During her husband's lengthy recovery, one Bible verse gave her strength and hope.
Posted in , Sep 4, 2013
The phone rang that Tuesday evening, September 12, 2006, and my heart quickened. Maybe Jim was calling to wish me a happy forty-fifth birthday. That would be just like him. Twenty-six years of marriage and we were still as much in love as we’d been back in high school. Maybe even more.
Our youngest had just left for college, and we were looking forward to this time together. Camping trips. Weekends at a B and B. Romantic motorcycle rides, me sitting behind Jim, my arms around his waist, leaning against him, feeling his strength.
I picked up the phone.
“Is this Lindy Wilson?” a woman asked. “I’m a nurse at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. I’m calling about your husband. He’s been in a serious accident.”
My mind couldn’t process what she was saying. It had been a beautiful late summer day. Jim had ridden his Yamaha Royal Star over the Sierras to a meeting of fellow electric utility superintendents four hours away.
He’d hated not being home for my birthday. I glanced at the roses he’d left for me to find. “No, that can’t be...”
“His condition is extremely critical,” the nurse said. “You need to come right away. But do not drive yourself.”
I couldn’t think. I called our friends Peter and Debbie, heard myself screaming into the phone, my words jumbled. “We’ll be right over,” Debbie said.
I collapsed on the couch. God, please don’t take Jim. I can’t live without him. I thought of a woman who’d shared her testimony at church recently. Her husband, a police officer, had died in the line of duty. I’d marveled at her strength, her unshakable faith.
“I’m not that kind of woman,” I remembered telling Jim after church. “I don’t think I could hold it together if something happened to you.” Secretly I’d hoped I was wrong. But now I knew.
There was a knock at the door. Peter and Debbie. “We’ll drive you to the hospital,” Debbie said. She found a suitcase and packed it for me. What else did I need? I grabbed my Bible.
The whole four-hour drive to Santa Rosa I sat in the backseat, clutching the Bible while I called the kids, the rest of our family, people from church.
We got to the hospital around midnight. The nurse who’d called met us in the waiting room.
“Your husband is still in surgery,” she told me. “A van crossed into his lane and hit him head-on. He has massive internal injuries, collapsed lungs, a crushed pelvis, a lot of broken bones. We’re doing everything we can, but...I think you should talk with the chaplain.”
The chaplain was able to tell me a little more. Jim had been hit so hard that he flipped over the top of the van, only to have the panic-stricken driver back over him. The chaplain offered consoling prayers, but I knew why he was meeting with me. Jim wasn’t expected to live.
Would I never hear his voice again? Never again feel the warmth of his touch?
At 1:00 A.M. the surgeon came out of the operating room to update me. “At this point, Jim has about a one-percent chance of survival,” he said. “Most of his organs are failing. We’ve brought him back from cardiac arrest twice. I hope your kids can get here in time.” He rushed back to the O.R.
One percent. I tried to pray, but my mind kept going back to that terrifying statistic. I tried to think of the verse I’d heard just that past Sunday, when Jim and I visited my mother’s church. It wouldn’t come to me. Even my Bible felt heavy, my fingers aching from holding onto it so tightly.
Friends trickled into the waiting room. My sister. Our pastor. I told everyone what the surgeon said about Jim’s chances. “One percent,” I repeated, my voice breaking.
Our pastor put his hand on my shoulder. “God doesn’t deal in percentages,” he said. “You’ve got to trust him all the way, one hundred percent.”
Our two daughters and our son arrived. “How’s Dad?” they asked. “When can we see him?”
“He’s still in surgery,” I said. “It doesn’t look good.” I wanted to be strong for our kids, but I couldn’t hold back my tears.
A nurse came up to us. I braced myself.
“He’s still hanging on,” she said. “Keep praying.”
I nodded through my tears. By now the waiting room was filled with friends and family. “Everyone’s praying for Jim,” Debbie said. “And for you. There are prayer chains going all over the country. Anything you need, we’re here.”
Finally, at 5:00 A.M., a nurse took me through a sliding-glass door into the intensive care unit, to a bed surrounded by nurses checking monitors and IVs. The man in the bed had so many tubes and wires connected to him. His body was huge, bloated, nothing like my trim, fit husband. “That’s not Jim,” I said, confused.
“I’m afraid it is,” the nurse said. “He lost a lot of blood. We had to give him seventeen liters of fluid just to keep him alive. We were so busy trying to stop the bleeding, we didn’t have time to clean him up.”
I crept to the side of Jim’s bed. Shards of glass were embedded in his face and arms. There were tire marks across his chest. His right leg was still visibly fractured. The nurse explained that their priority had been the life-threatening injuries. The other ones could wait.
I knew he had to be suffering. It hurt just to look at him. “I love you, Jim,” I whispered. “Hold on tight. Hold on to God, to our love.”
“We’ve put him in a coma,” the nurse said. “The pain would be too intense otherwise, and he’s still extremely weak. We’re replacing fluids, just taking it minute by minute.”
I stayed by Jim’s bedside, praying. Listening to the beep of the monitors, the whoosh of the ventilator, the sounds of nurses hanging new IV bags. Searching my husband’s face for a flicker of awareness. At some point, the kids were allowed in the ICU for a short while. Other family members, friends. Our pastor.
Time seemed to stand still. I wasn’t sure if it was day or night. I could barely keep my eyes open. Can’t fall asleep, I thought groggily. Jim needs me.
Finally my daughter Katie came in and said, “We’re getting rooms at a motel. There are people here who can sit with Dad. But we’ve got to get some sleep. You especially. You’ve been up for almost forty-eight hours.”
She took me by the hand and led me out to her car. At the motel, I took a shower. It was the first time in two days I’d been alone. Water rained down on me. I leaned against the cold tile wall and sobbed uncontrollably. I couldn’t take this anymore. I wasn’t strong enough. Why couldn’t God see that?
I got out of the shower, slipped into a nightgown my friend had packed for me and lay on the bed, drained. My sister sat beside me, holding my hand until I drifted off.
I opened my eyes and sat up in bed. Everyone else—my sister, my daughters— was sound asleep, but the room was filled with light. Not bright. Soft and hazy, like a kind of fog. But not disorienting. Oddly comforting. The light enveloped me, an almost physical presence infusing me with a peace I’d never known.
Trust me. It’s going to be okay. It wasn’t a voice, but the message couldn’t have been clearer. God held us in his arms. He was looking after Jim, and he would see me through, no matter what happened.
Later that morning I went back to the ICU. Jim lay in bed, comatose, eyes closed, condition unchanged. I pulled a chair up to his bedside and opened my Bible. But I couldn’t think of anything I should read. Or say. Instead I took his hand and began to sing, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound...”
I looked at Jim’s face. There was moisture forming around his eyelids. I leaned closer.
He can hear me!
I kept singing as tears trickled down Jim’s face, each droplet a tiny miracle. That was what God dealt in—miracles, not percentages.
I didn’t even see the nurse come in. “If you want to choose a Scripture verse to hang over your husband’s bed, I can print it out,” she offered. I stared at my Bible, flustered.
“You don’t have to decide now,” she said. “I can do it anytime.”
I flipped through my Bible and eventually came to Isaiah 40:31. It wasn’t Jim’s favorite Scripture, but the words seemed fitting for him now: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
I wanted Jim to walk again, to run, to be renewed.
That verse stayed posted over Jim’s bed the rest of his hospital stay. Eleven months and 20 surgeries after his accident, he was able to come home. In that time, I took on the roles of caregiver and advocate, discovering a fortitude and boldness I never knew I had in me. And Jim and I grew closer than ever.
Our pastor asked us to share our experience with our congregation. That Sunday Jim walked into the sanctuary with me—he was using a walker, but he walked! We went up front and started telling our story.
I saw the wonder in people’s eyes, even before we got to the most mysterious part. I looked at the bulletin in my hand.
I’d come across it while we were getting ready for our talk. It was the bulletin from the week before Jim’s accident, when we’d visited my mother’s church. The key verse for that day’s sermon was printed on it.
Isaiah 40:31. The verse I thought I’d picked out for Jim in the hospital. But it had been chosen as much for me—by God, who was preparing us for the ordeal that was to come, renewing our strength before we even knew we would need it.
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