Finding Hope - Jill and Steve
During this project I have listened and reported dozens of instances where someone saw/felt the presence of God in his/her life. However, as I was writing this series, one miracle was occurring in real time. Jill has been a colleague of mine since her earliest teacher days in the 80s. We shared in each other lives over lunches and after school discussions. We also had a standing joke.
We promised to have each other over our respective houses “this year.” That joke has gone on for near 40 years. For me it just reinforced the “friendly but not friends” concept I adhered to in my supervisory years.
When I retired in 2012, we promised to meet for breakfast at least once a quarter. Over seven years that dwindled to an annual visit. Whenever we did get together, a warning went to the server regarding how long and slow this breakfast would be.
Right after the Christmas season of 2018 I got a text from Jill regarding her husband, Steve. Evidently a cold developed into acute bronchitis; a trip to a South Jersey emergency room led to talk of a negative flu shot followed by a transport to Penn Presbyterian. Evidently only that hospital had equipment sophisticated enough to make a difference. At Penn he tested positive for the swine flu which led to ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome). This was only the start of a long journey. No one knew how long.
I asked permission to share her news with retired colleagues and ask for prayers. The word went out. For folks like my wife, who is part of a large prayer group, this meant serious, non-stop lifting the family to the Lord until told to stop.
When organized groups are asked to pray, they expect to be kept informed. Since I was the only contact, they suffered from the fact that I didn’t want to bother the family and would wait for news. I tried to use the adage "no news is good news" but constantly asked myself if I was burying my head in the sand and should I be doing more.
The news was sporadic and increasingly bad. Messages talked about respirators and induced comas. But it was the message which said the immediate family had all taken off work so they could be at the hospital 24/7, that sounded like a death watch. Frankly I kept expecting the next message would be Steve's call to Jesus.
Yet the prayers didn’t stop. Prayers for strength, courage, understanding and endurance as well as healing. Weeks turned into months. There was some news of stabilization but always followed with something less promising.
Then out of the blue, a major step forward as he was off life support breathing on his own. Was this the answer to prayer? Not so fast. Just that quick came a late night call to the family that he went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated twice.
It's not like we were dealing with uninformed people here. Jill is a science educator and her two daughters are a doctor and nurse. Collectively they all knew the odds and chances of this going well.
Time continued to pass. Luckily that fatal text never came. Then one day Steve was off the respirator permanently. Before long he was in physical and occupational therapy. As I type this he's receiving his therapy at home. Prospects are looking up.
I'm not wise enough to know if prayer turned the tide in Steve's favor. I know it didn't hurt. God has promised to give you all the strength you need and that every prayer will be answered. We miss that when it doesn't come out the way we expect. Would I still have believed had Steve's outcome been different. You bet.
I have trained myself to see the positive side of every crisis. Jill and Steve's marriage commitment and faith were tested. They passed with flying colors. Because of this they have a better appreciation of the work of ICU doctors and nurses. How these professionals use their gifts daily to help others.
Jill's daughters will be wiser and more compassionate medical professionals. It's one thing to treat strangers. It's quite another when it's your dad or husband.
Jill mentioned she often thought of me because one man sharing his story during the countless waiting rooms hours was the father of a Down's Syndrome adult. She saw his grief and strain. As a fellow father and Christian, I also see hope. The hope of a good reason for all struggle.
We all make mountains out of life's insignificant problems until the mountain is right in front of us and insurmountable. Then we call upon God. Most humans would say, "Oh sure, now you contact me." God's only answer is, " I'm here. How can I help?"
Steve and Jill's story isn't over. Is yours? No one knows if we can expect one more decade or only ten more minutes. What I do suspect is that life is a lot more precious to their family.
A thanks goes out to all the prayer warriors who were diligent even with little information but a whole lot of faith. The light at the end of the tunnel is always your way home. Whether you see Jesus or come back to your loved ones, ultimately it's all good.
If the light shines back on your loved ones, make the time count. It is truly a gift.
Finding Hope within a Community of Faith
Never give up on God even when it seems hopeless