From Rehab to River

Posted on: June 17, 2013

Dear Friends,

It’s been a long while since I’ve written, and I hope to make up for that tonight.  Warning:  Long, wordy post ahead, and lots of pictures of grapes! You’ll understand why later.

A Day in Austin 083To begin, a recap of what has been going on since December 2011:

From December 2011 – when we lost Patrick – to August 29th, 2012 – my first “good day” – I felt like I was in spiritual and emotional E.R., and then Intensive Care. My heart felt like it was bleeding out, and I craved isolation.

I felt very safe in our home, not so safe outside.  Outside was where I would be expected to reconnect with the world like a healthy, functioning person.  But, I wasn’t one.  I was super fragile, my heart was bleeding, and I cried at any memory or mention of Patrick.  I cried if I saw someone in a crowd that looked a little like him.  I cried some mornings when I woke up and realized again it wasn’t a nightmare, but reality.  I couldn’t even attend any of my monthly moms’ meetings January through April 2012 because all the compassionate looks made me start crying again.  And one gets very tired of crying.

I did attend the May 2012 meeting, but it was very difficult for me.  The ladies in my group have been over the top amazing and supportive, but I felt like I walked into the meeting half-draped in a medical gown with my backside hanging out.  I knew I was still supposed to be at home, in intensive care.  I had been given a “pass” from the Great Physician that said, “Mardy doesn’t have to go to gym class.  She’s been injured.”

As the months passed, I could sense healing was slowly taking place.  I imagined the Great Physician stitching the hole in my heart back up while I hibernated.  I saw the stitching taking place from the bottom of my heart up for some reason.  Sometime in the spring it felt like 3 or 4 stitches had been sewed into place, a few months later a few more stitches, a few months later a few more.  I could tell the flow of grief was being stemmed, little by little.  It was in those early days that I had gotten hurt by things three people had said, and was aware that I was going to have to let them go quickly to avoid infection.  It was like I could see puss forming in my wound, and it was going to have to be up to me to quickly let go of the offenses so healing could progress.A Day in Austin 143

That’s not to say that the Lord was not helping me with the pain; He was.  But, He was not morphine.  He made Himself known to me more as a gentle knowledge that He loved Patrick more than I did, and that He was sovereign. I never believed what happened to Patrick was God’s will, but I knew that in not protecting Patrick from the car accident or head injury He was still sovereign.  That knowledge, that He was and is in control, took the edge off the pain, like a light sedative, and gave me perspective and some hope.

I did feel His presence more so the weekend Bill went sailing with his brother, around day 12, when I got to be all alone for a few days.  And I’ve felt like He’s never left me. He has been the One making me feel safe at home.  Bill, Joel and all our family have gathered around each other to support one another, and we are all closer than ever.  But this kind of pain can’t be healed by a person.  This is a you-and-God all alone kind of valley He camps in with you.

I sat around the house for the first two months while friends brought meals, emailed, texted and prayed for me. By March, I was finally able to take the Christmas decorations down and started getting busy around the house each day.

On August 29th, on my way to meet a friend at the hospital, I heard in my mind – not out loud, just a thought – “It’s okay.  You can go on living A Day in Austin 136now.”  I have no idea if that was the Lord speaking to my mind or my spirit, or something in my own mind speaking to me.  I just thought those words, and then, that day, I started living again.  I started connecting, started looking ahead for the first time since December.  I was able to attend, and even close, my Mom’s Group meetings from September 2012 to May 2013, except two where I had to be out of town.  I even looked forward to the meetings, very unlike the previous May.

For years, I had been used to walking in the door totally unaware of myself, and just scanning faces for who might need a hug.  That unawareness of myself seemed to return by September, and I could happily start thinking of others instead of being consumed with my own broken heart.  That is a much better place to be, believe me.  I also started meeting with friends again, and somehow ministry one-on-one with a mom here and a mom there started sneaking in the back door.  It felt safe.  I still felt a little fragile, and was still crying, but not as much or as often. And I still experienced unexpected meltdowns and would have to sometimes excuse myself to a bathroom for a private sobbing fit, but those were getting further apart.

And that’s where I’ve been from August 2012 to March 2013, busy around the house every day, weeding, fertilizing, planting, watering gardens, downsizing, cleaning closets, organizing, shampooing carpets, polishing, and tons of deep cleaning.  It’s been good for me. One-on-one ministry has slowly and sneakily filled up my calendar again since August 29th, and I have begun  reconnecting with the world as an almost healthy functioning person.

And then in March, on my birthday of all days, I got an invitation to speak at a homeschool event in Tallahassee in June.  I cringed.  No, no, no.  Don’t they know I’m out of commission, that I don’t speak any more?  I thought of that pass I’d been clinging to for 18 months. “Mardy doesn’t have to (do anything she doesn’t want to do).  She’s been injured.”  So, I ignored the email and went to Aruba on that almost free trip our son gave us (he works for JetBlue), and relaxed and toured and had fun, and pretended it wasn’t there.

It was still there when I returned.A Day in Austin 135

And then my mom’s health turned again, so I flew to Omaha to visit her in April, and still ignored that email.

It was there when I returned.

I told the lady I’d pray about it, but I didn’t.  I told her she could release me from the invitation, but she wouldn’t.  She was so incredibly patient with me.  I clung to that pass that’s been working for the past 18 months, but I couldn’t shake the sinking feeling it might have an expiration date on it.

And then one day I saw myself in my mind’s eye – in a wheelchair. (Evidently, I’ve been transferred to a nursing home or rehab center somewhere along the way, LOL.)  I could see myself rolling my wheelchair up to a full length mirror – and what I saw wasn’t pretty.  Rolls of fat on my thighs, even hanging over the edges of this imaginary wheelchair, a double chin, thick arms and a fat belly.  Immediately I knew the meaning.  My spiritual muscles had atrophied in the past 18 months, and my flesh had grown comfy and quite fat.  It happens to people in recovery.  Your whole body has to rest while one organ recovers. I’ve been doing whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it, while waiting for my heart to heal.  If I want to garden, I garden.  If I want to clean, I clean (I love cleaning). If I want to cook a gourmet meal, I do.  If I don’t, I don’t.  And I get to say no to anyone and anything I want to, and everyone understands.

I’d entered retirement. A western culture sort of retirement where my biggest thrills have been taking a Pilates class, following my grandkids on Facebook, and getting all my flowers to bloom. I actually love that my neighbors drool over them. And I had fallen in love with this lifestyle.  My wheelchair was padded and comfy, and I learned to like no-risk living.

I did think about that marathon I used to run that had lots of risks and lots of trials. But, I didn’t want to get back in that race. I had a free pass.  I didn’t want to have to say yes to someone or something again if I didn’t want to.  I certainly didn’t want to speak again.  Speaking takes dipping into resources and stepping out again and depending on God again.  And I didn’t want trials again.  I wanted my pass to be valid till the end of my days.

For a full month I put off answering that email, and finally decided I couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps the pass had expired. I replied on April 28th with a very shaky, OK, I think maybe I’m supposed to speak, and of course she jumped on it and asked for a bio and topic.  Hmm, she sounds like me.  🙂  Amazingly, within 6 hours, I knew everything I was supposed to share and began writing.

And from April 28th until today, my life has been turned upside down. It almost feels like the Lord has pushed my wheelchair out of the nursing home to the edge of a fast-flowing river of ministry, tipped me out into it and said, “Swim, Girl. Yea, I am with you always, even to the end of this River.”

A Day in Austin 137The week of May 7th I got sick with a super bad cold.  I rarely get sick for more than a day.  It hung on for a week.

On May 20 and 21st, I snuck over to our son and DIL’s home while they were on vacation and landscaped 7 of their gardens, pulling weeds and poison ivy, adding mulch, turning them into little Martha Stewart gardens.  Secret gifts bring great joy, don’t they?  On May 22nd I broke out with a poison ivy rash that was the “worst case” the doctor had ever seen.  I’ve handled poison ivy for 30 years and never had one blister.  You could have called me Job-ette, I was itching and oozing on both arms, legs, neck and stomach.  I got a steroid shot, started on 6 days of oral steroids, ate Benadryl like candy, took two showers a day, and was covered in topical Benadryl.  It kept spreading and oozing. On May 25th, they switched me to a 12 day pack of oral steroids, 60 mgs per day on the highest days, and a topical super-steroid.  It angrily spread for a few more days, and then leveled out.  Today, June 17th, I still have scars on my arms and legs.

On May 29th, Dan gave me a flight to Austin, poison ivy and all, to meet my 88 year-old uncle, my mom’s oldest brother.  What a miracle visit. My heart was totally overcome with love for him.  I stayed two days, and we now email several days a week. 

On May 30th, Joel came down with the flu at Summit Ministries, with a fever, throwing up and his throat was on fire.  He was the only kid in sick bay; my labrador retriever child was put in isolation.  I started texting, totally at peace (God) from Austin to him in Colorado Springs while trying not scratch my poison ivy.

On May 30th while still at my uncle’s, I got a rental car and visited the Lady Bird Wildflower Center in Austin with my camera.   I had tons of fun, and was completely taken by an ancient grapevine.  I took many photos of it, playing with settings on my camera and had a ball.

On May 31, I left Austin, but was flying standby, and there weren’t enough seats for the Florida flight.  It took 30 hours, rerouting through Boston to get home. I spent the night in a chair in the Boston airport, totally at peace and filled with love for everyone I saw (God).  I felt impressed that I am supposed to open my talk in Tallahassee sharing about Patrick or it will be the elephant in the room.  I started writing through the night, and it ended up being exactly what I knew I’m supposed to say. It was perfect. (God). Now, could I deliver it??

A Day in Austin 138

On Jun 1st, Joel and I arrived home.  I was still broken out in a rash.  Joel was still sick. I downloaded my Austin pictures, and was struck by the beauty of the ancient vine and the gorgeous grapes.  Here is where these grape photos come in. Finally, you say!  I noticed the tiny stem connecting the vine to a bunch of grapes, and realized that teeny, fragile stem – was me.

“I am the Vine, you are the eensy, teensy, fragile stem. Don’t say No to Me and you’ll have big, fat grapes.” (My translation).

And I realize that, no one, no one looks at the teeny stems on a grapevine and says, “Wow, look at those amazing stems!”  No one even notices them. They only see the vine and the grapes.  We are all those eensy, teensy, fragile stems.  And we aren’t supposed to compare ourselves to other stems.  We’re all just fragile stems.  All we have to do is hold on tight, and grapes will happen.

Enough spiritualizing, and back to trials.  On June 2nd, my lab, Chance, who never dashes out of a door, dashed out a door I left open for one minute and chased something, I have no idea what, down the street like a Greyhound.  I took the car to find him blocks later, but he put his knee out on this whimsy jaunt.  The vet wanted $1400 for surgery.  That is unfortunately not going to happen, so we are still pampering him while his knee heals. We also got chewed out by our well-meaning vet because he is 105 lbs, and needs to be 85, and he says the knee problem is our fault because we feed him too much.  Chance is now on a diet, and is depressed.  🙂

On June 3rd, Bill came down with Joel’s sickness, but with laryngitis, a fiery sore throat and much more.  Now Joel was sick, Bill was sick, and I was still covered in poison ivy, only I was finally not oozing.

On June 4th, while Bill was still sick, we get the call that Bill’s brother’s 28 year-old son had just taken his own life. Bill took me by the hand and said, “Pack your bags, we’re going to Jamey’s.”  Lesser things have crippled me in the past 18 months, but as I packed my bags, my heart felt like it was being baptized in pure love for my sister-in-law. Whereas my heart had bled out for months, finally healed up, began to reach out to women again – now there was an unexplainable fire hydrant of pure love from Heaven pouring out for my sister-in-law. I was somehow, miraculously shielded from grief all that week.  We stayed for five days, and I ran her home with one of my sister-in-laws, cooked meals, cleaned, organized rooms, greeted and fed guests and family, and listened and loved, loved, loved people for many hours.

A Day in Austin 087On June 7th, while at my sister-in-law’s, I came down with Bill’s sickness.  I kept my hands religiously washed, lived on Benadryl, and kept trying not to scratch my sores in public.  This is getting gross, eh?  I’m not done.

On June 9th, we came home to find that the icemaker had leaked while we were away, and destroyed our kitchen and dining room floors. I had green mold and mildew growing in my cabinets.  I was also getting sicker by the hour with Joel/Bill’s illness.

On June 12th I gave in and went to the doctor.  She diagnosed acute bronchitis, and prescribed an antibiotic. I felt sicker by the hour, but I also had a big open house the next night (our house is on the market), and I was supposed to speak in Tallahassee in three days.   I still couldn’t talk much without coughing.  I hired a wonderful girl to help me clean, and pushed through working on the house all day with her.  I collapsed sick that night.

On June 13th I woke up with a rash all over my belly and itching everywhere.  I had a reaction to the antibiotic.  I’ve NEVER had a reaction to medicine in my life.  I still had poison ivy aftermath on my arms and legs. I felt terribly sick.  I hired another darling girl for the day and we all worked on the house.  All day.  I was sick but didn’t stop cleaning and prepping (God).  I dashed out of the house at 4:30 with Bill, Dan and Joel for dinner and a movie while the realtor held the showing.  At dinner, I realized I was starting to feel better.

On June 14th, I packed my bags and started the drive to Tallahassee (2 ½ hours).  The event was the next morning, so I planned to spend the night with a friend.  I stopped to have my oil changed and tire pressure checked, and was on the road by 5:00.  Five miles later, I heard a loud flapping noise, pulled over and called Bill.  He said the sound I was describing was a tire shredding tread, and sure enough, a tire had shredded.  I’d been driving 70 mph when it started.  With much peace and grace and no stress whatsoever (God), I waited for Bill and Dan to arrive to change the tire to my donut (we have roadside service, but they wanted to do it), and limped to a tire store where I bought new tires.  At 8 pm, I decided it was too late to drive to Tallahassee, and felt totally at peace about going back home and crashing early (God).A Day in Austin 131

On June 15th, I woke up feeling well, had my voice back, and drove to the conference.  I spoke from 10 to 11, opened my talk sharing about Patrick and did not collapse into a heap of tears (God).  I had the privilege of getting to share with a few moms one-on-one.  I could tell that everything I was saying is from above, and that He was blessing it immensely (God).

Today, June 17th I am well.  Joel is well, but has a bit of a cough left.  Bill says he feels well, but still sounds terrible.  This week we begin the process of getting repairs done.  While my kitchen is out of commission, I will probably return to my sister-in-law’s to serve her.   I think that brings me up to date.

Something changed on April 28th when I (finally) obeyed and answered, “Yes, I will go.”  The two things I dreaded are back – trials in full spades, and having to turn in that beloved pass and say yes again.  But, oh, the peace and joy and love that is filling my heart.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I think – I think – I’m back. I know from experience that I might crash at any moment into a crying heap, but for now I feel very safe in the middle of a big bunch of grapes and a big bunch of trials.

With much love for every single one of you who have lifted me up even only once.  Your love, your prayers have sustained me and contributed to my healing.


12 Responses to "From Rehab to River"

🙂 thank you for sharing.. for writing and for saying yes. love you much!

Tammie, You are precious, and always encouraging me. I love and miss you, sweet girl. xoxo

Mardy, this is so beautiful! Thank you so much for again, opening up your heart and sharing with us. I sincerely hope you will one day put all this together in a book; I know it would help many others.

I wept as I read your “eensy, teensy, fragile stem” passage; one of my favorite verses, and I have been clinging to it a lot lately. I love you!

I love you, Betty, and miss you! Thank you for always being an encouragement to me – you’ve done that so many times. Bless you, Friend.

I love you SO much.

And you know how I feel! I love you to pieces, Shelby. Thank you for all the ways you encourage me.

I am so amazed at your ability to open up and be humble, when no one demands humility from you. Jim and I sat here talking about how special you are to be able to say the things you say so beautifully – and some are not pretty, but certainly understandable. I love that about you. Thank you so much for your beautiful image of the vine. I will carry it with me.

Lynn, Yes, yes, there is One who demands it, LOL. That wonderful One who pushed my wheelchair into the River. LOL! You are precious, and I miss you, Friend. Thank you for your encouragement. It means so much. Love you.

Mardy, I don’t even know you or who it was that referred me to your situation and blog, but it’s so cool to see how God has, and is, bringing you through such heart ache and healing you and how He is using you to help others heal and to know Him as well! He is working mightily in and through you and that is so exciting. Definitely not the path that you would have chosen but so encouraging that you say the love and joy and peace you have in abundance you wouldn’t trade for anything!

Hi Laurie, Thank you for your note! It’s very thoughtful and blesses me. May the Lord bless you abundantly this week as you serve Him. Mardy

Mardy, We were the grateful recipients of your “unaware of yourself” 7 years ago and our year minus one day in Gainesville put the final seal on Florida being our home away from home. In reading your post, I kept saying “ouch” and “thank you LORD” and getting to the end I just want to say that I love you, I pray for you and I am grateful for you and your willingness to keep on walking the pilgrim highway. We are almost home and on our way to the Celestial City. Keeping one eye on the sky with you. C.

My Darling Catherine, You are such a kindred spirit sister. You’re adorable, and I miss you! I hope you’ll get to Florida again sometime, Friend. Thank you for reaching out to me. I feel your love.

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