As I write this, I’m sitting in a large dining room, high atop a mountain overlooking a sweeping valley, many miles from home. In many ways, it feels strangely reminiscent of the time we spent in the hospital. Looking out over the valley, the sun streaming in through the east windows, home seems an eternity away. Nearly five weeks have passed since my husband’s bypass surgery and many of the uncertainties and events of the early post-op days seem a distant memory now — events all covered up with our new normal and activities of each passing day.
How would you like to go home? The nurse’s question to my husband sank down in my ears and into my heart. As I looked across to him sitting in his hospital bed, I thought, well, most all his life he’s lived ready to go home, so ‘How would you like to go home’ was a welcomed question. Regardless how the events of that previous week had turned out, of one thing I was very certain: to live longer would be heaven, to die would be heaven, ever living homeward bound, our times are in His hands. I could never wish for him to remain a day longer than the Lord has planned and, quite obviously, the Lord — our ultimate giver and sustainer of life — had plans for him that seemed to surprise his health-providers.
I forgot how long the process is from the initiation of patient discharge to the actual journey of heading home — it’s sort of like our lives: hurry up and wait, more tests, more paperwork, hoops to jump through and hurdles to pass over and then, finally: homeward bound.
Heading east across the trestle, I was profoundly aware that we were homeward bound together. Our times were in His hands and the Lord had clearly answered our questions and provided for all our needs. I felt sort of like a first-time mama with precious cargo securely seated in the car. That, and the reality that he did not remain in, and I would not return to, the hospital in the morning. Yes, we were homeward bound.
I’d never thought how we’d do things once we got home. I never thought how things would go. I’d never read about it, never set things up to accommodate the recuperating mended heart. And, because I thought he’d be in the hospital for a couple more days, I hadn’t even made preparations for the going home or the finally home process. But I’ve thought about the going home (to heaven) process and I recognize that there’s nothing I can do to prepare for that place except to yield my life to the Lord Jesus and to accept His gift of salvation. In yielding my life to the Lord Jesus, I daily must look to Him for His direction, trust in His covering, wait for His provision and deny my self – self serving/self centered ways and look to Him: the Author and Finisher of my faith. So also in this I needed to just go through each next open door trusting the Lord to guide me — to guide our family.
He received a hero’s welcome as we drove in the driveway; joyful relief on each of our children’s faces. All that evening as he sat in the chair in our living room, I found myself staring at my husband as if he were a breakable doll or fragile china cup. When he was quiet or when he coughed or grimaced with movement, I jumped—are you okay? I don’t know how many times I asked him that — it was many, I’m sure. Every couple of hours taking his blood pressure, temperature and pulse, I recorded the results on a chart. Heart meds, pain meds, water… everything recorded on a chart. I smile today, hindsight being 20/20, at how strong he actually was, and how fragile he seemed at the time.
You know, when you’ve never done something before, the first time’s often not very smooth. It was soon obvious that the chair we had was going to be a challenge—–sternal precautions dictated that he couldn’t push or pull anything which meant that I would simultaneously push the back and pull the foot-rest out in order for him to recline — reversing or repeating the process with each stretch of walking or sitting back down. I nervously jumped up each time he readjusted his position in the chair and again and again I asked, are you okay? I don’t know… what was I thinking? Was he going to have a heart attack?!? I dozed beside him, waking each time he moved, again asking, are you okay? His pain was intense and that first night was long — morning seemed so far away. With each break in sleep I repeated this great consolation: All I know of tomorrow is that Providence will rise before the sun.
Sleeping for a short stretch, just at sunrise, we were startled awake by the slow twisting and cracking sound of a very large, heavy branch of our weeping willow tree. We hurried to the window to see what had happened. We stood there praising the Lord that the limb didn’t come down on our house — still marveling at the intense impact of that great limb crashing to the ground.
I thought the things that were happening were so big, surely the Lord must be in these things. I could only praise Him for our times are in His hands and He only does all things well. Later we’d venture outside to see the tree…