Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I don't think much about the 154 days that Ethan was "asleep," and we couldn't wake him up. I don't have flashbacks or nightmares about all those days when he was gone.

Sometimes sounds do haunt me when things are quiet and still, but life does a good job of quieting them. A good job of covering them up, of drowning them out.

But this morning when I woke up sobbing, I knew that what we think is gone or healed or forgotten is frequently just covered with the dirt of time and new experiences, and a whole lot of God's grace.

I think the uncovering started with the shooting in Tucson, and hearing that Congresswoman Giffords had suffered a horrific brain injury.

All brain injuries are horrific.  They can in no way be good.

Eight months before Ethan's accident, I had surgery to removed a small and silent tumor from my brain.  I remember my neurosurgeon saying something to the effect that it is never good when you have to do something to the brain. Brains weren't made to be messed with.

My surgery ended with the very best possible scenario. I will always be thankful.

The words from the news reports about the congresswoman's condition began to affect me.

The next 48 hours. Brain swelling. Removing part of the skull. Ventilators. Intensive Care. The right hemisphere. The left hemisphere. Can't say. The next 72 hours. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Ethan's brain injury was unlike the congresswoman's. But the words I've heard recently were so much the same. Same enough to make my heart race. Same enough to feel the panic. Same enough to relive the unknowing and the uncertainty, and the slow, long hours and days and weeks and months of waiting.

When President Obama announced the good news that Congresswoman Giffords had finally opened her eyes, I went back.  Back to Ethan's dark ICU room when he first opened his eyes. We had waited for ten days. And even though the neurologist told me that it didn't mean anything and that it didn't change Ethan's prognosis, his eyes were the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen.

I began to feel hopeful for Congresswoman Giffords. I was hopeful because I heard one of her doctors say, "We would be wise to acknowledge miracles."

I was in the process of burying the fresh thoughts and memories from those 154 days, when I read a prayer request for a 38-year-old mother and writer who had suffered a stroke. I prayed as I read about her husband, her two daughters, and the critical condition the stroke had left her in.

I know that I'm not the only one who feels overwhelmed by prayer requests.

There's so much pain, so many needs.  There are so many requests. Trying to remember and to squeeze them all into a busy, already crowded day, can leave us feeling like "what's the use?"

But I know the use. When you've been on the other end of a prayer request . . . when it's your loved one people are praying for . . . when you know that all your hope, your only hope, is in God, you want people to pray. You want anyone and everyone to pray.

I remember standing in the hall outside of the ICU waiting room when Celeste, the liaison between the hospital and families, walked past me, stopped, turned around and said, "Oh yeah, I wanted to tell you that I just got an e-mail from a mechanic in India, and he's praying for Ethan."

I'm not a mechanic in India. I'm a wife and mom and someone who likes to share her thoughts with people on a little blog. I live in a tiny community in the panhandle of Florida, but I am praying my heart out for Joanne, The Simple Wife.

Reading the updates that Joanne's husband is writing on her blog, has taken me back once again to a time and place I'd rather not go.

Joanne's husband describes the sound the ventilator makes being like the breathing of the Star Wars villain, Darth Vader. He's so right. I hated that machine and the sound that it made. But I loved it because it was being used to keep my baby alive.

I remember the doctor's reporting that Congresswoman Giffords, though still connected to the ventilator, was doing some breathing on her own.

How well I remember the day the respiratory therapist explained to us that every time a certain little light blinked on the ventilator meant that Ethan was breathing for himself. We stared at the light waiting for it to blink. We begged for it to blink. Ethan needed to remember how to breathe.

Joanne's husband shared how devastating the pictures of his wife's brain looks. We saw those pictures, too. The ones the doctor holds up while he takes his pen out of his pocket to use as a pointer. He asks if you see the darkness he's pointing to and you say "yes." And then he says the darkness is not good. And then you realize that what you are looking at isn't a broken bone that can be set and put into a cast, it isn't a ruptured appendix or inflamed tonsils that can be removed. You realize the medicines they might give aren't to fix or heal, but are only to keep something else bad from happening.

Your loved ones' brain is who-they-are. It is their personality, their memory, their sense of humor. It is the part of them you love more than any other part. It is the part that loves you.

And the doctor tells you that the darkness that covers it means severe injury, and possibly dead tissue that might be gone forever. I remember silently screaming, "NO!"

I read about the first time Joanne's little girl walked into see her, and I thought about the first time Ethan's brother and cousins and friends saw him. When The Simple Wife's husband tried to share his wide range of emotions, emotions totally out of control, I thought about my niece sitting on the floor, out in the hall, crying into her hands. I thought about my nephew's anger as he cornered  the neurologist who lacked the gift of communication. I thought about experiencing total despair and hope at the same time. I remember having enough of it all, and of losing control, and of screaming at the top of my lungs. I remember being totally confused when I found myself laughing with my cousin in the ICU waiting room.

Emotions. Joanne's family is feeling every emotion possible right now, and they are very possibly feeling them all at once. I remember.

The family is asking people to pray Psalm 46 for Joanne. We asked people to pray Psalm 40 for Ethan.

I prayed Psalm 40 again this morning.

"I waited patiently for the LORD and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth-Praise be to our God. Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD." v.1-3

"For innumerable evils have surrounded me. My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up. They are more than the hairs of my head. Therefore my heart fails me." v.12

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You. Let such as love Your salvation say continually, "The LORD be magnified!" But I am poor and needy. Yet the LORD thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliver. Do not delay, O my God." v.16-17

Yesterday, Joanne's husband wrote a post about the peace and strength he is experiencing.  It brought me to my knees. I have experienced that peace and strength. It is a mystery. It is supernatural. It is Spirit-born and Spirit-breathed. In a moment when all seems lost and hopeless, it comes from within us, but it is not of us. Peace and strength beyond understanding and comprehension.

I ask you to pray, in the name of Jesus, for Joanne. Pray for a miracle. Pray for complete restoration.  Pray that God will do more in her body, and in her brain, than can ever be imagined or hoped for.

 Please also continue to pray for  healing and restoration for Congresswoman Giffords. Pray the miracle that God seems to be giving to be complete and glorifying to The Giver.

As I was praying for these two incredible women, I thought about the many, many families who are in an ICU with their loved ones and have no one praying for them. They have no one that will put their husband or wife or child or parent's name on a prayer list. E-mails and blog posts aren't circulating through the internet with their heart's greatest desires.

There are people who are hopeless and don't know that hospital walls are holy unto the Lord and that He hears the cries of His people. I believe that God, in His Great Love and Mercy, hears the cries of all people.

Would you please ask our Father to touch the lives of some of those that are unknown today. Would you ask him, with me, to work a miracle for those who don't know what prayer can do. The Lord knows who and where they are. They are precious to Him.

I hope I haven't turned the tragedy and pain of two beautiful women into something about myself.

As I sit here and type and I hear Ethan yawning and yelling,"someone  please come and get me out of this bed"  I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that none of this is about me. It never has been.

It is all about Him.

"Many O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done. And Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order. If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered." Psalm 40:5