There have been times over the past few months when I felt like I was going to fall on my face, literally, with anxiety, fear, and panic. Last Wednesday when we walked into the hospital was one of those days.
As we walked into the lobby, with standing room only at the admissions desks, children with cancer in wheelchairs, medical personnel zooming past us, and patients hooked up to IV medication taking their afternoon walk, I felt every muscle in my body tense. I was shaking all over. I was trying to be strong – keeping a serious face, looking ahead, not making eye-contact with anyone – because I knew that one move would send me into a crying convulsion that couldn’t be stopped. My mind began singing to me the “What ifs?”, and the “What if” song is never a good one.
Then God showed up.
In His tiniest whisper that He often likes to use, God began to talk to me. Not audibly, of course, but through the Holy Spirit and the encouragement and hope we immediately began to receive.
Only a few minutes after arriving in John’s hospital room some new members of the transplant evaluation team came in to meet us. We had met Dr. Rogers before, but then we met Dr. Rosenberg, Meaghan, the Physician’s Assistant, and since Duke is a teaching hospital, about three interns. It seemed like each word they spoke allowed another muscle in my body to relax. They spoke about what John’s life would be like after the transplant. It was a life I’ve never experienced with John. It seemed too good to be true. Dr. Rosenberg told John that when he wakes up from his surgery he will not believe how good he feels. He said that because John’s been so sick for so long that he will feel like he’s twenty years old again. The stoic look on my face began to be replaced by a smile – a joyful smile that I almost couldn’t contain. When the doctors left the room I looked at John and just cried. But not because of anxiety, fear, or panic, but because the thought of John being that healthy overwhelmed me.
Then God showed up. Again.
The next day John and I were lying on his hospital bed and in walked a man. We just thought he was there to draw blood, take vital signs, or weigh John, which is what people do around there about every hour or so. He introduced himself as James Garrett, and he told us he was a heart transplant survivor. He was a medium sized built man with the biggest smile on his face.
James Garrett’s heart transplant was three years ago when he was forty years old. He had Cardiomyopathy, and was very sick. He was in the ICU for a little while and went home on a heart pump before he received his transplant. Then, right before eating pizza about two months later, he received the call that they had a heart for him.
James Garrett could not keep his emotions hidden. He was overjoyed, three years later, for the new opportunity of life he received. Now he volunteers by visiting transplant patients in the hospital and telling them his story. He told John that he will wake up and not be able to believe he’s the same person. He said that after his transplant he immediately wanted to get up and go. He said that he was a completely different person with an appreciation for life that he never had before. James Garrett was so inspirational, and gave us a hope that the doctors could not give us. He told us the practical side of life before, during, and after transplant. He was a survivor, just like John’s going to be a survivor.
Then God showed up. Again. And again. And again.
The week has gone just like that. Every time someone walks in the room and leaves we feel God’s presence through their stories, their hope, their encouragement, their wisdom. We are blown away by the opportunity before us.
So my anxiety has turned into joy – an uncontrollable joy. Don’t get be wrong. I am completely exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I have still had that passing “What if?” thought. But I know that God is going to show up. Through this he has given me glimpses of His hand in all of this, and He’s quietly whispering, “Brenda, I am here, and I’m going to show you. Just hear me.”
Thank you, Jesus, for showing up again, and again, and again.
I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left – feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. John 14:25-27 (The Message)