Stephanie Glidden is walking a tough path and writes honestly and beautifully about finding God in the midst of looking after her terminally ill husband. Over to Stephanie:
When our name was called, we followed the man down to an office with a mahogany desk, floor to ceiling book shelves and degrees on the wall. We wouldn’t be going into a clinic room this time. No, today will sit in the doctor’s office. Today, we were going to learn what all these strange symptoms meant.
We sat in chairs next to a great big window that overlooked the front door of the busy hospital. As we waited, I watched the people come and go. I wondered how many were leaving with their lives changed. Ones who just came from a room similar to the one were sitting in.
The doctor came in with a forced smile and a seriousness in his greeting. He began to tell us everything it wasn’t, slowly making the list of “could be’s” from least to greatest. We were getting closer and closer to a worse case scenario.
“Do I have ALS?” my husband cut him off. The doctor paused for a moment, and said “Yes. You do”.
The air left the room and I couldn’t breathe.
ALS is a neurological disease that causes all the muscles in the body to weaken over time and is always fatal. There is no cure and there is no treatment. Most people become completely paralyzed and die within 3-5 years of diagnosis.
It felt like several minutes passed in a stunned silence before my husband began to cry.
So this is what it feels like, I thought, to be told your husband is going to die?
The doctor left the room to give us our moment to grieve. Looking back now, I know I didn’t understand the full impact of what he had just told us. How can you absorb that kind of information in a few short minutes?
I walked out the door that day ready to fight a beast, not knowing how real or how powerful it was. I also walked out the door that day having no idea about how real and powerful this God is that I had served for 10 years was. I was about to learn about both in a whole new way.
The past 3 years my husband’s body has done what they said it would. He has gone from a strong and powerful man to weak and needing constant assistance. He has lost over 80 pounds, most of that muscle. His arms are paralyzed, he struggles to walk on weak and stiff legs, he relies on a tube in his stomach to eat and drink. His words are hard to understand. He has a machine that helps him breathe, one that helps him cough, one that helps him when he can’t swallow. They are all tucked away on shelves and cabinets in a desperate attempt to keep our home looking like home and not a hospital.
We know, it’s only going to get worse.
I brush his teeth and dress him now. I scratch his nose when it itches and clip his nails when they grow long. I am his 24/7 caregiver and I help him to get the air he needs when his lungs grow tight and I help him get the food he needs when his stomach gets hungry and I do everything in between.
We use to pray fervently for a healing. And while we still hope for a healing, our prayers have changed drastically from that of wishing we were well and whole again to agreeing that in many ways, we are better off broken.
These past 3 years, we’ve encountered a beast of a disease that won’t stop taking and a God that won’t stop giving.
There is a divine mystery in pain that brings about the things of God like no other. And sometimes, when I’m feeling strong, I find myself feeling thankful for our suffering because I know deep in my soul that it has drawn me to Him in a way that an easy life never would have.
That does not mean the journey is an easy one to be on. At times I think I can hear my own heart breaking and sadness runs so deep that I fear letting it out because I think that surely, surely it will break me for good. I have moments of despair, and as my husband loses one more thing to this disease, we grieve all over again. No the road is far from easy, but when has anything worthy been gained the easy way?
The weight on a diver’s back holds him down while he searches for treasure. The heavy winds that blow send a sailor out to sea where the depths of water protect his ship and the storm guides his sails. Fine china gets fired three times over so that the colors shine brighter and permanently attach. Metal gets put through the fire so that the impurities flush out. A candle gives light only when it is consumed. The strongest tree in the forest is the one that bears the harsh wind and rain and snow over and over again.
And this suffering, it brings forth a God who has shown me He is real and is stronger than the pain, stronger than the hurt and mightier than the beast of a disease that has no cure and steals so much.
In the suffering, I’ve found I am becoming His treasure and He calls that good and beautiful.
And I’m learning to look at it through His eyes, and call it good and beautiful, too.
Stephanie Glidden lives in the gorgeous White Mountain region of New Hampshire and is a writer homeschooler, and full-time caregiver to her husband, Scott. On her blog, www.walkingthroughthevalley.com, she shares their journey of hope, heartache, everyday miracles in the midst of terminal illness. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter every once in a while too.
Over to you:
- When in your life have you seen a God who is real and stronger than the pain?
- What are you ‘learning to call good’?