I couldn’t tell you exactly when or how it came to be, but years ago Mom and I started referring to events as “God things.” This usually described something serendipitous, and where it really felt like the big guy was looking out.
To close out this series, and so that I’ll forever have these moments to look back on, I wanted to mention just a few of what turned out to be so many God Things. The first big one came on Tuesday afternoon, after Dad had been admitted into the hospital Monday morning. But it really started a few days before.
The previous Thursday is when we’d gotten the latest bad news, that the cancer may not be responding to the treatment and that’s why Dad was declining so rapidly. That’s the day we scheduled all of the additional tests to gather a better picture of where things stood. It was also that day that I packed up and “moved” back in with Mom and Dad. Leading up to this, Dad was requiring more and more support, so naturally that meant that other things around the house weren’t getting done.
Mom and I had a really interesting conversation about how difficult it felt to ask for help. Especially for something so mundane and ordinary as household chores, surely we shouldn’t need to ask for help just to get those things done. But then I discovered a bigger reason why we were so resistant to asking. Two of my best friends from high school, Katlin and Damien, are married and live just over a mile away from my parents. They were some of the few people that knew about Dad’s cancer from the beginning, and had been kept up to date over the years. Except I hadn’t really told many people about the recent weeks, when it really wasn’t looking good.
So on Saturday, as we packed up to take Dad to the fair for his birthday, I sent them both a message, asking if they could help out with some chores around the house and why. It was as I typed the words that I discovered why I’d not written them sooner. I had to acknowledge to an outside party what was happening. It made it a whole lot more real than when just the family knew. I sobbed in my car before I was able to hit send.
It had very little to do with the imposition of asking. I knew both of them, along with a lot of other people in my life, would have happily done anything to help. It was the reality check that came with asking.
Of course they said yes and made plans to stop by the next day so we could show them what we needed help with. It was great seeing them that afternoon and Dad got to talk with them too. It was so different having people around who knew Dad so well. Katlin spent almost as much time at our house as her own growing up and I hadn’t realized the significance of that connection until that day. It just meant something different, going through it all with people that knew him like I did.
So we set up a lawn-mowing schedule and a few other miscellaneous tasks and I was feeling good about bringing them in to our journey. Then Monday happened and we found ourselves in the ICU treating Dad’s pneumonia. Thankfully, Mom was able to take that day off of work and be present at the hospital all day as we went through all of the testing and conversations with the doctors. On Tuesday, she needed to go back in to work and wrap things up so she could begin her leave so I headed in to the hospital on my own.
The days at the hospital almost had a rhythm to them. The shift change occured every 12 hours at 7:30, breakfast around 8, lunch at noon, dinner about 7, doctor would come by sometime in the morning and there were various other treatments administered, IVs changed and vitals checked throughout the day. There were also a variety of therapists coming by: physical, cognitive, speech and swallow, occupational, breathing. And I have so many wonderful things to say about the caregivers we had during our stay, but one thing that was lacking was an overall continuity of care. I found myself having to fill in a lot of information so that the right things happened when they were supposed to, and other things didn’t.
Having to repeat the same information, things that were hard to say about Dad’s condition, was taxing. And then helping each new person know how to best communicate with him as his cognitive function slipped, was even harder. By Tuesday afternoon, after being on my own that day, I found myself feeling really overwhelmed and stressed. After whatever therapist that was in the room at the time left, I checked my phone and I had a text from Katlin. It just said that she was driving by the hospital on her way home from work and asked if I could use a coffee.
I would not have texted her on my own. Not because of the imposition but because in that moment of overwhelm, I couldn’t make sense of what I needed. My instinct was to call my mom, but I knew she had to give her attention to work so that she could be done and begin leave. So when I saw that message I just crumbled a little and responded with “No, but I could use some support.” She was there in ten minutes and stayed with me until Mom was off work. Dad recognized her when she came in and we had one of the best conversations with him we’d had all day.
The timing of her message, when she was able to be there and that it was her, were exactly what I needed. That, was a God Thing.
The next notable moment came the next day, Wednesday. Ben arrived late Tuesday night and joined me at the hospital Wednesday morning. Mom had to return to work that morning to wrap up a few more loose ends. She was at the hospital about midday. There was more progression and more bad news. More conversations with the doctor. By the afternoon I felt really numb. Going on three full days at the hospital was a lot. So I decided that I’d leave a little early, around 4 pm and head home for the night to spend some time with Lucy. Ben and Mom would stay with Dad.
I was on my way home when I received a text from Damien with a picture of a 6-pack of Coors Light and the words “Ready for one?”
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud and reply with “Yep.” I only beat him to the house by a few minutes and we just sat on the porch and talked. About nothing in particular. And it was wonderful. Again, not something I would have thought to ask for, but exactly what I needed that day. He was rather insistent about meeting Katlin and some friends for dinner so I tagged along for that too. It was a wonderful reprieve from the emotions and stress I’d been facing. And just totally a God Thing.
The next morning, Thursday, I headed back in to the hospital and brought in an overnight bag for Mom who’d opted to stay over with Dad the night before. We were met with some jarring updates from the doctor, who indicated that instead of facing days we could be facing months of the treatment Dad was receiving for the pneumonia.
I was so upset. I’d accepted our timeline. I’d prepared. And now it was exponentially extended? And there was some mention of “if he’s able to beat the pneumonia…” In this kind of situation, hope is a tricky thing. And I’ve learned that some doctors will err a little bit too much on the side of hope. The numbers we were seeing, the reality in front of us, did not offer any hope. All signs pointed toward days, not months, and the contrast in information was so jarring.
So with this news, I was more emotional than I thought I’d be that day. Then around noon, I get a message from my friend Tasha that read, “Hey girl. Michelle and I are at the hospital for our lunch. We are just gonna hang out and read here for the next hour if you need anything. No pressure.” What an absolute God Thing. The three of us, Tasha, Michelle and I have become good friends and they are incredible humans. And for them to show up that day, when I was facing more than I thought I would be, and just be there… It was so helpful to share what we’d been through that morning and that time with them made the rest of the day just a little bit easier to get through. They also left me with the most thoughtful care package I could have imagined.
These are just a few of the unplanned, unforeseen moments I was blessed with during that week. To list them all would take days, but to the people who were a part of each one of them, I thank you. You’ll never know the extent to which you helped me and my family during this time. And if you’ve taken anything from these stories I hope it’s this: if someone you love is facing a trauma, just show up. Asking for help is hard. And knowing what to ask for is even harder. So just do things. Don’t offer to bring over food just do it. Don’t say “if you need anything just ask,” just do something. Follow your instincts, or God, and show up in whatever way feels right.
And always keep an eye out and be grateful for, The God Things.