It is June 2, 2004, 11:00 PM.
Today was our 31st anniversary. I spent it having to face what life might bewithout Trish. That's not a good way to spend one's anniversary.
I can't get my mind and heart around this possibility of loss. So most of the time I am just numb. Then my knees will get weak. That's when I want to just go sit and stare at the wall. A few times, today I have gone to a private place to weep. No one told me how to prepare for a day like this. SoI really don't know how one is supposed to behave in our situation. The truth is, these past two days, I have felt lost and lonely and I don't know what to do with those feelings.
Trish shares all my memories. We have the same mountain heritage. We were raised in the same little Pentecostal denomination. Trish learned Spanish as we pastored our first church in Managua, Nicaragua so she would speak our family's second language. We traveled the Amazon and the Andes together. Welearned French so we could pastor two little churches we founded in Montreal. We went to Nashville where we raised our children and expanded our lives. We moved to Phoenix. We went through several years of Hell together that felt like it would never stop. But it did stop, thanks be to God. We walked through the marriage of our children. We grieved our empty nest for a while. Then we discovered that our adult children and sons-in-law were wonderful and that they wanted us in their lives. We went to school to earn a Masters in psychology so we could make better sense of the world and be of more help to others. Then, in this last year, we found a common source of bliss in our two beautiful granddaughters. Finally, our church had become a place of rest and blessing for us. All these memories and a thousand more like them are ours together. It takes two to carry such memories. How can one person possibly hold the weight of such beauty, grace and mystery?
But now here we are, 31 years after we first began our journey together, and Trish does not know what day it is. She fights for her life to the sounds of computers beeps. There are tubes running from her head to drain the blood that has been soaking her brain. A machine breathes for her because she cannot breath on her own. The doctors say that when she recovers (as I believe she will) she will remember nothing of this day, or this week. It is possible that she will remember nothing even of this month. So I am trying hard to be both her memory and mine. I am trying to record all the sounds, recall all the names of those who pray, and make mental descriptions of the visual backdrop against which this new act of our life's drama is being played. This is my anniversary gift to her: I will tell her the memories of these days that she cannot record on her own. I will give these to her so we can share them just as we have shared all the others.
Yesterday, Trish went to work at the Salvation Army in South Phoenix. She volunteers her time to work in their drug rehabilitation program. She wants to help people made in God's image to get free of Satan's bondage. She helps them heal from the destruction that evil has inflicted upon their lives. She had been talking to some of these very men when she suddenly felt ill. She said simply that she had a headache. So she walked toward her car, getting ready to go home. A man who is recovering from cocaine addiction took it upon himself to call an ambulance simply because he didn't think she looked right and the ambulance got there before she could leave.
The paramedics convinced her to go with them to the hospital. That's where I met her. We talked while the doctors tried to figure out what was happening. She told me how ill she felt. Then she whispered frantically "HEADACHE! HEADACHE!" and the light went out of her eyes. She stopped breathing. I didn't know it yet, but a little vein just under the top of her head, a piece of her that had been desperately trying to hold back the blood collecting under a thin place on its surface, suddenly gave way. That's when my wife, my friend of 31 years, entered the valley of the shadow of death. In a spit second she left my side and went to a place I could not go. But she was not alone. The great Psalm assures me that believers are never alone when they walk that deep and dark valley. I wasn't with her but her Lord was with her.
In my heart of hearts, I don't believe it is her time to walk into eternity. I believe she will recover. The signs are good that I am right about this. In the meantime, our only connection is the God whom we have served together these many years and whom we serve today. When I met with him today, He was meeting with her. That's how Trish and I were joined this anniversary. We met together in that "place" we call the communion of saints.
For about three weeks, Trish and I have had the conviction that God was about to do something new and wonderful in our lives. We have been very happy, waiting for whatever this new thing this was. We have talked a lot about it. Some great change was coming and our next season would be joyful. We didn't expect what happened yesterday. But tonight, on this anniversary night, I choose to believe that Trish and I have been right these past three weeks. Somehow, this is all going to turn out well. Somehow, all that happens will simply make more memories that we can share. Next year, on our 32 nd anniversary, we will recall these memories that I am now collecting for her. I will share my memories with her. Perhaps she will also have some special memories of her encounter with God during these days to share with me. We will laugh and cry and hold each other and be grateful for a few more years with each other and with our children and grandchildren. We will be happy to see then how God has worked to take us into a new season of fruitful and joyful ministry.
Today, my sister-in-law went to thank the man who called the ambulance that saved Trish's life. When she thanked him he said, "O, me? I'm just a crack head." Lisa replied,"no, to our family you are an angel of God."
Something isn't it, how God uses the likes of all of us! He makes a feeding trough into a cradle for a king, a nasty rugged old tree into the source of all grace, a "crack head" into a messenger of peace and, it takes a scary, lonely and weary anniversary and makes it into a day of overflowing with love and devotion. A God who can perform such alchemy can surely make all the memories of this difficult day into a story worth telling.
So please keep praying. Wherever you can, take time to meet Trish and I in our special meeting place -- the presence of God. I leave you with four special truths that we learned together today. These truths make up the beautiful gift that God gave us for our anniversary today:
Life is brief.
Life is fragile.
Life is wonderful.
And in Christ, life is indestructible.
Glory to God!