On Friday, Dad had his endoscopic ultrasound, and we were elated when they were able to remove his tumor without a more invasive surgery. Although we knew he'd need to return frequently to burn off the recurring precancerous lesions, we were quite happy with the outcome.
So it was like a kick in the stomach when we learned yesterday that he had suffered a heart attack. He went to the ER on Monday night with excruciating stomach pain, and it turned out he had a gallbladder full of stones. In the workup for that, they discovered that his ventricles were not functioning well. Maddeningly, we know very few details, only that there seemed to be a problem with his heart rhythm.
When I walked into his room yesterday, I was startled by how frail and old he looked. His legs, which stuck out from his blanket, were painfully skinny and pale. He was too weak to lift his head off the pillow. My mom was leaning over the bed and holding his hand, and this brought tears to my eyes, but I was careful to keep smiling so as to encourage Dad (and myself).
I sat down on the other side of the bed and clutched his hand. His grip was strong, and his hand was warm. I was delighted at how much I enjoyed this simple connection with him, and I said, "Dad, we should hold hands more often. This is nice!"
"I always like holding hands with a pretty girl," he replied, and we both chuckled.
As I sat there hand-in-hand with my dad, there were so many thoughts I wanted to express, but I was afraid to say them out loud because I didn't want to imply that I thought he might die. I wanted to say, "I'm so thankful for the example you and Mom set for us.... I'm so proud of your integrity.... Thank you for the sacrifices you guys made so we never had to do without anything that mattered."
But I said nothing. I just sat there and squeezed his hand and telegraphed my love. And I think he heard me. The good thing is, I'm pretty certain he knows how I feel, though I know I should voice my feelings anyway. I'm so thankful for the many weekly visits I've had with him and Mom since I've been home with Allyson. I have bonded with them so much more these last two years.
Dad could only have two visitors at a time, so I alternated with my two sisters and Mom. As we sat on each side of his bed, always holding his hands, we talked and laughed a little. We also enjoyed visiting in the waiting room and watching Emily's kids. I made it a point to hold Mom's hand, too. Her hand was cold like mine, but it was still nice.
When visiting hours ended, I prayed for Dad, along with Mom, Amy, and a family friend named Bonnie. It was peaceful and comforting, and I was thankful for this common bond. I kissed Dad's bald head and murmured "I love you," and then I was on my way.
I didn't expect to enjoy my time at the hospital so much. I love the way life surprises me with unexpected joys in the middle of sadness!
I had to rush to make it to Bible study, and I was so glad I went. We studied the rest that God promised the Israelites (Deuteronomy 8:6-9), the same rest that is available to us today when we obey and trust God. Even better, we studied the rest and joy that awaits us in heaven (Revelation 21:1-4, 22:1-5). Although I really want to keep Dad around a lot longer, it is so comforting to know that I don't have to fear his death--at least not for his sake.
Today I am reveling in the rest that must be the result of so many prayers from my family and friends. Dad will probably have his gallbladder removed tomorrow despite the risks because the infection is more dangerous than his heart problems. Please keep him in your prayers!