What happens when you are the one with the chronic illness and then your spouse becomes ill?
An antiseptic smell I couldn’t quite place permeated the air. Perhaps it was a combination of Pine Sol and Clorox. Industrial carpet woven in blues and reds needed a vacuum. A lone ant traveled by my foot. I took the damp tissue in my hand and squashed it. A few fluorescents created shadows which revealed the starkness of the room. The barren environment mimicked the fact that I was the only occupant waiting.
It was the middle of the night, and I lay curled on my side wondering if my husband was going to live through surgery.
I also–possibly selfishly, yet realistically–wondered if my body would allow me to make it through the ordeal. Having postural intolerance, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia severely limit how much time I can be out of bed each day. Normal, everyday activities for most people, like driving to a hospital and sitting for any length of time, are a challenge for me. Doing it for hours is virtually impossible.
My life had taken on a surreal quality since the midnight phone call. A stranger had informed me that Mike was being life flighted back home from Boy Scout Camp. Was I really lying on a hospital floor hoping my body would hold out until I could get information on Mike? Maybe I should call my sister to come sit with me, but we were arguing. What about, I couldn’t remember.
All I knew was I was alone—too alone. For moments I’d seem okay, like I was holding it together; then, the realness of the situation would come over me like the feeling you get when you jump into a pool on your first day of summer vacation. You know the water will be cold, but it’s still a shock. You can’t believe you’ve gone from dripping sweat to shivering violently in the space of seconds. I tried to make sense of the frigid water, but I couldn’t. I wanted back on dry land.
My bible lay open to Psalm 23, yet all I could do was scan the words as my mind flitted about. A bottle of Gatorade with salt packets I’d asked the E.R. nurse for sat beside it. I must have left my baggie of salt at home. My cell phone, a wad of tissues and purse surrounded me. The shawl I wore for writing was draped over my chest. It reminded me of home which helped to alleviate the uneasiness of my surroundings. How much longer would I have to wait? I was trying to keep from panicking; trying to keep it together. It was a battle I was beginning to lose.
I started flipping pages in my Bible. Okay, Lord, I need some help here. I’m scared. My eyes settled on Psalm 63:8 “My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.”
I am clinging to you, God. Since I am doing that, I am going to trust Your Word that says You will uphold me. You know how I struggle with trusting You. I am weak, but You are strong. I need You, Lord. I can’t do this alone. I know that all power in heaven and earth is Yours. I’m asking You to allow Mike to stay with me. I need him. The kids need him. I’m begging You. I also know that Mike is Yours, not mine. So, for me to have peace, I surrender the love of my life into Your hands. If You take him home, I will be angry and grief stricken. But, if that is Your plan, help me to accept it. I can’t do any of this alone. I’m afraid, Jesus. Amen.
As I opened my eyes, I noticed that nothing around me had changed. The waiting room was still bathed in glowing light. Disinfectant hung heavy in the air. There was not another person in sight. And, yet, I felt different.
A tinge of peace subdued my fearful thoughts. The burden I’d been carrying on my own had eased. I felt a little freer, a little lighter. Talking with God had transferred the enormity of the situation from my limited, human hands to His powerful ones.
Honestly, I was still scared, still anxious. But, I didn’t feel alone anymore. I didn’t feel so overwhelmed. I knew God was in this with me, and that He would help me face whatever was to come. So, I did the next thing I could. I took a deep breath, gathered my soggy tissues, and went to find someone who could give me an update about Mike.
By the way, my story has a happy ending. I was able to stay at the hospital until Mike was admitted to a private room following surgery. Since that time, he has made a full recovery.
Dana Kennedy is a survivor, encourager, wife and mother. She writes a devotional column for Glory and Strength e-magazine. It has taken Dana the better part of 17 years to begin to understand the gifts God has hidden for her in chronic illness, especially Himself. Dana welcomes your contact at firstname.lastname@example.org
Has your “healthy” spouse had a medical issue, such as a stroke, cancer, an accident, that left you reeling, wondering how things would “work out”? How did you handle the uncertainty?