Monday, April 19, 2010
THE NEXT DAY
We went to bed the night of April 18, 2004 like we had every night over the past four and a half months. Ethan was unresponsive. Our hearts were broken.
As Ethan lay in the hospital bed in the room next to our kitchen, his heart was beating. His skin was warm. But our Ethan wasn’t there, and we missed him terribly. We missed being able to tell him how much we loved him. We missed hearing him laugh. We missed making new memories with him.
Many nights had past since we last talked to Ethan. Nights that we had laid our heads on our pillows without hearing Ethan’s voice. Without seeing him smile.
Ethan was gone... and we couldn’t get to him. We didn’t know where he was.
But God knew.
God knew where he was, and that night He knew that the next day He was going to show us His power and His mercy. He knew that He was going to answer the prayers of our longing hearts. God knew that He was going to bring excitement, pure delight, and laughter back into a home that had been filled with guilt, tears, and despair. A home that had been filled with agony that can’t be described. An agony that can only be known by those who have experienced it.
And I imagine that He could hardly wait for His sun to come up over the horizon so that the day could begin. I wouldn’t have been surprised if He woke the birds up a little earlier than normal that morning, in anticipation of what He was going to do for our family.
Did the sun shine on our home a little brighter that morning? Did the birds in our yard sing a little louder that morning? Did creation know what God was about to do? Were they waiting for the celebration?
God might have felt like I use to feel on Christmas morning. Regardless of how late Santa and I had stayed up putting toys together, arranging them for maximum effect, the anticipation of what the boys had in store for them wouldn’t let me sleep. I was always up before they were. Coffee in hand. A little make-up on the face. Charged batteries in the camera. A heart full of joy that only giving can bring.
I couldn’t wait.
I felt the same excitement with birthdays.
I would have gifts ready and waiting for the boy’s big day, but oh, how many times I gave them to the boys before their birthdays. I would be determined to wait for the big day, but somehow I just couldn’t wait. I’d cave in and give them their gifts early. Of course, that always meant more gifts, more money spent, because they still needed a surprise on their actual birthday!
Is there anything that can compare to giving a gift that is longed for? Is there anything that is more exhilarating than to give someone you love something they want, something they can’t get for themselves?
I can only imagine God’s excitement over the gift he had for us that day.
I’ve told this story over and over again. But today, April 19, I have to tell it again. I imagine that I will tell it every April 19 as long as I can. And, if the day ever comes when I can’t, I pray that someone will tell it for me.
Actually, it’s a story I tell myself over and over again. When things are harder than usual. When hope is fading. When I go to bed at night and the tears don’t stop. I tell it to myself when I walk past a picture of Ethan, of Ethan before, and I long for that part of him that is no longer there.
I remember what God gave us that day. I remember that when we went to bed the night before, we had no idea. We had no idea what God had in store for us.
We knew God was good. With His Mercy and His Grace, we were living every day in His strength. We were living every day in His comfort. And that day we learned that His hand is never too short... His gifts cannot be measured. That day our eyes saw, our ears heard and our hearts knew, that what was impossible with man, was not impossible with God.
I hope reading the following will help your eyes to see, your ears to hear, and your heart to know the same.
May God richly bless you as you experience that day with us.
April 19, 2004 began like most days had begun since Ethan came home from the hospital on February 12. It began with the same 24/7 routine of being a caregiver; medicines, tube feedings, trying to meet the needs of one who couldn’t care for himself... while trying to care for yourself and your co-caregivers.
Jim had not gone to work that day because we had an appointment with a physical therapist. She was coming to the house. Not so much to work with Ethan, but to teach us how to work with him.
We had pleaded with the doctors to write a prescription for a physical therapist. It hadn’t happened, because Ethan’s diagnosis was custodial instead of rehabilitative. To put it simply, the doctors believed Ethan would never wake up. That it would be a waste of insurance money and resources on a life that was, for all practical purposes, gone. We were frustrated that we couldn’t get Ethan what we knew he needed. We understood the reasoning by the doctors, but it didn’t make it any easier. We had received only minimal instruction by the hospital therapist during a quick session before Ethan’s discharge. We were willing to work with Ethan, but we were uncertain and without any training. In our ignorance, we didn’t want to hurt him. Finally, one of Ethan’s doctors consented to writing a prescription for therapy. I think he actually got tired of Jim’s pleading. As a father himself, I don’t think he could stand saying no to Jim one more time. And, as a believer in Jesus Christ, I believe this doctor was sensitive to God’s leading and prompting.
We finally had a prescription for physical therapy, but we still had to find a therapist.
It took us several weeks to find a therapist that could come to the house. To take Ethan anywhere at that time would have required an ambulance. After much prayer, many many phone calls, and friends doing their own networking behind the scenes, we finally had an appointment.
That day the therapist taught us stretching exercises for Ethan. She taught new methods of positioning him in the bed; putting pillows here and there to help prevent further problems for a body that had already been in bed for such a long time.
She also asked for Ethan’s rented wheelchair and Hoyer lift to be brought into the room. She was going to teach us how to get Ethan up out of the bed. I think we were a little stunned that on her first visit, she would attempt to teach us such a bold move.
I felt uneasy and nervous about it. Ethan had not been out of the bed except for a few times in the hospital, when the nurses would used an electric Hoyer lift to put him in a recliner.
This was way out of my comfort zone. Actually, everything I had done for Ethan in the last few months had been out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t a nurse. I had never wanted to be a nurse. I didn’t even dress up and play nurse when I was a little girl. Nursing was not my thing.
The Hoyer lift had a detachable sling on it. You would take off the sling, slide it under the patient, and then pull the sides together and attach them to the lift. The one the insurance company had provided for us was manual version. You cranked the handle and it raised the patient up off the bed, and you rolled the lift where you wanted to put the patient. Then you cranked the handle again to gently lower the patient into the new place. It’s hard to explain, but imagine a giant stork carrying an adult in a sling.
Before we knew it, she had Ethan sitting in the wheelchair. She put him back into the bed and told Jim it was his turn. Jim used his engineering mind, followed her techniques, and with great care, he got Ethan into the chair.
Then the therapist left.
She left us with instructions to get Ethan up during the day for short periods of time. She would see us the next week.
The sun was shining. It was a beautiful spring day so we decided to take Ethan out on the patio. We somehow arranged all his equipment safely and there he was... sitting outside in the sun. Sitting outside on the patio where he had played with his Legos. The patio where he had eaten his favorite meals of dad’s grilled shish-kabobs. The patio where we had sat and discussed his plans for the future. The patio where Jim had given him a buzz-cut because he didn’t want to wait for a barber's appointment. The patio where we had laughed at pranks he and Seth had played on each other. The patio where we had spent ordinary days experiencing ordinary moments together. They didn’t seem that ordinary anymore. Every moment that we had had with Ethan... every memory... became extraordinary.
I guess it should have felt bitter-sweet. But it didn‘t. I did take pleasure in the fact that Ethan was outside. But my Ethan had always loved being outside.
When Ethan was a baby and I couldn’t stop his crying, all I had to do to get him to stop was to stand in an open doorway, and let him see the light of the sun and feel its warmth.
The light and the warmth of the sun was once again shining on Ethan.
Jim and I left Ethan outside with Seth and Seth's girlfriend. She was a wonderful young lady we had come to love, and whose presence in our lives during that time was so comforting.
Seth was sitting on one side of Ethan, and his girlfriend on the other.
From the first time Seth walked into Ethan’s ICU room in Gainesville, he talked to him. He would ask him questions. He told him funny stories. Over and over again, Seth begged Ethan to come back to us. Seth played him his favorite music. He sang to him. There were many, many times we would walk past Ethan’s hospital bed only to see Seth laying in it with him. His arms wrapped around him. Seth’s head laying on the pillow next to Ethan’s.
That day on the patio Seth was still talking to him. After four and a half months of not receiving any answers, Seth was still asking him questions.
Our lab, Bayley, was running around the backyard barking. Chances are, Seth was making her bark. Seth, while looking at Bayley, asked Ethan, "Who’s making all that noise?"
Seth continued to play with Bayley but his girlfriend quickly said, “Ask Ethan that again.” Seth was puzzled as to why, but turned to Ethan and asked again, “Who’s making all that noise?”
She thought she had seen Ethan’s lips move with an answer, but now she was sure.
So was Seth.
After four and a half months, Ethan answered a question!
He couldn’t speak because of the tracheotomy tube he had in his throat, but he very clearly mouthed the answer.
Ethan said, “Bayley.”
Seth ran into the house screaming.
I don’t remember what he was screaming. Only that he was screaming.
Jim and I ran to the door, not knowing what we would find.
Was the scream coming from fear? Panic? Did the scream tell of more disappointment? Did it signal something else that we would have to deal with?
As we ran out onto the patio and saw Seth, kneeling down in front of Ethan’s chair, we had our answer.
No fear... No dread... No disappointment.
The scream had been a good scream.
We had been given a gift, and we were in the process of unwrapping it.
We knew it was good but unsure as to what it was.
In four and a half months of seeing hurt on Seth’s face, we now saw a smile that screamed pure joy and delight.
Seth was asking Ethan questions.
“What’s my name?” Seth.
“What’s your name?” Ethan Rainer Galloway.
“What sport did you play?” Golf.
“Who is this?” Your girlfriend.
“What kind of car do you have?” A Jetta.
“Where was it made?” Germany.
Over and over again, Seth asked him questions and Ethan mouthed every answer.
Ethan couldn’t laugh that day. He couldn’t smile. He couldn’t make his eyes follow us as we walked around the patio. He couldn’t hold up his head.
He was so extremely weak. He had lost over 80-90 pounds since the time of his injury.
We didn’t get to hear his voice that day. We didn’t get to feel his arms around us.
But we didn’t care.
We didn’t care at all.
We could do something that our hearts had longed to do.
We could tell Ethan that we loved him and know that he heard us.
And God, only God, who is never satisfied to only give a little of our hearts' desire, gave us the gift of Ethan mouthing the words, “I love you, too.”
God had done the "longed for." On April 19, 2004, an ordinary spring day, God reached down and showed His unbelievable power and mercy... in an extraordinary way.
There are many things I am still longing for...
I am longing for many things for Ethan.
I am longing for many things for my family.
The other night I was sitting beside Ethan, when he was in bed for the night, and he told me something that he is longing for. Most of the times, what he is longing for, seems impossible.
I began to tell Ethan this story again. For the "umpteenth time," I told him this story. As I got to the end, when we realized God had given us our Ethan back, I reminded him that the night before that day, we had no idea what God had in store for us. We didn’t know what God had in store for us. And we don’t ever know what the next day will bring. But, we do know that God is good. We know that He takes great joy in answering our prayers. That He feels the excitement that a good father feels when he gives a child the desires of their heart. We don’t know if it is in His perfect will to give us what we ask for. We don’t know how He will answer our prayers.
Our pain and our fears blind us to the goodness of our Father’s heart, and to the many gifts He gives us every day. We lose sight of His excitement as He waits, for the perfect time, to show us His perfect plans and to give us the wonderful gifts He has for us on our journey through this life, and the gifts He will give us in our next life which will last for all eternity.
When we lose sight of His heart, we lose our hope.
God knows it’s hard for us to believe. That it’s hard for us to believe what our eyes can’t see. To believe what our minds tells us is impossible. He knows that in this world, it’s easy to lose hope. That the circumstances and loud voices that scream at us to give up, can easily overwhelm us.
But Jesus told us when he was standing outside the tomb of his dead friend, Lazarus, that if we believed. . .we would see.
I don’t know what your heart will be crying out for as your head lays on your pillow tonight. I don’t know what you have cried tears over, the dreams you thought have been lost. I don’t know what your mind is telling you what won’t happen, what's impossible. I don‘t know what you circumstances are yelling at you.
I just know that he did the impossible for us on April 19, 2004. I know that when we went to bed the night before, we had no idea that the next night when we went to sleep we wouldn’t be crying. But that we would be singing. We didn’t know that the next day our eyes would see what our minds had told us wouldn’t happen. That God made the impossible dream of our hearts come to pass.
There is a saying that says it better than I can.
“If you can’t believe He will do it for you, than believe he did it for me. And in believing that He did it for me, you will begin to believe that He will do it for you.”
I sense God is smiling as I share this story with you. That He’s smiling because He surprised us. He’s smiling like I use to smile when I would give the boys a gift that I had told them they weren’t going to get. Maybe a gift that they knew was too expensive, or too dangerous for a sissy mom to let them have. I think God just may be smiling because He remembers the day He gave us a gift that knocked us off our feet.
A gift that knocked us to our knees.