I woke up and stared at the clock, today was the big day. It was early, but it wasn’t hard to get out of bed. We had been working for months to make it this far and I had butterflies in my stomach. So much had happened to get to this place; lots of time, effort and energy. Early mornings, late evenings, delayed suppers, through sickness and weather, cross country practice was relentless. But, here we were at the state competition, all the effort had paid off.
We ate a quick breakfast compliments of the hotel, and headed for the park where hundreds of runners from all across the state would gather and run their hearts out in hopes to win a medal. The final race of the season, the pinnacle, the one that really mattered – State. We were thrilled. Our youngest and only one still living at home, was set to take the course at ten o’clock. He had worked so hard and now was his chance to shine.
After warm ups, prayer, and with nerves causing stomach gymnastics, the runners took the starting line. The announcer bellowed out “on your mark, get set,” and the gun went off. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a race where hundreds of boys take off from the start line at the same time, but it honestly feels like the ground shakes beneath your feet as they fly by neck-in-neck, each battling for position and hoping to inch out the boy next to him. A good start can set the tone for a race. As much as I enjoy watching the takeoff, you will usually find me somewhere on the course where I feel the runner will need encouragement. Like the two mile mark or a few hundred yards from the finish. A place where a cheering fan might be just the reminder one needs to keep going strong and not slow down.
And this day was no different.
I was standing near the two mile mark when I heard the echo of the start gun. Pow! I said a mental prayer for my runner and stood nervously watching the beaten trail waiting for him to round the corner, pass the trees and soar by me. I had already rehearsed what I was going to shout out to him and I had thanked the Lord again that we were here on this beautiful cloudless, cool morning.
And that my boy could run.
Memories of an earlier much darker time are never far from my mind when I see him tearing across the course running like he has wind under his feet. I never quit being grateful for this child, this gift. The whole thing is a miracle really.
Let me start from the beginning.
My husband and I were in ministry for quite a few years, twelve to be exact. It was a beautiful time for us, but in 2004 we felt the Lord was telling us it was time to follow another dream, the dream of becoming a pilot. It was a huge step for us that involved a lot of things coming together perfectly and then trusting everything would be okay. We had three small children at the time, between the ages of five and ten; each of them counting on us to provide all that they needed. Of course they didn’t vocalize this, as a child you just trust that the “big” people in your life will take good care of you. Since having children I understand why scripture tells us to have childlike faith, it is so pure and unwavering.
But, sometimes things just don’t go as planned, and we have to trust God to see us through.
After saying goodbye to the church where we ministered, we loaded up the truck and packed our van tight with odds and ends and kids and headed down the road on a wing and a prayer for what we hoped would be a bright future. Our first stop was my parents’ home where the kids and I would live for ten months as my husband went on to flight school several hours away. We lived apart while he started training.
It’s amazing what you will do for your dreams.
When the children and I were finally able to move and live with their daddy, we lived in a one bedroom apartment briefly until a two bedroom became available. All the kids slept in one room with mattresses on the floor while we had the other, mattresses straight on the floor as well. We never went without food or anything we needed, and it was our choice to keep the rest of our belongings in storage. We were so thankful to be together after our time apart that it just didn’t matter where or how we slept.
Part of getting settled in our new town was getting the kids registered to start a new school. I was especially blessed to start working in a doctor’s office where my schedule was the same the kids. If you’ve ever followed a dream, you know there is always cost involved. Always. We thought we’d measured the price and were willing to pay it, but not having insurance was by far the hardest sacrifice. I have such compassion for families who don’t have insurance, it is a terrible feeling and a tough reality. That’s why it was such a blessing for me to work in a doctor’s office, they treated my children for free.
That turned out to be a bigger blessing than I ever imagined.
Throughout that school year we had to cash in on our free visits for various reasons, mostly strep throat. We never seemed to be able to really get completely rid of that dreaded sickness. We would find out years later that one of our kids was a carrier. Once we had their tonsils removed, that pretty much took care of the problem. If we had only found that out sooner. Our youngest seemed to keep getting sick with it, he just couldn’t fight it off. I guess it was around this time he started to physically fail, but it would be months later before I recognized it.
I remember feeling so discouraged when my littlest woke up with a fever again. He kept getting them, at least one every month. I would take him to work with me and antibiotics would be prescribed, again. Being the mom of three active kids, and having to parent alone much of the time because of the rigorous schedule my husband maintained, I didn’t really notice he hadn’t fully recovered from the last fever. The changes in him were so subtle, and I was so busy. When I think about it, I should’ve thought it was strange that a six year old wanted to ride in the cart at Wal-Mart instead of walking with his brother and sister. It never occurred to me that his legs were feeling weak and he didn’t know how to articulate it, so life just kept marching on; antibiotics, fever gone, back to school and our hectic schedule. Until the next month when it happened again. I’m sure there were other slight changes that I totally missed as well.
Red flags that I should’ve seen, right?
During this feverish cycle of life my husband finished flight school and landed his dream job of being a pilot. We then moved to a small town to be closer to family, but, we hadn’t been there long before my son had another fever and we had to find a doctor. At this point I had begun to see the pattern and was genuinely concerned. The fevers were still monthly and he started having trouble walking distances and of course he always rode in the cart when we went shopping. I expressed my concerns to the doctor, and sadly, he did not take me seriously. A few more months of fevers and I was really worried. Each time we visited the doctor, he would give us another antibiotic assuring me my little guy would be just fine. I began to lose confidence in him. I remember the last time we saw this doctor he prescribed yet another medicine and sent me on my way. My sweet boy could hardly walk at this point, seriously. I took him home and called another doctor immediately. She had me bring him right in and I did. He literally had to stop every few feet and rest. I ended up carrying him. I mentally decided if she didn’t do something, the next stop was the emergency room.
I am forever compassionate of moms with sick kids, this went on too long before someone finally listened to us. You feel desperate for help and not sure how to get it. And guilty for not seeing the signs sooner, not being a better parent.
At least that’s how it feels.
I remember sitting back in the examination room at new doctor’s office after being called from the waiting room. My boy was laying on the cold paper covered bed waiting to be seen. Everything seemed so sterile and I was so nervous and cold, so cold. I kept stroking his hair and assuring him he would feel better soon. But, way down inside I wasn’t sure, I was so afraid. Finally, the doctor came in and I told her our story. She looked at him and said “this one is going straight to the hospital.” I felt such relief and terror all at once, I can’t explain it, just a whirlwind of emotions. She called the nurse to bring a wheelchair and we headed to the car and directly to the hospital where they were waiting on us. It was such a surreal feeling to be the one receiving the care instead of reading about someone else’s child in the paper or on social media.
Upon arrival we were taken immediately behind the double swinging doors that separate the sick from the well. It took several tries to get the IV into his dehydrated veins, poor thing was so weak he just laid there while they poked him. He was so brave and I was such a mess. I called my husband, who was away on a trip, and he began the difficult process of trying to get home in an emergency. It was my mom who came directly to the hospital to sit with me. She was there within minutes. I needed her strength so much, needed to feel her arms around me as I cried and blamed myself for everything.
It was such a dark moment.
Once we were settled in a room, IV’s and tubes in place, the nurses came in to check on him. I was startled to see they were wearing white masks. How sick was he anyway? No one would tell me what was going on. I felt utterly helpless. I tried to stay upbeat, he was old enough to know this was a big deal, all he asked for was a blanket and to watch Sponge Bob. The hours rolled by and mom had to go. She was exhausted and my husband had arrived in town and would be at the hospital within minutes.
I will never forget being all alone in the room with my very sick little boy. He had fallen asleep and the room was dark except for the blinking lights of the machines that pumped strength into his body. In the shadows I walked over to the window and stared out into the black starless sky. From the depths of my soul I pleaded with the Lord for healing.
Healing and peace.
But, because I know healing is not always what God has for us, I spoke out loud in the dark quiet of the room “I ask for healing, Father, but if you choose not to heal, I will love you still. Who else can I turn to? Who else is God but you?” I knew a part of me would die if I lost one of my children, knew I would never be the same. But, I have a greater hope of heaven and I know that there is no such thing as never again. In that moment I felt His presence there with me, felt Him wrap his arms around me. I wish He would’ve promised healing, I wish we hadn’t had to face what was still ahead, but through it all He stayed so near.
My faithful heavenly Father is the reason I was able to survive.
To be continued…