In Sickness and In Health

Oh, imaginary friends.  What a long summer this has been for our family.  I don’t normally allow myself to wallow, but June and July have definitely brought us wallow-worthy moments.

About a week after my sweet Grandma passed away, Chris’s dad, Mickey, was taken to the hospital for a brain hemorrhage.  He had mentioned earlier in the week that he had been dizzy lately and off balance, so when we got a call that he had fallen and hit his head, we all assumed it merely an accident.  But at 10:00 at night, Chris’s grandparents called to tell us that they were flying Mickey on a medical plane from our hometown of Pensacola to Shand’s Hospital in Gainesville, Florida because of bleeding in his brain.

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Chris and I threw clothes on, dropped our kids at my mom’s house in the middle of the night, and drove two hours to the hospital in Gainesville, where we met Chris’s sister, Annie.  Over the next few days, what we thought was simply a slip and fall turned out to be a ruptured brain aneurysm that led to a hemorrhagic stroke, or a “bleeding stroke.”  It was the bleeding on his brain causing him to fall, and not the fall that caused the bleeding.

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We spend the next week and a half in Mickey’s ICU room.  My mom kept our kids for a few days and then my sister came to town to keep them for a few days.  Both of these were such kindnesses from them, especially my sister because her family gave up their 4th of July family vacation to be here for us.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to express how much that meant to Chris and me.  Luckily, Chris’s aunt and uncle have a house in Gainesville that they use for football season, so Chris, Annie, and Mickey’s parents and I were all able to stay at the house to be close.

It has been a horrific three weeks for Mickey.  He underwent two brain surgeries and a third just this past week to all relieve pressure and fluid on his brain.  He has had a collapsed lung, pneumonia, and trouble keeping oxygen in his blood.  When you see him, he is sometimes awake, sometimes not, but usually confused.  He can get his bearings on where he is and what is going on when you prompt or orient him.  He was doing much better for a few days between the 2nd and 3rd surgeries, but he has taken a few steps back in the past couple of days.

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Chris and I have come back to “normal” life in the past week, simply to be with our kids.  They have missed us and we have missed them.  We brought them up to Gainesville to stay with us for a few days a couple weeks ago and they got to visit with Mickey several times, which was nice for everyone.  The kids know what is going on, but they don’t quite understand the magnitude of it.  Hell, I don’t think even the adults understand the magnitude, really.  It’s so hard to get your head around such serious injuries and illnesses when it is your loved one you are watching.

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We are back home now after spending a few days in Pensacola for several ClassMax meetings that I had.  We had originally planned a vacation for this week in Pensacola to see the Blue Angel’s air show, but because of Mickey, we cancelled.  I still had to go up for three days for meetings, but the kids and I were home by Wednesday night.  These next few weeks will be spent rotating out of the hospital between Chris and me, Annie, and Mickey’s parents, so that Mickey always has someone up there with him.  In the next few weeks, he will move out of the ICU and into a rehab facility, which will also be in Gainesville.

I have been sharing pieces of our journey with Mickey on my Instagram account, but there is no app or caption or blog post that can accurately describe what it has been like to see Chris these past few weeks taking care of his dad.  It has been such a special, beautiful gift to watch the love physically manifest itself around caring for Mickey.  I have learned that love is a very powerful verb. It is an action. It is palpable and tangible in these darkest, scariest moments. It is what gives you strength when you feel weak, hope when you feel hopeless, patience when you feel frustrated. Love is the cup of water you hold to someone’s thirsty mouth and the blanket you adjust when someone is cold. It is the questions you ask of doctors and notes you take during a nurse’s update. Love is the being there when it hurts to see and the hand holding when it hurts to hear. And when all that is left is to sit quietly and wait, love is there in the passing of time. Love does these things, friends.

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And you all have loved us so well over the past few weeks.  The outpouring of love, support, encouragement, and especially prayers has meant the world to our family.  We have carried this heavy weight on your shoulders, friends, and it has been through your prayers that we have found peace and strength in these very difficult days.  So, thank you for loving on us so that we can love on Mickey.

I am so grateful that in time of struggle, Chris and I instinctually turn towards each other.  Be it a hand to hold during the day, feet to intertwine at night, a laugh at an inappropriate time, a prayer when our words run out – we have turned to each other for our strength and it has indeed strengthened not only ourselves, but our marriage. These past few months as we have weathered family illnesses and loss, I have learned that the “in sickness and in health” part of marriage vows doesn’t always have to be OUR sickness and health.  I don’t think I have ever loved him more.

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