture in July of 1994. It isn’t that great of a picture, but it’s one of the most special and most memorable pictures I have taken from any of my five treks at Philmont Scout Ranch.

I had just completed my final trek at Philmont. I thought this would be my last hurrah* at Philmont. Kevin and I had the amazing opportunity to hike down Time Ridge from the Tooth of Time together in a very cool moment of brotherly bonding. I was going to be heading away to college in a month and I knew that shared experiences like these were going to become few and far between. So I cherished that moment as much as a fresh-out-of-high-school kid could cherish.

Shortly after coming off the trail, our crew received all our mail that had been sent to us while we were in the backcountry. Kevin and I received an envelope that had been sent overnight to us, which seemed rather odd. No one had ever sent us an overnight package while we were at Philmont. It was a little too unpredictable (and expensive) to try to send something like that. So we opened the envelope, which contained a note from Dad: Grandmama was in the hospital.

We didn’t really have much time to dwell on this news because of all of the debriefing events that had to take place before we could head home. We knew we’d be calling home later that evening. It was Mom’s birthday and we had a plan.

After the Closing Ceremony, we grabbed as many people as we could and had them huddle around a payphone. As soon as mom picked up the phone, she was serenaded by a motley group of 15+ teenage boys singing “Happy birthday, dear Mom!” to her over the phone. As soon as the song was over, some of the adults from our crew led the impromptu Boy Band away as we continued our conversation with Mom and Dad.

“How’s Grandmama?” I asked, fully expecting to hear that she had already gone home.

I don’t remember what Dad said or how he said it because all I remember was knowing without him even finishing the first word that Grandmama had died earlier in the day – probably while Kevin and I were hiking down Trail Ridge together.

As I turned to try to tell Kevin what I had just heard, words totally escaped me. I hoped he could somehow read my mind because I could not find a way to make myself say the words, “Grandmama died.”

Then I felt it. It was caring and comforting and strong. It was a hand on my shoulder. Mr. G had stayed with us and was there for us. He had found out beforehand and was there to comfort us as we found out this heartbreaking news some one thousand miles away from home. I’m not sure how I would’ve gotten through that phone call without him being there for us.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I got up early and walked around through Base Camp. I remember seeing the vast sea of stars high above me and feeling extremely alone and sad. Then the sun began to rise. And I realized that even though things were dark and heartbreaking for me, there was still a glimmer of hope. The sun does still rise. The day does come. And the darkness is pushed away.

So I took this picture to remind me of that moment – to remind me that light is stronger than dark, even when I hurt deep deep down in my soul. When everything is falling apart and you’re completely isolated and alone….there’s still hope. Light still wins.

I thought of this picture yesterday as I was standing in a room with my colleagues, learning that our company was going through another reduction in force. This announcement was probably more difficult to hear than the one 10 months ago because I soon realized that many of the people I worked with very closely had become casualties of this “right-sizing.” And then I felt it again. It was the strangest thing. I felt this hand on my shoulder, much like I felt when Mr. G was putting his hand on my shoulder and telling me it was going to be OK. Of course, his hand wasn’t on my shoulder.

No one’s hand was on my shoulder.

But I felt it. And I wanted to go around the room and put my hand on everyone’s shoulder, telling them that things were going to be OK. We were going to get through this disappointing news. I wanted to find my colleagues who had just been let go, put my hand on their collective shoulders, and be there for them.

As I left the office after the announcement that day, I had decided that I was going to find this picture and post it with this story as an attempt to encourage my friends who lost their jobs that there is light at the end of this darkness and that I have confidence that all of them are going to go on to do some pretty amazing things in their careers. I have no doubt about that.

Then it became clear that Christy’s dad was not going to live very much longer. And I realized that this picture that I had been thinking of for the last 36 hours was really for me and my family.

There is light at the end of this darkness. There is hope at the end of this heartache. Life will continue to go on, even as we walk through the valley of death’s shadow.

Even in the midst of this devastating series of events, it behooves us to live, and live to the fullest.

*It turned out that this event was not my last hurrah at Philmont. I returned the next two Summers as a staff member. 

Good news

My father-in-law has returned home. He was discharged from the hospital this afternoon.

They were in the process of remodeling – and now he has a new wooden floor and king-size bed to experience for the first time!

Two steps forward, one and a half step back

My father-in-law has been moved again. He’s out of the physical therapy and back under medical observation. He had 104 degree fever yesterday, low blood pressure, and was throwing up.

While they’re not overly concerned, they obviously don’t think he’s out of the wood yet, either. I know this roller coaster is wearing thin with the family. I’m sure this has to be depressing for my father-in-law, too.

I guess this is an example of how we need to continually lift each other up in prayer and we really can’t get lazy! I know I had slacked off in praying for him because I just assumed he was out of the woods.

I have so much to learn!

Hospital update

This will probably be my final update for a while about my father-in-law (hopefully). He had his hip surgery today. He still has a case of pneumonia, but I guess the doctors felt safe enough to go ahead and do the procedure.

He’s in quite a bit of pain tonight, which is expected. Fortunately, this should be his last major procedure. Now he has two weeks of rehab and then he gets to go home! Hopefully it will be a breeze.

He’s gone through too much already to not leave the hospital healthy. God has moved in this situation more than I had imagined!

Thank God for His HUGENESS!

Back home

When I woke up this morning in Indy, it was 2 degrees above zero, with a negative wind chill. I couldn’t stay outside more than 5 minutes without my exposed skin starting to hurt.

I drove home to Tennessee today (by myself – I’ll be reunited with the rest of the fam sometime next week) expecting it to be somewhat warmer. It’s a balmy 17 degrees! Good thing I borrowed my father-in-law’s coat!

Speaking of my father-in-law, he’s doing much better. They’re planning on moving him to another wing tomorrow, which is a mixed blessing. The ICU staff was pretty good, and we finally felt comfortable leaving him alone with them for an hour or so. Now that he’s moving to another wing with another staff, it will take some more evaluation. I hear he’s done well today, though. They’re still planning on the hip surgery on Tuesday.

I didn’t bring any of my books with my to Indy (understandable, since it was a decision on-the-fly), so I have a lot of catching up to do on my reading. I had hoped to finish reading and write my three book reviews by this coming Friday. It would give me 5% extra credit. That’s looking more doubtful. It’s worth the effort, though. I hope to make a big dent in my first book tonight.

School tomorrow! Yippee!

Saturday update

Christy’s step-mom stayed at the hospital last night. She called us at 10:00 this morning…right after I put all of our jeans in the washing machine. She told Christy that her dad was awake, talkative, and asking where Christy was. So, I did my best to get the clothes rinsed off and my jeans dry. It still took about an hour, but we hurried to the hospital.

They extubated him sometime this morning (obviously, if he was talking), and he looks the best he’s looked since we got here. Sure makes you hopeful that he will actually survive his hospital stay, in spite of the actions (or lack thereof) of some of the staff there!

The kids went up to see him again today. Aly was a little more scared. She didn’t like the oxygen tube in his nose. Aiden was just as happy as could be. I know it made their Papaw happy!

Surgeons are supposed to look at his hip on Monday morning (you can’t get sick in that hospital on the weekend…everything shuts down!), which means they will probably fix his hip on Tuesday. Hopefully they won’t have to push it back as much as they pushed back the pacemaker! After the surgery, he’ll be there two more weeks for rehab, then he gets to come back home!

I’m leaving tomorrow morning to come home. One of the reasons I came to Emmanuel was to take stuff relating to church planting. If we could help it, we really wanted to avoid my missing the church planting seminar next week. Christy and the kids will be staying here. It’s funny – several months ago when we were talking about my attending this seminar, we discussed the possibility of the kids coming up to Indy that week to spend some time with family up here. Christy could work (or take the class if she wanted), and I could attend class. Never in my wildest imagination could I have concocted such a scenario for this week! The kids still got to come up to Indy, though! Funny how things come together sometimes.

Friday Update

Christy and I arrived at the hospital at around 2:15, or so. We had to drop off the kids at their Grandma’s. Once we got settled in the Cath Lab waiting room, I ran to the bathroom for a quick “pit stop.” As I was about to open the door to come out, I heard an alarm out in the hall. Then – my knees almost went out on me…

“Code 99 in the Cath Lab. Code 99 in the Cath Lab”

Instantly, any available nurse or doctor or tech ran by the bathroom (which was across the hall from the waiting room). Christy and her step-mom looked like they were about to break down. My father-in-law was the only person having a procedure done in the Cath Lab. We thought he was dying or dead.

The next few minutes were probably the longest time of the past week. I know it wasn’t too long, but it felt like an eternity since we didn’t know anything. Shortly, some of the nurses/docs/techs started to leave, returning to their previous activities. We finally managed to stop a couple of them. They told us everything appeared under control and it was an issue with his breathing, not his heart.

We were under the impression that Codes were called out like that if there was a flatline and they needed more help. We came to find out that they issued the code to get the anesthesiologist there quicker so they could intubate him as soon as possible.

My father-in-law was conscious during the procedure, and began to tell them, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Then he stopped breathing. They put a tube back down his throat. They’re not exactly sure why he stopped breathing, which isn’t very reassuring. After they got him breathing again, they finished putting in the pacemaker.

I have an amazing sense of relief. Christy, on the other hand, is stressing out even more. She was told by a nurse this morning that pacemakers are not really a big deal anymore, and there’s nothing to be concerned about. Someday, this staff will figure out that nothing is ever easy or routine when it comes to treating my father-in-law.

The good news is that the pacemaker is in and functional. He survived another “near-miss.” He’s getting rest tonight. He definitely needs to recover. I truly believe the only reason he is still alive is through acts of God. Whoever is praying with us – please keep doing it!

We’ve decided to hold off my drive home till Sunday. We’ll figure out how to get the rest of the family home later. Christy wants to stay at least another week.

Friday morning update

The fluid from his lungs is not infected. That’s a good thing. The pneumonia wasn’t as bad as they initially thought, I guess. He had a slight fever last night, but it’s gone. His white blood cell count is down.

As of 10:00 this morning, the procedure is a “go” for 1:00 this afternoon!

Thursday Update

They stuck a needle into his lungs to draw out some of the crud stuck there. They’re gonna analyze it and hopefully it will help them choose an antibiotic that will be most effective. His white blood cell count is still around the same as yesterday, which means there’s still some type of infection.

They have gone ahead and scheduled a time for the pacemaker procedure. Tomorrow at 1 p.m. Finally, some progress!

It has become Christy’s turn to stay with him tonight. She wasn’t going to originally, but the roads were bad on her way there, and they got worse since she’s been there. Ain’t snow wonderful?

Prayer is the only thing we can do between now and tomorrow afternoon. Fortunately, a whole plethora of people is praying for him!

Wednesday Hospital Update

No real progress today. He still has an infection he’s battling. Because of that, they’ve pushed back the pacemaker until at least tomorrow, but most likely Friday. There was no real setback, though. It’s just going slower than we’d all like for it to go.

Yesterday he was in a very good mood – joking around and smiling. Today he was in some more pain and was exhausted. Needless to say, he was a little more grouchy today.

The big positive was that the kids finally went up to see him this evening. It wasn’t for very long, but I know Aiden was very excited to see his Papaw! He had a little more bounce in his step as we entered the hospital. I would have felt horrible if I had to tell him (again) that we’d have to wait (again) to see him because he wasn’t doing as well as we’d thought (again).

We’re beginning to try to figure out when and how we should return home. Do I leave Christy and the kids here and get home in time for the church planting class that starts Monday? Or do I just stay here and withdraw from the class (it’s only a week long)? How do we make whatever we decide work? Of course, the weather forecasts aren’t too promising for the weekend – so that factors in, too. I’m praying for a sound mind as we make these decisions.

I’m exhausted. I’m heading to bed. I think trying to come up with possible scenarios of how to get back home is starting to turn my stomach into knots and making my head hurt.

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“Dave (Letterman) is out of town tonight accepting an award. (dramatic pause) In other words, he’s in rehab.” Paul Schaeffer guest-hosting The Late Show with David Letterman ~ Paul cracks me up!