Job 14:5 (NIV) – “A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.”
Tuesday night in the ICU.
Working at the hospital, in patient care, is both a blessing and a curse. On any normal day, sickness and suffering abound, and it can be a physically and emotionally draining place to be. Mixed emotions are a way of life, but today I’m a mess already, for I know what I have to do.
Visitors have been banned, at least here in this unit, for months now, but the great thing about working here is that I get to see and interact with the patients, many of whom are suffering through their last days on this planet, without being able to visit with their loved ones. What a privilege and responsibility it is to care for these people and to try to bring a little hope into their existence.
My friend Randy is in room twenty-one, way in the back corner, away from the hub of the nurse’s station and all the people and lights and activity. That’s been a blessing, as I have been able to sneak in for visits often throughout his stay up here. I had seen him come into the Emergency Room, maybe six weeks or so ago. The monster already had him in his grips. His lungs were filled with those dreaded “ground glass” opacities that indicated his worst fears had come true. His fever and shortness of breath got him admitted and his history suggested that a rough road lie ahead.
I made it a habit to see him on the days that I worked. We would pray together. Over and over, I asked God to heal him, but Randy was always content to leave it in the Lord’s hands. The nurses knew he was my friend and nobody ever said anything about the visits. The first couple of weeks he was stable, even improving somewhat. Doctors, apprehensively, suggested that recovery looked to be on the horizon. But suddenly, almost a month ago now, there was a downturn in his condition. The poison began to overtake him rapidly. His blood oxygen dipped to unsafe levels and he was moved to the ICU and placed on a ventilator and about a dozen different drugs.
This is not the first time Randy has been in the hospital. He had been diagnosed with cancer five years ago, almost as long as I have known him, and he has fought a brave battle — always faith-filled and hopeful through his many ups and downs. But his tree, once so vibrant and alive with the joy of the Lord was withering at the root.
As I push back the curtain and see him lying there, pale, pasty almost, his facial features drawn in from the lengthy ordeal, like a prisoner too long chained in his dungeon stocks, his body wracked from this sinister disease, tears well up in my eyes. I don’t want to let go.
This monster, so unpredictable, takes its victims into its mouth, rolls them around, and seemingly randomly decides whether or not to sink its teeth into them, devouring them with its powerful jaws, or to spit them out unharmed like Jonah on the shores of Nineveh — a little bit slimy, but none the worse for wear.
When the monster shows up at the door, there is no defense. In a stroke of good fortune, my household was spared from harm altogether. But to another — to my friend — the bite is poisonous and deadly.
He and Jennifer had moved here from California, where he was in business and had raised a beautiful family.
They are all here now.
He had had an epiphany and with it a career change. He set his mind to teach middle school, of all things. He wanted to make a difference in the lives of students; to be able to influence them for good and to share Christ with them, ultimately. And indeed, he did just that, even through all his treatments — it was his passion. What an inspiration he has been to so many.
I would snatch him from the jaws of this monster if I could, but alas, the power over life and death rests solely with almighty God.
“Goodbye, my friend. We will meet again someday.”