Dear Wellspring Family and Friends,
Some thoughtless but numerous bumps against furniture a few months ago, coupled with virtually non-existent circulation, had set the infection and gangrene in motion. With my uncle’s hearing completely gone, our communication has been reduced to writing to him on paper and whiteboards. Given the choices for hospice or surgery, he had pointed to the word “surgery” scribbled on my yellow pad. The weeks leading to this point had been agonizingly painful for him, and emotionally difficult for our family and caregivers. We have also been affected by his wife, my 96 year old Aunty Abby, having suffered two strokes within three months that have left her chronically “tired” and with significant memory loss.
It was 6:45 a.m., Tuesday morning, as I sat at my uncle’s bedside, holding his hand. A light curtain separated him from the rushed footsteps and soft voices on the other side. A nurse and aide were busily preparing my 97 year old uncle for surgery. An “above the knee” amputation. It had come to this. Four years ago, Uncle Dick survived a bout with gangrene, minus a few toes. Now, it was eating away at his left foot, but loss of any circulation in his lower leg meant infections would eventually lead to a painful death. This was his only chance for survival.
Dr. Selena Goss, uncle’s surgeon, joined us at uncle’s bedside, asking me the same set of questions I’d provided to the anesthesiologist and then the surgical nurses. I’ve become uncle’s ears and voice. I was unprepared when she paused to ask me, “How about you; how are you doing? Do you have people supporting you through this?” I instantly felt myself fighting back the tears to give my uncle one last smile to reassure him he was in good hands. For months now, I’d been in controlled, focused caregiving mode trying to make good decisions alongside and for my aunt and uncle. She poked at my heart.
As the gurney with my uncle went left; I went right, down the corridor, feeling comforted that Dr. Goss had been so present and caring to me when I wasn’t even her patient! The power of her compassion, a kind word, had awakened me again to remembering the goodness and kindness of humanity. Dr. Goss wasn’t just my uncle’s vascular surgeon that Tuesday, but also a doctor of the heart. I’m sure she has no idea of the impact of her words on me that day. Her pausing to be with me in the uncertainty for even a moment was God’s gentle, yet important reminder that we are never alone in our confusion, fears, and doubts.
Whatever, whenever, and wherever doubts may come (and yes, they will come), we can be comforted that God walks with us through the unknowns of our life through the gifts of compassion and presence. Whether we are the giver or the receiver. As my uncle leaves the hospital today, I do not know what the days ahead look like for either him or my aunt. However, your comforting presence over the years I’ve been caring for them give me the much needed strength and hope to continue to be a comforting presence to them in the rest of their days. I treasure your care and concern for them and for me.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4 NIV)
In His Infinite Love and Blessings,