It took me about a month to recover from that flight home. During that time I peeled my eyes open whenever we were in the car so I could look out the window and see the familiar street signs and Beltway markers that told me we really were in the D.C. area. Among my priorities was to call my brother and sister and ask them to tell me the story of what had happened to me. I’m sure it was somewhat troubling for them, but I wanted to hear different people say it. Plus, I wanted to see if their stories matched. I pulled my favorite family photo off of Mom’s bulletin board, pointed to myself, and asked Dad if all of this had really happened to that girl in the middle. Hoping for a case of mistaken identity, I’d look at him with raised eyebrows, but Dad always confirmed the facts. I continued the game I had started in the 3rd hospital with Mom, where I required her to come up with obscure details I thought would verify her identity and corroborate the whole brain-bleeding story. We’d be having a nice cup of tea and I’d suddenly turn to her and demand, “What kind of shower curtain did I have? Hmm?” Sadly, she was always right.
I slept downstairs because while I was confident that I could climb up the stairs, I was unsure about making it back down. PT2 had made sure I could navigate a standard flight of stairs before I went home, but it turned out that this flight had more steps than I had practiced. Very slowly, I walked with my walker while Mom and/or Dad stood by. The hall next to the kitchen is only 19 feet long, but the flight home had taken so much out of me I couldn’t even make it that far sometimes. After each meal, however, I wheeled around in my chair to burn calories and keep my arms strong. The hallway I used to practice walking on my hands when I was growing up, I now used to do laps in with my wheelchair.
In my mind, death would have been preferable. At least it would have been a lot easier than all this recovery! Dying would have been easy for me – I’m ready, and there was no pain since I passed out. It’s the business of living that’s hard. As my mother sagely pointed out, it’s a fact that death would have been easier for me, but that’s not the reality of what happened that day. My surgeon did his job really well, and here I am, hobbling along with my cane and writing this account for typing practice.
It’s true that this situation could be much worse. I’ve seen daily proof of that at the rehab hospitals. My point is that this is bad enough as it is. I will never forget crawling to my wheelchair and then sobbing out of frustration. These days I remind myself that I know some folks who would be grateful to be able to crawl, and that God has given me peace about this situation. This is not to say that I’m not deeply sad about it, though. One day I tore a bunch of heart-shaped sticky notes in half and posted them on my bedroom wall to signify my broken heart. I still reach out in the dark and touch them from my bed. I know, though, that Christ came to heal the broken-hearted, and I have hope.
I wasn’t always this hopeful. In fact, when I first came home I adopted a “whatever works” attitude, meaning that I would do whatever made me better and discard what didn’t, including my faith. I had been four days away from asking my church’s permission to move to Africa as a missionary, and then my brain bled. I woke up and everything was gone, including my job, my apartment, many of my motor skills, and my ability to walk. One day at mealtime I was so discouraged by the way I ate that I told Mom that I was like an animal. Those days in the hospital were hard, and so were the days at home.
One morning in late July I was lying in my bed, waiting for Mom to come get me and ruminating over my plight. In those days I gave my mom a status update first thing in the morning. “It hasn’t happened yet,” I would tell her, “it” being the overnight healing I fully expected. It hurt my feelings terribly to read the Gospels with Dad. We’d read out loud to exercise my voice and feed my soul. I read several accounts of how Christ healed people left and right, and I knew my ailments were nothing to Him, so I wondered why He didn’t do something that wouldn’t cost Him any effort.
“I would never have chosen this,” I thought to myself that morning. And then the following thought imprinted itself on my mind: “He chose this.” I was astounded to think that as drastic as I thought my situation was, He chose to submit Himself to limitations infinitely more severe. Those 33 years must have offended His senses in every way, but He chose to live and die for love. I had been planning to ask my friend, Anthony, what had convinced him to convert to Christianity as an adult, but after this morning meditation, all my questions were answered, and the buzzing in my head became quiet.
I couldn’t argue with what happened at the cross, nor could I take issue with Christ’s own commentary about it. The problem is that His claims to deity and exclusivity are things nice people would never say. I knew I couldn’t pick and choose what I liked about Christianity and ignore the things that made me uncomfortable. The bottom line was that “He chose this,” and despite my stroke and the craziness that ensued, that thought settled all my questions and keeps me going every day.
The Turning Point
Chapter 10 from Learning How to Walk