I looked at the clock about a hundred times yesterday. Suffering from PTSD means that "flashbacks" aren't so much that, as they are "affect-your-present-realities". Yesterday I went to my grandparents' house to help out the family as we see my grandpa through some pretty scary health situations, dealing with another family crisis and trying to be strong and helpful; it was also the six year anniversary of Holly's death. I watched the clock, remembering the day like I was back in the cold halls of that hospital.
10:25am: I sat in a rocking chair at my grandparents' house; my "watch" just having begun while my sick granddad laid sleeping, breathing heavily and the DVD menu music of Fiddler on the Roof playing on repeat. I wasn't connected enough to the present to change it. We were getting the final report from the neurologist saying there was complete brain death.
11ish: I was sent to Walmart to pick up prescriptions for the sickling and groceries for the caretakers. While I was out, I texted my people asking for prayer. There was pain medication all over the place at their house, and I was so scared of being tempted. (I feel vulnerable sharing that text below with the interwebs, but it's true. It's confession. And it's what enabled the incredible prayers and community support I got back.) We were meeting with the ICU attending physician discussing whether to terminate life support and call in palliative care. One of the most surreal conversations of my life, apart from the one we'd had the night before about funeral homes and burial places.
12onthedot: We ate my recipe for Taco soup for lunch, aware of the pain Granddad was in and eating quietly for the most part. Finally after finishing up hand-washing all the dishes from lunch, I was sent to Walmart again to buy some hilarious shorts for an 87-year-old man to be wearing but went on that mission like I was sent to buy a tank of oxygen. The men stayed at the hospital while my grandma, mom, and I went to buy clothes for Holly to wear at her own funeral and frame for a nice photo of her. We talked fabrics, colors, undergarments, make-up, and hair products. We went to Church's chicken to peckishly eat some lunch. The surreal had morphed into the practical, and then to the physical.
2:something: The home health nurse came over and after a review of his vitals, and a call to his primary doctor, instructions were handed out: back to the hospital with him. It was his third time in as many days. We brought flowers for the ICU nurses who had all been so great, and then we all made our calls. Palliative care was coming soon and would explain to us that once life support was terminated, there was more than one possible outcome. This is where they specialized and wanted us to know our options for facilities and financial options, should Holly remain in a vegetative state for any length of time.
3:15: Having finally notified all the right uncles and getting everyone dressed and ready to go, we loaded up to go to the hospital. The timing was uncanny. They herded us like despondent cattle into a different ICU room while they removed wires and tubes and "cleaned her up just a bit". We waited one hundred years in those ten minutes.
3:30: Prayed up, unloaded, and walker-ed in to the ER, we had checked in and were waaaaaiiiitttting. I noticed my mom's face drain of its color as she looked at something on the wall behind me. She mouthed "3:33" at me. They let us back in her room, and we sat staring at her for all of eternity -- the room finally silent after we had been listening to respirators and monitors and IV machines for days on end. Her chest rose and fell a few times ... I think. At 3:33pm, the doctor checked her feet reflexes, her pupils, and her pulse and then whispered, "3:33" toward the nurse documenting in the doorway.
That was a stressful and traumatic day six years ago, and I've written about it many times on this blog. (In fact, it's why I started this blog - as a release valve for the pressurized PTSD and grief expanding within me.) But yesterday's trauma and stress were only matched by the hope and joy that Jesus wove throughout the day in so many forms. That's particularly what I wanted to share this year... on this, the annual post about the day.
Around five o'clock yesterday afternoon, my mom and I went to the cemetery to visit Holly's grave site, to visit Holly - however you see that. This pulled us both into the present, the very real reality of death. She is buried in the plot directly behind my Grandparents Wolfe, so my mom and I sat on their headstone, facing Holly's. I turned on Vertical Church Band's "Not For a Moment" and we worshiped a constant, only good, sovereign, faithful God who never once left us, even when we couldn't (can't) see him or hear him.
We both cried. I sang and lifted my arms into the wind which felt so intensely like the Spirit was among us, and Mom prayed over us. I went and sat on top of the place where Holly's actually buried right beneath and noticed grass had finally covered it. I laughed at the enemy. Despite watering, tending, planting, and praying... the spot was barren and fallow for over five years. And now new life has sprung up there in that grass. Death doesn't get the last word. Not ever.
Life does. Grace does. God does.
So precious reader, if you are in the space of death reigning or fallow ground winning, I pray these words over you today: In Jesus' name, life wins. Grace wins. God holds all the victory. By the power of the Spirit, may he bring us to a place of worship, even among the dead things, and may we notice new life when it finally comes by his gracious hand. Amen.