Sitting in my Dad’s ICU room tonight. Listening to his heartbeat and the machines that his lung drains into. Noting I’m not hearing any bubbles. That is a good thing.
The last two weeks, I've heard different renditions of this quote, and I know it is meant for comfort, so bear with me. Hear me out...
God doesn’t give you more than you can handle…
I call BULLSH*T on that one...
The last two weeks have been a blur. My Dad has been sick for the last six months with an intense upper respiratory infection. During that time he’s been taking a lot of oral antibiotics and switched to IV antibiotic therapy five times a day. Dad is a super trooper. He continued working in his medical practice and kept up the good fight. But on February 4th he checked himself into the hospital. Several days later he had a lobectomy and today a follow up surgery to seal the lung tight.
Beyond my name, I couldn’t tell you what day of the week it is. The only reason I know it is February 18th is because Dad’s lucky number is 18 and today he had his surgery.
You know how sh*t happens, and you tell yourself you just have to make it through until [insert such time when you can have a good cry, sleep for a day, regroup, focus on work again, or otherwise do something pleasurable]. Well, I feel like this last two weeks I’ve been doing my sets.
Yup, doing my sets...
When I was a kid I grew up in San Diego. Most weekends were spent at the beach with my best friend Mary Elizabeth. She taught me how to body surf. Well, actually, Dad taught me how to body surf, but Mary and I made a career out of perfecting the fine art of body surfing. The rules of engagement follow:
- There is a perfect time to engage the wave for a great ride. You learn that moment by feeling and when you’ve got it, you just know.
- If you engage too late, the wave passes you by and you need to pull back and wait for the next one.
- If you engage too early, you can get pummeled.
Pummeled looks like this. You feel the wave start to topple you and you go head first into the sand. When you get there, you eat sand, hard. To make it through, you keep your eyes shut super tight and hold your breath while your body is thrashed in the coarse sand. It usually involves a lot of somersault type activity. Eventually the roar becomes a steady rhythm and you can come up for air for a second. If you aren’t careful, you can get pummeled multiple times in a row until you can safely stand up and catch your breath.
This is called doing your sets. It is part of the training ground to learn how to ride the beautiful waves.
Right now, I feel like I’m doing my sets. Dad had no sooner gotten out of ICU last time, and I was called that my horse had gone down and that she might have to be put down before I even got to her. Then we thought maybe a really bad gut ache with gas colic. She was properly treated in the field and I spent the next 9 hours walking her between collapses. This was followed by an overnight with more of the same. She showed signs of improvement the next day. We were hopeful. The next night had a lot of touch and go, but she was still drinking, standing, etc.…
Two and a half days later I had to put her down. I stayed with her those two and a half days. We did everything we could to manage her pain. I watched her fight to stay with me. I watched her suffer more than I ever wanted her to suffer. And when it became clear we were losing the battle, we put her down.
I came home, showered, sobbed uncontrollably, cleaned up, and returned to my Dad at the hospital in anticipation of today’s surgery.
There is nothing quite like watching someone you love so much suffer so greatly. And while Inca was my beloved horse, she was a someone to me. In many ways, the love I had and continue to have for her is just as strong as the love I have for my family and friends. She was truly one of my lifelines.
I woke up a couple of mornings after losing Inca and I was reliving her suffering in my mind. I felt shellshocked, and I began to wonder if I had a hint of Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) following her loss. It was horrible seeing her suffer like that at times and not have any control to make it stop. I was at once both an observer or witness to her suffering and a participant in the process as we held on in case she could pull through and she fought hard to stay with us.
In that moment as I woke up, I was crying and thinking about how it was so different than anything else I had experienced. I flashed to Christ hanging on the cross and that people really laid at the base of His cross, loving Him, and watching Him suffer a long and painful death. I thought of parents who must endure the suffering of a sick child. I thought of the monitors and the drainage tubes and hearing my Dad in pain.
And then today, in the middle of my Dad’s surgery, there was an alert that there were fires out by his farm. Once again I hit the road and went out to the farm to make sure that we had a plan to evacuate the horses and the dogs and kitties if necessary.
It is all too much. The last two weeks have been too much.
It got me to thinking about the phrase, “God never gives you anything more than you can handle.” I decided I’m calling bullsh*t on that one…
Let me explain why. I don’t think God gives us the bad stuff. I believe life gives us experiences where a bunch of things spontaneously combust. Sometimes it is great, like when we are falling in love. Sometimes it sucks, like when our fathers are in the ICU post surgery. Sometimes it feels like death when we lose a loved one like my horse, my Sweet Incantation. Truly she was an answer to prayer in my life and taught me so much.
I think life happens, and then as we reach out to one another and as God works with and through our friends, family, loved ones, and strangers who help us to get through the tough times, we learn how resilient we are even when we think we’re not. We learn how strong we are even when we feel weak. We learn how blessed we are even when we feel like life can sometimes be so unfair.
And tonight as I sit here, I am thankful to the vet and friends and family who helped Inca and me through those two and a half days. I am grateful for the sweet moments when she made me her pasture mate in the arena. I am grateful to our vet who came out and treated her, gave me his number to call anytime day or night, who was with me and Inca alone together when the time came, and stayed with me until family arrived. I am grateful to family who came to be by my side, hug my through the heartache, and share our loss together. I am grateful a family friend came and prepared her burial site in the pasture and to our farm hand, who is really like family to me and to us. He helped me walk her in the field the first day and laid her to rest after she took her last breath. I’m grateful the farm has been spared of the fires tonight and the peace of mind of knowing things are okay.
And tonight as I sit here, I am thankful to all of the friends and family and even strangers who stopped in their day to send love and light to my Dad and our family. I am grateful for all the prayers for his healing. I am grateful to the surgeons who have removed the mass from his lung and grafting the muscle to his lung. I am grateful to all who are helping him to heal. I am grateful to his nursing staff and ICU team who are monitoring him tonight. I am grateful for his pain meds so he can breathe easier and even sleep easier. And I’m grateful he’s still alive and fighting hard to stay with us.