Jon told me the way Dr. David walked into the waiting room, with a heavy weight on his shoulders, and weariness etched on his face, made him think I had not survived the surgery. He had anticipated not being able to take in all the finer details so he hit record on his phone as my surgeon began to speak.
“Well, that was not good. It was worse than I expected.” he stammered. And right there Jon thought I was gone.
My surgeon continued: “I think the radiotherapy blasted the whole thing together—the heart, lung, the old lung—became like cement. It was very, very difficult. But, it was all done (cheers erupted at this point) . . . no, no, no you can’t celebrate yet, that was a lot of surgery. It was extreme . . . twice the anesthetist said, ‘I thought you were going to stop the operation and close her up’ and I said, ‘Well, if you close her up, you are sentencing her to death, then, she will die for sure.’” He paused briefly. “But, it’s not 100% . . . she could die tonight, tomorrow, next month, next year . . . that was a bad operation with one lung, a tragedy actually . . .”
For 13 minutes Dr. David described how he had to carve out cement–like dead tissue around and in my heart and put in plastic and steel hardware in whatever healthier tissue he could find. He didn’t know if I would heal with all the hardware inside me. All we could do was wait.
Jon stopped recording when my surgeon walked away and waves of intense sobs from relief and heartbreak shook his whole body.
No one knew if I would wake up.
Those hospital halls were foreign land to Jon that night. He wandered this wilderness to find me under a warming air blanket and hooked up to machines that lit up like a Christmas tree. Late into the night, he returned to his hotel room to rest knowing the days to come would be difficult and intense.
My older sister sat by my bedside all that night. She refused sleep to come to her eyes. I wasn’t going to die on her watch. She held my hand, never letting go of hope. She was there when my nurse attempted to wake me up the first time. Hours later she was there when the nurse took the breathing tube from out of my mouth and leaned down to tell me: “Rebekah, you did it.” She echoed my cry: “The Lord did it all! Thank-you God.”
The Lord did do it. The Lord has done great things and we are full of joy.
But, this joy was not in the absence of great anguish and pain.
Somehow joy and sorrow mingle.
By the end of 80 days in that intensive care unit, Jon had worn a path in those halls. My surgeon had hoped there would be no further complications and that I could be sent home after seven days. But, after seven days I was not well. For weeks my body wasted away and I started to doubt whether we had made the right choice to risk surgery. In my distress, I wished I could go back to August 28th and refuse the operation.
I began to grumble. Tears streamed from my eyes. Thoughts turned sour. Grief walled me in. Fear held me captive.
I felt trapped. Literally in an 8x8 foot ICU room. Separated from my children. With an uncertain road ahead.
Two months after my surgery, the head nurse came to chat with me. From years of caring for cardiac patients she knew how to be compassionate and how to craft a motivating pep talk. With gentle firmness she told me: “Crying and feeling sad is ok, but you can’t go back and wish you made a different decision. This is the choice you made and you need to go forward.”
The struggle was real. There was no easy way out.
I could identify with the Israelites: grumbling, bitterness rising, hope diminishing. I had left a very unhealthy place and now I needed to go forward.
Did I trust that God who had brought me to this place would see me right through?
Consider the exchange of words after God had led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt:
“ . . . the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, ‘Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?. . . it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’ And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.’
The LORD said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.’”
The people of Israel were in a hard place between the Red Sea before them and the host of Egyptians behind. This was an impossible situation. They could not see a way out. But God wanted them to trust Him; to look not on what they could see, but what they knew of Him to be true.
And this is what they were to do:
Number 1: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today.”
Number 2: “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Number 3: “go forward”
This is what we are to do when faced with an impossible situation. When we are pressed with tragedy or trial we are to trust God and keep walking by faith.
Fear not, stand firm and look to God—To not fear is to be fully confident of God’s presence and protection. He is the one at work so He will get all the glory.
Be silent--quiet your mind, be still and know that He is God and that He will be with you in whatever you are called to endure.
Go forward--you can’t stay at the edge of the sea. One step at a time, your faith must be demonstrated by obedient actions.
We can’t go back. Trust God and go forward.
Refuse to trust and obey Him and you will certainly die as sure as if my surgeon had stopped the operation and closed me up, sentencing me to death.
But God makes the sea into dry land so we can go forward into the midst of the sea and on the other side, sing victoriously:
“The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise Him,
my father’s God and I will exalt Him. . .
You have led in your steadfast love
the people whom you have redeemed . . .”