I realize it’s Tuesday, but this #MondayMercy post was stuck, unfinished, in my head for the last 24 hours. Time to sort out the many thoughts I have for this work of mercy: Visit the Sick. I knew I wanted to relate it to this month of Pregnancy & Infant Loss, so I decided to share a few things about the many months I had people visit me when I needed a lot of help.
When I first became pregnant, I was so excited. I bought maternity clothes almost immediately, which generally is a crazy thing to do. I purchased snacks to keep in my desk at the hospital where I was working. This pregnancy was intentional, and I was hopeful.
Aside from the usual episodes of morning sickness, my first trimester went by without a hitch. Or so I thought. Gabriel was not developing properly, but no one would know that until my first, and routine, ultrasound at 14 weeks. The ultrasound was on a Thursday; I’ll never forget it. Bruce was able to go with me, and I received a 5×7 photo of my baby in profile. My untrained eyes saw nothing wrong. I just saw my precious baby. But when I heard from the doctor’s office later, everything changed. For the next several weeks, I was worried about my baby’s health, but my own health deteriorated as well. I had been working full-time as a music therapist, but when my legs collapsed on me one afternoon, my doctor put me on half-time. About six weeks later, I was on complete disability leave. I was weak, and everyone was worried about me falling. Pregnancy is not a disease, but my pregnancy interacted with my Dejerine-Sottas (CMT type 2) and caused rapid deterioration of muscle strength and coordination.
During this time, Bruce had to continue working. Fortunately, many of my friends stepped up to help. They would come by the house to make sure I had a decent meal and my house was clean. Their help…their friendship…was, and is, priceless to me. And it didn’t stop there. I went into labor at 33 weeks, and after losing Gabriel,came back home for just a few days before I needed to be hospitalized again. I could barely breathe, and felt incredibly weak. I spent the next 3 months in one of three hospitals. I was nearly placed on a ventilator. At my weakest, I literally had a call button on my pillow because all I could do was move my head side to side. I was on a liquid diet, and had to be fed, bathed…every personal activity done by nurses for months. Over time, with loads of therapy, necessary medicine, and prayerful support, I regained enough strength to return home.
Even though I was home, I was far from independent. I still could not stand, let alone walk. My arms moved with the assistance of attachments to my wheelchair which I affectionately called my “wings.” I continued out-patient therapy for six more months.
Had we hired home-care nurses, my tiny-start-to-retirement savings would have been gone by my 31st birthday. We reached out to our pastor, who then reached out to the parish. Women responded by volunteering to come into my home, for half-day shifts to help me with meals and other necessities. I mean real necessities. I had to rely on my friends to literally get me on and off the bed side commode. Even my mother-in-law drove over every Wednesday from Indiana to help. (She defies stereotypes!) This was a real lesson for me, not only in the virtue of humility, but in the blessings of authentic friendship and Christian service. At some point during all of this, I was told that when we are most in need and reach out, we actually help the other person grow in holiness. I believe that is very true. I cannot express how grateful both Bruce and I are for the generosity of these women.
Most people won’t have to go through the things I did, but most people can reach out to someone who is in need due to illness or disability. Consider these ideas:
- Contact your parish staff to see if any parishioners have been hospital bound for while. Get permission from the family if they are nearby to visit. Sometimes just talking about his favorite sports team or hobby could brighten someone’s day.
- If someone is home bound, find out if she needs any help with meals, laundry, housekeeping, childcare. This could be very important for a new mom who had a c-section or premature delivery.
- If you have a prayer group at your church, consider taking a “road trip” to someone’s home, so that you can pray not just for him, but with him. It is so important to include people in our daily lives.
If you know someone in the neighborhood, from work, from church…anywhere…who can use a friendly smile and visit, don’t delay. Remember when we do these things for others, we do these things for Jesus!