Let’s start with the nice things: Our son-in-law Fernando is here with us for a couple days this week. Fernando is a missionary in his native land of Ecuador. He has some meetings to attend in Cleveland, OH and decided to fly into Chicago and spend a little time with us and then drive on to Cleveland tomorrow. Of course, not having Laurie and the kids here with him makes us sad, but we are enjoying these few hours with Fernando. He loves the Lord, and he loves to laugh, and he loves our daughter and grandchildren, and that makes the fellowship very sweet indeed! We are so looking forward to the time later this year when, the Lord willing, the whole family will be back for a short furlough.
Nice thing #2: Julie broke some good news to me this week, as well. She and David have decided to bring the family up here from Alabama at the end of the month to celebrate Robbie’s birthday with him (a few days early.) It is also Benjamin’s 13th birthday so we will celebrate both birthdays together. How fun! We were just there at Christmas but we can never have too much time together! I’m so excited!
Nice thing #3: Robbie will be going into the hospital sometime in the next month or so for some oral surgery. Because he is so severely handicapped, any dental work that is done on him has to be done in a hospital under general anesthesia. One of his seizure medicines causes his gums to overgrow his teeth and periodically he has to have the tissue cut back. At the same time they will do fillings or whatever else might be needed.
Bob took Robbie to see the dentist the other day in preparation for this work. While they were there, he was dismayed to find out that neither the dentist or oral surgeon takes Medicaid any more, and that is Robbie’s insurance. What a nice surprise it was to find out that both of these kind men had decided they wanted to do the work on Robbie for free! In fact, the dentist still had the thank you note and pictures of Robbie we had sent him the last time on his bulletin board. We are very grateful for them both.
Now the bad things: Something else that came out of the visit to the dentist was his recommendation to us that we allow him to pull all of Robbie’s teeth! He said, for the sake of Robbie’s health that this would be the best thing we could do. Robbie is tube-fed and no longer eats anything by mouth so he does not need his teeth. He has ground them terribly over the years and the dentist said he is susceptible to infection, which in Robbie’s case could be fatal. In his words, “You need to think of Robbie’s well-being above your own.”
Well, that is all we have done all these years, but I understand what he meant. It is a gut-wrenching decision for me and I am really struggling with it. Of course, I don’t want to put Robbie at risk. We have lived with the reality of Robbie’s fragility for the last ten years, fighting to keep him alive at times; knowing that at any time the Lord could take him through seizures or asphyxiation or pneumonia. We know he has already lived out his life expectancy. We would give our lives for that boy.
At the same time I think of his handsome little face and his sweet smile, and it tears me up to think of disfiguring it this way. Robbie has enough strikes against him as far as people accepting him the way he is without adding something else to possibly make others turn away. Maybe infection could happen—but maybe it won’t, either. If we were to do this, there is no un-doing it later. He can’t wear dentures, so his smile, which is such a precious part of him, will be ruined for the rest of his life.
It may seem strange to some people to think that in my mind Robbie’s smile would be as important to me as preventing him from possible risk of infection. I can’t help it. At this moment that is how I am feeling. Please pray for me that the Lord will open my mind to whatever is the right thing to do and that if it is following the doctor’s recommendation, I will be able to accept it with peace and comfort. Bob is leaning that way, but as I said, I am really struggling. We will have to make the decision soon and are praying about it now.
Bad thing #2: I got a call the other day from my mother, “Craig [my 54 year old brother] is having open-heart surgery in two hours!” What??? He had gone in for a test that morning, ended up with an angiogram and then was told by his doctor that they had to do surgery immediately. He had one blockage, but it was a bad one and in a very dangerous place. In fact this particular blockage is called the widow-maker. It is the kind that kills you suddenly with no signs or symptoms to forewarn. He had been feeling just fine and had no idea that there was a problem at all.
That they caught this just in time is nothing short of miraculous. The doctor told Craig yesterday that he had, at the most, six months to live—maybe as little as six weeks. We are praising God for His intervention and for His healing! It was amazing to me to see how well Craig is recovering in just the first couple days. He’s far, far beyond where I was after a week! He was enjoying all the company yesterday and seemed his normal self.
I am sure he is feeling a rush after realizing how close it had been and how the Lord had spared him. Craig told Bob and Fernando yesterday when they went to visit him, “I feel like I’ve been born again—not in the spiritual sense this time, but physically.” We don’t always get a second chance at life. How thankful we all are that we still have him with us! I know Craig is ready for Heaven whenever the Lord will take him, but still I know that he is glad to be around a little longer to be a grandpa to Isaac and the new grandbaby on its way.
Our lives are filled with the blessings and challenges; the day-to-day routine and the unexpected. We say it so often—“Who knows what a day will bring forth?” Whatever it is, God is there. We see God performing miracles in our lives. We feel His peace and comfort and presence when we are burdened with care. When we trust Him we know He will lead and provide. That is what it is like to be His child.
The Bible tells us in Philippians 4:6 to thank God for everything—good and bad. “Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” It is easy to give thanks for the good things the Lord brings into our lives. It is more difficult sometimes when we are faced with hard trials to find something in them for which to praise Him—but there is always something. In this problem about Robbie’s teeth I can praise Him that we have had ten years longer already with Robbie than we had thought we would; that his smile—however it may appear—reflects the happiness, love and contentment that he is feeling inside, whether he can say it or not; and that no matter how Robbie is physically or mentally, God has blessed our lives with the gift of this precious child.
Everyday we can thank Him for the good and the bad, but when we stand amazed in the face of the miraculous, we are humbly grateful for His watchcare, His intervention, His power and love—and yes, sometimes even the second chances He allows us.
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)