After the excitement of Easter, we focused again on getting Annie well…and she was making great progress! The occupational therapist did a swallow
study to gauge her ability to eat without choking, and it was determined she was ready to try some “regular” food and drink un-thickened liquids. She was also able to take some medications orally instead of through IV’s. To mark each step toward wellness, we instituted “Celebrating Subtraction:” every IV that was removed, every medication that was reduced, any treatment that was “subtracted” was cause for a party!
Soon, Dr. Cohen and his team determined that Annie could be moved from the post-surgery floor to rehab. We were delighted, knowing that this was a leap towards our goal of going home! We packed up our belongings (no small task at this point, given the flowers, balloons, cards, and toys we had received from loving folks!) and moved to the 7th floor. We settled in before lunch, and then Annie went to a therapy session while I decorated her new room with pictures and the cards we had received.
As I did this, I was struck by the sheer volume of letters, gifts and cards, as well as acts of service …given lovingly by complete strangers! We had been attending a church for several weeks prior to Annie’s illness. The men’s prayer group, led by Pastor Don Grauer, met each Thursday morning to write letters to those in need, and pray for them. Annie became their “darling,” and she received a note from these gentlemen every week for well over a year.
One day, a package arrived in the mail from a lady I had met only once from our town in Maryland. She led an aerobics class at her church, and had heard about Annie’s illness through Lori Cole. Inside the envelope was this letter:
We heard that you weren’t feeling too great and had to go to the hospital. Many of us women at Body and Spirit Aerobics have been praying for you to be all better. God loves you and He has a special plan for only you. Did you know that God even knows how many hairs grow on your head? That’s how precious you are to Him.
We love you, too. Some people sent you some gifts to play with while you get all better. The blue piece of paper inside this card is for your parents–because we wish we were close enough to physically help, but since we’re not, this is what we want to offer. Please accept this loving gift from the Aerobics women and use it to pay your phone bill, or gas for the car, or coffee at the hospital.
Please keep in touch through Lori. You all are in our prayers.
With Christ’s love,
We were humbled by this generous gift. I knew that many of the women in that group were stay-at-home moms, just like me…keeping close track of their budgets and clipping coupons. Still, they had, without hesitating, shared with us to make our life more comfortable and easier at this time.
One evening after work, Tom came in to spend some time with us. After snuggling with Annie a bit and helping her with her dinner, he said, “You’re not going to believe what I saw when I got home last night! Our lawn looks amazing…somebody cut it for us!” It took us quite a bit of sleuthing to figure out who had done this…a neighbor we hardly knew had seen that the April showers had encouraged a jungle to grow around our house. Knowing our situation, he cut it for us. This was a huge relief, especially for Tom, who had been trying to determine when he would find two hours to accomplish this task.
We learned later that the mailman had become concerned by the deluge of mail for Annie he had been delivering, and had asked one of our neighbors about it. Upon learning that she was sick, he lovingly created this homemade, colorful card for her.
Later that week, Tom’s mother Barbara brought Bill for a visit. He had some new story books with him, and I asked where she had gotten them. “Oh, I didn’t buy those,” she said, “Mr. and Mrs. Wassum brought them over.”
“Who?” I asked.
“They live nearby, and they got wind of what was going on and figured that Bill might like something special to do, so they brought him some new books!”
We reflected on all of these wonderful gifts, and contacted each of these “strangers” to give our thanks. Invariably, we heard, “Oh, that was nothing!” or “It was the least we could do.” As the recipients of these gestures, it was nearly impossible to describe their magnitude to the humble givers. Books, cards, and freshly cut grass added up to more than care and convenience…these strangers were the hands and feet of Christ, joining this journey in very tangible ways. So, while we were “Celebrating Subtraction,” God was using these new friends to multiply our blessings and remind us of The Constant: His unbelievable love.
As my darling husband would say…”Don’t you just love math?”
Coming in Chapter 19: Rehab for Annie: building strength and skills… Rehab for us: getting reacquainted as a couple