As I drove east that Friday morning, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the sky.
There it was.
A big “A” painted across the golden sunrise.
Perhaps it’s narcissistic to believe in a God who paints initials in the sky. Perhaps I’m a dreamer. Perhaps I’m desperate, seeking signs anywhere, anyhow.
Perhaps God moves mountains, levels valleys and paints the sky to show his love afresh and mercies new. He’s behind us. He’s with us. He’s for us. In and through it all.
My “A” faded as the spring sun rose higher and higher in the sky.
As I made my way further east and closer to the University of Minnesota, it occurred to me that it wasn’t just ANY Friday, it was GOOD Friday.
Good Friday, the Friday Christians mark as the day Jesus died on the cross to save humanity.
Good Friday, the Friday I happened to be joining my parents for one final day of appointments that ultimately determined my dad’s candidacy for a lung transplant.
For the most part, we don’t get to choose our hardships, our struggles, our burdens here on earth. They’re offered to us as an opportunity to draw closer to God, our Heavenly Father. Whether we like it or not, whether we accept it or not, His goal is to develop a relationship with us. He loves us, and will literally bend over backwards to draw us in, nearer to Him, this way or that way, whichever way He deems fit.
Sometimes it’s beautiful.
Sometimes it’s painful.
Always, it’s for our greater good.
For God works ALL things together for those who love Him.
Rain or shine.
Sunrise or sunset.
Seen or unseen.
He’s working. Rest assured.
Got turned around on my way down.
Came out the wrong side of the parking ramp.
But I wasn’t late.
My parents were waiting on first. I passed them unknowingly and went straight to third. A few texts and a couple redirects from the happy, shiny, high-tech medical people holding iPads for check-in, and we were united on third, right where we needed to be for appointments one, two, three and four on this good, Good Friday.
Appointment 1: We sat at a long, rectangular table with Amy, the respiratory therapist. There was my dad with his oxygen, my mom and me. Then there was another lung transplant candidate on oxygen, and his sister. My dad and the other candidate shared their stories. We talked about exercise, “prehab” and rehab and how they’re supposed to get 30 minutes of exercise 4-6 times a week even though their lungs are failing, they’re on oxygen and they can barely walk down the driveway or take a shower without losing their breath. We talked about all the respiratory rehab they’d need post-lung transplant. Amy demonstrated a bunch of exercises they could do between now and transplant. She was energetic, and I could tell she’s great at her job. I know my dad is active and faithful to get as much exercise as he can, both now and post-transplant, so I’m not worried about that at all. It was good and hopeful. But if I’m completely honest, the contrast between this and my Africa mission four months prior, was stark. Africa and Lung Transplants. Night and day mission fields. (Or maybe not?) I don’t appreciate this mission field nearly as much as Africa, God. I don’t really want to be here. I don’t really want my dad to NEED a lung transplant. But here we are. Here I am. I will serve with all my heart.
Appointment 2: We sat at a small, kidney-shaped table. Just me, my mom, my dad and the lung transplant team’s dietician. I’m sorry, I don’t remember her name now, but just to give you an idea she was 32, smart, lovely and also clearly skilled at her job. We reviewed numbers, data gathered from blood draws earlier in the week. Everything looked good. She got out a 4-page brochure for review. Rest assured, we’ll get the big binder of dietary suggestions and requirements when we’re in the hospital, post-transplant. NO cold deli meat post transplant; must be fully steamed prior to consumption. High-potassium foods may be restricted. Absolutely NO seafood for at least one month post-transplant; it’s deadly for lung transplant patients. Food safety is of the utmost importance. And NO ALCOHOL post-transplant. Ever. For the rest of your life. Never. Ever. Oh boy, my dad’s pre-dinner rum and Diet Coke enjoyments are in jeopardy. He wasn’t too happy about that, but we joked and had fun. Even still.
Appointment 3: We sat at a round table. Just me, my dad, my mom, a transplant social worker sitting in, and my dad’s transplant social worker, Liz. Let’s just put this out there. Liz was amazing. Lia IZ is amazing. LOVED the woman. ADORED. We talked for a long, long time, completing a case history, a current life status, or something of the sort. We talked about everything from my dad’s lung disease diagnosis of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, to past and current work, hobbies, things my dad can no longer do because of his lung disease, and things my dad would like to be able to do to after his lung transplant. We talked about my sister who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder – bipolar type, and her two young children; I assured the social worker that I think she will RISE to the occasion when my dad gets his transplant, and be able to manage without the usual level of support she receives from my parents. It was Good Friday, after all. We must believe in RISING to any occasion, otherwise what’s the use of hope? Did I mention Liz was amazing and that we talked about a million things? Let’s just say there were some reminders about that “no alcohol ever again in your life” rule. The way Liz looked at my dad when we were talking about the alcohol situation – the way she whole-heartedly understood that his rum and Coke is a simple life pleasure here and there before dinner – was priceless. She got it. She understood. She reminded him he’ll have to find some other simple pleasure to replace the rum and coke after golfing with the boys. And that’s when I could have lost it if I hadn’t a grip on my emotions. Liz with her head tilted, eyes glistening, smiling at my dad sweetly, assuring him he’ll indeed, find another simple pleasure. God knew we needed more than simple earthly pleasures. Good Friday, indeed.
Appointment 4: My mom and dad sat on one side of a small, rectangular table. Me and Diane, my dad’s transplant coordinator on the other side. We stared at a big screen on the wall; a long list of tests and labs ran down the left side. Diane reviewed each test, each lab, with us quite extensively. No need to labor over the results again. Everything looked good except the heart and lungs. No surprise, but good news for lung transplant candidacy. After we reviewed all the data, Diane urged my dad to get a new style of oxygen tanks. She didn’t like the way he looked when he walked down the hall into the office. “You look a little blue,” she said. She’d brought in a bigger tank, he’d been using it all appointment and felt much better by the end. Diane assured my dad she’d get doctor’s orders for increased oxygen, that he should arrange for new new tanks by early week. She told us the team would be meeting to review my dad’s case six days later, and that she’d call with news. YES or NO, he’s a lung transplant candidate.
My parents received word from Diane late Thursday afternoon, March 31, 2016, that YES, my dad was determined to be a candidate for a lung transplant. He had a tooth pulled last week, and will have surgery to place heart stents on April 18th. One month after that, he will be officially placed on the national lung transplant registry.
Good every day that we are saved.
Good every day that we are given the choice to ACCEPT or REJECT the life we’ve been given on earth, the life in eternity we claim through Jesus.
God will reveal His majesty, His plan, His bountiful blessing however He deems necessary.
Life is hard.
Life is easy.
Life is ugly.
Life is beautiful.
Life is disgusting.
Life is inspiring.
Life is downright mean.
Life is kind.
Life is distress.
Life is peace.
Life is confusing.
Life is clear.
He writes our names in the sky through it all. God, our Heavenly Father. He promises the ultimate hope. On earth, as it is in heaven. Both here, and there.
He has a plan. Life is no mistake. It can’t be.
He’s writing my name. He’s writing your name.
It is written. It is written, indeed.
Live every day as if it is your last. ACCEPT what you have been given. Receive it as a gift.
Breathe it in.
Breathe it out.
This is the first post in a new, long-term blog series titled “The Ultimate Hope: A Lung Transplant for My Dad.” This is similar to the series I’ve been writing through my husband’s eye cancer journey, but different in that I won’t be writing as frequently, and posts will be much more personal than medical because we have a separate CaringBridge site set up that will detail medical updates. If you would like to follow my dad’s medical journey, click here and sign up to receive CaringBridge updates via email. This is my journey, as daughter, through my dad’s lung transplant. My goal with these posts is to process my personal experience through writing which is always a release for me. But I will also be looking beyond my personal experience for big-picture implications and inspiration, and hope to share insight with those of you who follow along. Thank you for joining, and thank you in advance for your grace. My words may not always be perfectly poised, as life is not perfectly poised right now. May my words communicate what they need to communicate. May my life communicate hope, help and love.