What a week this has been! What with political turbulence over Brexit, however relevant may this be to many, my focus is on the physical pain and disability my beloved went through which led her spending a night and half a day in a hospital ward. With myself suffering emotional pain as I sat next to Alex's bed, my face buried in her chest while shedding tears of despair and blasted hope. Even one of the staff members had to draw the bedside curtains around us to minimise any distress my sobbing would cause to other patients and their visitors in the ward.
Not that an ambulance was called. Rather it was a sudden loss of her mobility, a similar state she found herself just over five years previously when she had to spend four months as an inpatient. Therefore all this involved pushing a wheelchair to our local GP, where she was told to visit A&E that same day. And so, armed with a letter, we actually made our own way to Royal Berks Hospital by combined train and foot. Later that evening, the doctor involved with her case recommended a visit from a consultant Neurologist, which can only occur on the next day. Hence, she was kept in.
How could I ever forget that dreadful autumn of 2013? Every single day, after a full day's work, I cycled fast to the station, put the bike on the train, then cycled from Reading station to the hospital to spend two hours at my wife's bedside. Every day without fail. Then to come home to an empty house for a further couple of hours of cooking supper and watching the News or going Online. Then upstairs to the wide, empty bed amidst a gloomy silence.
Okay, it can be argued that I did live on my own in a bachelor's pad for twenty-three years until I met and married Alex in 1999. Therefore, this in 2013 should have been a very familiar situation. Actually, that was not the case. There is a difference as wide as the Grand Canyon between the life of a contented bachelor and that of a married man whose wife is kept in a hospital ward. Rather, at the time of our wedding, I was envisioning family life, with our offspring around teenage years doing their own thing, whether its shut in their bedrooms with all concentration fixed on the computer screen, or out in the local park kicking a ball with some mates. Or having spent her childhood "playing house" after a day at school, she prepares for the university. Or that matter, asking me to help with their homework, and ending up with myself being explained on this "new" set of unfamiliar mathematical formulas after growing up in the 1960s reciting the timetables.
Then not to mention the verbal tension and stress imposed on our household budget by one of our teenagers insisting on a new PlayStation, after insisting that the one he already has and works perfectly well, is no longer "cool". Or at the dinner table where a portion on the plate is mistakenly under/overcooked which would have aroused dissent. And as any parent would naturally feel, my desire for their educational success.
But it was not to be. It was never going to be. Instead, as my beloved remains in a hospital ward some twelve miles away, I warm up some dinner while the TV or Hi-Fi breaks the otherwise daunting silence. No, there was no way of comparing those four months with my earlier days as a singleton. And this week, here it is again. Alone in the house. But before all this, I managed to watch The Apprentice with my PhD friend, Dr Andrew Milnthorpe, at his apartment, which is conveniently near the station, before walking home. At least I could comfort myself that I was not the only one who literally shed tears that evening. The Apprentice candidates did too - in full view of the whole nation!
But this time being alone was only for the one night. However, that did not stop me from sweating in fear, anxiety. After all, the consultant could have easily kept her in for a prolonged period of time, like as in 2013. One of the doctors warned me of such a possibility before she was wheeled into the ward from A&E.
As I lay on the bed, I felt the world collapsing around me. It was as if demons haunted the air in the bedroom, tormenting me with the fear of the future. And this included financial security, a very important issue here for me. I can only claim a certain benefit on condition that we live together as a couple, that I'm permanently retired from work and on a State pension, and there is no other income. With Alex in hospital, I would be disqualified from claiming this benefit, which would set off an avalanche of extra expenses.
The next day, I found myself back on the train heading towards Reading. With me was a backpack containing some essentials for a prolonged stay. However, just before the train pulled into the Reading terminus, my mobile phone rang. It was from my beloved. She said that the Neurologist had seen her, talked and examined her, together with the Physio. Upon their optimism that she would part-regain her mobility over time, she was discharged with the belief that she would be far better off at home than stuck in a hospital environment. This meant that she could return home with me, a welcoming relief.
As I write this, her condition has improved, although still not to the level she was at before.
It is during occasions such as this when I ask, Why? Why? Why us? As was during that one night home alone, I felt as if abandoned by God and at the mercy of evil forces. When a devil lies to you, yes, that is pretty bad. But lie to you with a Bible under his arm is a thousand times worse, believe me! And a verse of Scripture kept haunting me as goes round and round inside my head. It says this:
But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you will receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment (Isaiah 50:11).
That night I was doing just that: Lying down in torment. Having fear of the future. Also, I was already familiar with that verse. It means dependence on one's own righteousness and setting up one's own standards instead of trusting in God's righteousness. I asked myself, have I done this? Trusting in myself? After all, I was lying in bed, feeling tormented.
By assuring myself that all evil spirits are much more terrified of God than I am of them, after ordering the spirit to go away, I reassured myself of Jesus of Nazareth, his death by crucifixion, his burial and his physical resurrection, and with prayer, fell asleep.
For encouragement, I would just like to add that yesterday, whilst at the gym, I felt concerned about our future for the both of us during the middle of a workout. It was at that moment when I called out aloud to the Lord. Almost straight away I felt a rush of peace fill my soul, along with a reminder of a verse of Scripture:
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved - (Romans 10:13).
At that moment I felt free from all anxiety and fears. Of course, it could be the "happiness endorphin" released from the pituitary gland into the bloodstream as a result of a period of intense exercise. Also, the word "saved" may not be always exclusive to mean eternal salvation, but can also mean deliverance from issues of the here-and-now, as hinted in Joel 2:32, from which Paul quoted. However, with Alex now back at home, I feel much better in relation to God and myself. After all, after sharing my distress online to my church elders, we were both covered by intercessory prayer.
Indeed, I ask, Why us? - after seeing so many Christian couples having done so well. A good education, a fulfilled career, healthy children who grew up as Christian believers, and they too are destined for university. They are a far cry, so it seems, from what we had to go through. If someone had said to me that to receive salvation you must be white, English and well-educated, I would have found some plausibility in such a statement! But I know that the Bible does not say this, of course.
But this does not stop me from wondering where is the Lord whenever Alex's condition set off a scene, with medics rushing to our front door. I find it all rather an embarrassment, this constant calling for an ambulance. How well do the paramedics know us as people who cannot put the phone down whenever she doubles up in severe pain? What wrong have we done to deserve all this? And why is it becoming more frequent with its severity? I was thinking about this earlier today. There seems to be a correlation between the start of my retirement and the beginning of these emergency call outs - as if all pre-planned.
But one thing I need to ask: Why all this is so bothersome? Obviously, it's because I love my wife dearly. Very much so. Therefore I would never in a million years want to see her hurt or in any form of pain. Because if she is hurting, I am hurting. When she's in pain, so am I. If I didn't love her at all, would I even care? There are stories abound about a husband who deserts his wife because she cannot live up to his expectations or even her poor health is giving him gyp. This includes Prince Charles and Princess Diana. He never loved her. That kind of attitude has always mystified me, especially among showbiz celebrities or royals like Charles and Diana. Yet I was always mesmerised by Diana's stunning beauty. I thought Charles was very fortunate there!
|Charles and Diana's marriage on the rocks.|
And so am I when I married my wife. Even now I could never walk away from Alex. I love her far too much! And I know that she loves me dearly too. We cannot be separated. Therefore to watch her suffer causes me to suffer too. Yet I knew two men who had in the past earned my admiration. One attended our church before moving north to Scotland. The other attended another church which I once attended before 1990. Both these men had wives who gave them children. Then in both cases, the health of both wives began to deteriorate until they were each confined to a wheelchair. One constantly had saliva drooping from her mouth and therefore, she always held her handkerchief to her lips. Eventually, both women died prematurely at different times and different places and both have gone to glory. Until then, both husbands were fully devoted to their disabled wives.
Compared to those poor women, Alex's ailment is mild. Unlike those other two, my beloved can get around the house unaided. But the two husbands stand as models of devoted, unconditional love, the same love Christ has for his church. And this, I think, is why we are in this situation. I believe God is using this to develop my character to be like Christ's, just as he trained up the characters of those two men.
If this being the case, indeed, I would want to be more and more Christlike. The Lord Jesus Christ is everything to me. How I long for him and how I long for him to love me right to the point of hugging me! If Alex's health is part of the process, then so be it, only spare the pain, please! Such episodes are very distressing!
Why I have to go through such character-building process while there are much happier, middle-class, problem-free Christians around me, I will never understand. But God's wisdom is infinite, I will never fathom it. But I need to be true to myself. I have a longing for these episodes to end and to see my wife restored to full health, no longer in need of medicine or the wheelchair while out of doors.
Al I can do is commit everything to God, and to cast all my anxieties onto him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).