Most often, it’s the hard things in life that teach you what to truly appreciate and what is most important.
Buried in my dad’s hug as he was about to be transported by ambulance to a hospital an hour away, all I could think about was how I never wanted to let go. There was nowhere else in the world I’d rather be, and I couldn’t believe I’d ever taken his hugs for granted.
Dad was starting to slip into unconsciousness, and I truly didn’t know if he’d make it through the ambulance ride or, if he did, if he’d be in a coma the next time I saw him.
If this was the last time I’d ever speak with him, I needed him to understand one thing.
“I love you, Dad,” I mumbled into his shoulder, my voice hoarse. “I’ll see you soon, okay?”
It was a long night in the ER as Dad slipped further into a coma-like state, unable to speak or stay awake for more than a minute at a time. Deep down, I knew… if Dad couldn’t make it through the night, if he didn’t somehow push his way through this mental quicksand he was sinking into, the damage would be done, and it was unlikely he’d ever be the same again.
As the silence thickened and he fell deeper into his deep sleep, I begged God to just let me have even one more conversation with him in the morning. There were so many things I wanted to tell him.
I prayed it relentlessly until at last I heard the Lord respond, “You will.”
I fell asleep. Had a dream about Dad being able to come home. I woke with a smile on my face, but my heart plummeted as I stared at his still form in the hospital bed across from me.
It was only a dream. A cruel one at that.
But as morning light literally streamed in from the windows behind me, Dad woke up. And he spoke.
I can’t even remember what he said, I just know it’s the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard.
God had chosen to give Dad back to us, healthy and whole.
A week later, the dream God had given me came true exactly the way He’d shown me, and Dad was able to come home.
I’ll never forget being in church that Sunday, taking in the sight with tears filling my eyes: Dad worshipping the Healer who’d saved him, raising arms that just a week before could barely move, singing loudly with a voice that had gone mute.
I vowed never to forget. Never to take any of it for granted again. Not his hugs. Not the sound of his voice or our conversations. Nor even the privilege of being able to go to church together on Sunday as a family.
It was the start of a long battle though as Dad went in and out of the hospital for two years. That first time for critically low sodium, emergency surgery to have his gall bladder removed, an infection from having his gall bladder removed, leftover stones in a duct in his liver, brain surgery to remove a pituitary tumor, and finally a knee surgery.
We’d already been struggling financially, and all of those hospital visits quickly added up to a quarter of a million dollars in bills.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, that first ER visit Dad opened his eyes and thought: I’ve just lost my house.
It was one of the hardest times my family ever had to go through, and while Dad struggled with his health and not being able to work, I struggled with my own battle of depression and beginning to have suicidal thoughts.
I couldn’t understand where the Lord had gone and what He was doing. It seemed as though every time I prayed, or hoped, or believed, not only did the opposite happen, but it just kept getting worse.
Every time I thought Dad was healed and God had heard my prayers, there Dad would be, back in the hospital again.
Some family members went through some rough times, a friend died, I failed the final year in the writing school I was attending from the stress of everything, and on and on it went.
Though I don’t have many pictures from that time, this one towards the end of those two years kind of sums it all up. All of us in the family were purely in survival mode. There was no winning happening, in any area. Finding the strength to stagger up, only to be somehow knocked out cold again. Mom had just had shoulder surgery at the same time Dad had knee surgery, and I remember feeling like the scene was a good representation of what our life had become, the hospital our second home, no time to laugh or enjoy life or hope for anything else… just survive it:
But oh, friends… God’s goodness is too great for words!
Because it was in that place that Jesus found us. That Jesus found me.
While I accused God of abandoning us… He actively searched for us.
While I demanded of God “where were you when?” He consistently replied, “I AM here” by His presence, His peace, and His love.
When I had nothing left, was too broken to take one more step, that’s when Jesus came to carry me, and He healed me from depression and set me free in ways I never knew were possible.
Not only that, He healed Dad, too, and in ways that still take my breath away in awe of my amazing God.
That bad gall bladder my dad had? A gift from God.
Your pituitary is what helps regulate sodium levels. When he had the gall bladder attack, it stressed out his pituitary more than usual and caused him to start dumping sodium, which in turn caused him to end up in the hospital that first time.
But had he not, doctors would have never done an MRI and found the pituitary tumor until either a) it had kept growing until he’d gone blind, or b) it had burst and he died.
That quarter of a million dollars in medical bills?
Turns out all those bad years of business Dad had in the years before he got sick were exactly what qualified us for financial aid, turning a $250,000 bill into a $10,000 one instead.
Had Dad not qualified without those years of financial struggle before, we’d simply have lost it all.
So many times I questioned God’s character and His love… and still He sought me with His mercy, listening as I accused Him of not providing… all while He knew the very things I was accusing Him of were the very things He was using to provide.
Normal sodium levels for most people are between 130-140.
Dad was at 113.
There is no other explanation for me about why my Dad is still here without even a small amount of brain damage, other than the supreme mercy and goodness of God.
It was a lesson in trust and a turning point in my life for a lot of things.
And we’d need it for what God was about to call us to do next.
(Stay tuned and check back soon for Our Move to Texas: Part I).
*Footnote: Below is a song we used to sing almost every Sunday in church during the years my dad was sick. At one point, I despaired of the lyrics in this song. If God was my healer, then why couldn’t He heal me from depression? Why wouldn’t He heal my dad? It got to the point I even refused to sing it one Sunday in church, because I couldn’t believe it anymore.
From what I’ve shared, you know that God gave me grace I didn’t deserve and did heal. Both me and my dad.
I now sing this song with humbled gratitude, tears always coming to the surface because of memories of arms crossed against my chest, refusing to sing, and of another memory… a man who couldn’t speak, the following Sunday singing this song with abandon, arms raised up high to praise his God.
If you need a touch from The Healer today, may you know this sweet, sweet truth: there is healing for you. There is hope.
He meets us right where we are for the healing we need, and nothing is impossible for Him.
He is healer. There is hope.
Let me know how I can pray for you today, or share your own story of a way you’ve experienced God’s healing by commenting on this post, and let’s keep spreading the word:
There’s healing in the name of Jesus. There is hope.