Strength Through Tears

Have you ever found yourself in situations where you have to be strong but you had no idea where you were going to get the strength from?  I find myself here on what feels feels like a regular basis.

I remember a time back in February of 2008 when on February 13th we received that dreaded and heart wrenching phone call saying my dad passed away.  We knew my dad was in declining health and something could happen which was why I was home, but it doesn’t soften the heart ache you experience.

I knew after that phone call that I needed to muster strength from deep down inside of  me to help my mom through this difficult time. She harbored feelings of guilt because we couldn’t be there that day. My dad was in a nursing home in Vermont due to complications from his traumatic head injury. The Veteran’s Administration placed him in a nursing home an hour and half away from where my mom lived in New Hampshire. In order to get to him it required a drive through the mountains and in the winter time that is challenging many days due to snow storms.  Unfortunately, February 13, 2008 was one of those days. We not only had a snow storm but it was mixed in with an ice storm as well.

I needed to explain those details so you could better understand why we were unable to be with my dad on the day he died. Now back to the question, where does the strength come from when you have none to lean on?

I knew as I watched my mom sitting on the floor crying uncontrollably that this journey was going to require God’s strength. There was no way I had what I needed at that time because those emotions and pain were just too raw.

designFor that day, all I knew to do was to offer comfort to mom by sitting on the floor and hold her as she cried. When all the tears dried up we reminisced about the amazing husband and dad he was. We had many beautiful memories. My dad was an amazingly gentle, caring, loving, and kind hearted man who had a non stop sense of humor. He never met a stranger. He was the rock of the town I grew up in and everyone knew him.

As the next few days passed, it became clear my mom, who was a rock of strength, that she was not able to continue to make all these arrangements alone. One day I watched my mom emotionally collapse from the pain and it is a day I will never forget. It was more than clear to me that mom needed more than strength and comfort she needed my help.

With much reservation, I knew I needed more strength to draw upon then what I had, so I cried out to God and asked, “Oh God, you know I can’t handle this on my  own, but with your strength and guidance we can do this together.” Oh my, a journey I was about to embark was one I never want to live again.

The days of putting these arrangements together were trying at best. We had to deal with weather that didn’t cooperate. We had issues getting my dad’s specially ordered Marine Corp casket delivered, as well as issues getting my dad home with the assistance of our local funeral director because they had to get through the same icy and snowy mountains. We experienced one problem after another.

Eventually after working out these problems the day had come when we needed to go to the funeral home. Mom was out of it that morning, but I had no reason to question why for all she had been going through. After we confirmed the final funeral details we left for the florist shop to order our flowers.  As I began driving away my mom confessed she was in excruciating pain and needed to go to the Emergency Room first. My heart sank into the pit of my stomach.

While we were at the Emergency Room we didn’t sit long before they called my mom back to diagnosed her with a kidney stone and then admitted her into the hospital. My heart sunk even lower now because I had to be even stronger for my mom then before as she was living an insane nightmare. God and I had another conversation about this being overwhelming. I told Him, “God, you know my mom always said if something ever happened to my dad she wanted to go too but God, I’m not ready to give you both my parents at the same time. Please don’t take my mom now.”Then I pleaded with Him for more strength.

After mom was admitted to the hospital I asked her doctors to give my some idea how long this could take because my dad had just died and we have his visiting hours on Monday and his funeral Tuesday. They couldn’t promise me anything. They would only tell me her body was broken and it needed to heal, but I didn’t find any comfort in those words. I could only think to tell them, “You think her body is broken, her heart is smashed into a million tiny pieces, but the one thing I knew for certain was we couldn’t have his funeral without her.” They tried to comfort me, but their words were of no value at that time.

What was I going to do? That was the million dollar question. What was I going to do? At that point I knew I had to stop planning the funeral and take care of mom both physically and emotionally for a few hours.

We finally got mom settled into her room and after some time we were able to get her pain managed. When I saw she was comfortable I knew I needed to take over finishing all the arrangements on my own. Thankfully we had discussed what she wanted, I just had to remember what she wanted and make it all happen.

As I watched the clock and watched the hours tick by I knew I needed to get to the flower shop and get the flowers ordered if we were going to have them in time for Monday’s visiting hours. Oh my gosh, this was the worst part of the preparations I had to make. I was going to have to order my mom’s perfect floral arrangement which she would have picked out for my dad. How was I going to do that? As I drove to the flower shop God and I had another discussion. “God, how am I to do this? How do I pick out my mom’s perfect floral arrangement for her? Guide me and give me the strength to do this.” As I finished my chat with God, I pulled into the driveway. I dried up my tears and walked into the flower shop. I explained to them what was going on and they were amazingly kind. They allowed me to take the pages out of their catalogue and run back to the hospital so my mom could pick out her own. They even agreed to stay open past closing time so I could get them ordered. Only in small town New Hampshire would that have happened for me.

We got the flowers ordered and this was the beginning of my lying my way through the next few days. When I wasn’t at the hospital I was busy making phone calls and lining up the final arrangements for my dad’s funeral not even knowing if my mom would be out of the hospital in time.

Thankfully mom was just down the road from where she lived. Once I knew she was settled in for the night I left her, went back to her house and called people up to 11:00 that night. This was not something I would  have done had I not been desperate.

After a very long day, I went to bed after calling the hospital and got back up early in the morning to make a few more phone calls so I could tell mom everything was coming together. When I got to the hospital I forced a smile on my face, a smile only God could give and told her everything was coming together great (a lie because it wasn’t). Thankfully because she was drugged up with heavy pain medicine she believed me and didn’t question anything I did.

After updating or should I say lying to my mom then the doctors came in to deliver even more bad news, as if we didn’t have enough already. The doctors at this hospital were not able to provide the treatment mom needed. They were going to transfer Mom to a hospital 45 minutes away. I was crushed, but couldn’t show it. I had to be brave to comfort her. She was scared and worried. I had to be strong for her. I had a discussion with her doctor about what to do with my dad’s funeral arrangements and I still received the same answer as before. You know your mom’s body was broken and they had to fix it before she could be released. My answer remained the same, but her heart is broken even more. She has to be at my dad’s funeral. This isn’t an option. If I need to change the plans I can but my time is running out quickly to make those changes. My response never budged them in their response, although they were sympathetic to my situation.

The time arrived to transfer mom to the new hospital. We had to prepare her for this trip because she had never been in an ambulance and she was scared and nervous. I got the doctors to give her medicine to calm her down to make that 45 minute trip a bit more comfortable.

I will never forget what happened next. It is embedded in my memory permanently. I went to get my car to follow the ambulance to the next hospital but while we waited I remember holding her hand and tried to comfort her for this next step. She was so weak and fragile. This couldn’t be my mom she was always the pillar of strength, but not this day. Not this Sunday.

The time came to load her into the ambulance and I went to my car. At that point I just lost it. I literally called out to God and asked, “Why? Why was this happening? How was I going to do this God? I’m not this strong.” Then God revealed to me my mom was in the “Best Care”. As the ambulance driver shut the doors with my mom tucked away safely I then read the sign on the doors, they were Best Care Ambulance Service. I knew at that point God had carried me every second of every day and through every decision I have had to make and I knew He  was going to take care of her and be with me as I finalized decisions that still needed to be made.

When we got to the new hospital they told us mom would be having a procedure to break up her stone that had been lodged. I was comforted by this as they said mom would be able to go home Monday morning. Everything would come together now if I could only get the arrangements finished.

After a couple of hours everything changed again. The doctors came in her room and told us there had been a change of plans and this procedure had to be done the next morning. I put on a brave face, lied to my mom and told her not to worry about anything, because I had everything under control. She was relieved and went to sleep.

I left her in the nurses hands after they told me I should go home because it was freezing rain outside. When I got outside I found a layer of ice over everything. God and I had yet but another chat. He had to get me home safely and he did. It was a difficult drive, but I was relieved to pull into my mom’s yard safely. Unfortunately, my night didn’t end there. I had no choice. I needed to finish planning my dad’s funeral. I needed to get the rest of the paul bearers in place. By 1:00 in the morning everything was finished. I sat down and just cried at that point. The arrangements were finally complete. Well, as complete as they were not knowing if I was going to have to change everything in the morning.

After a tireless and sleepless night I got up at 4:30 and headed out the door by 5:00 to get to my mom before her procedure that was scheduled for 6:30. I couldn’t let her go into this without my being there for her.

After a very stressful morning of more ups and downs and more difficult news the doctor finally came to me and told me they did a different procedure that was temporary so we could get my mom out of the hospital to attend my dad’s funeral.

By the afternoon we left the hospital and got mom home with only two hours to spare. She had enough time to grab a short nap because the anesthesia hadn’t worn off yet, and got her to my dad’s viewing in just the nick of time.

She struggled physically and emotionally to get through the next three days, but persevered and made it through. She has no idea I didn’t get this done until the last second, but a beautiful ceremony my dad had. We gave him full Military Honors for his service to the Marines. I was proud to call him my dad and I still am. My dad will be forever my hero! I love and miss him dearly.

As I wrote about this very long and heart breaking story I was able to draw a parallel from what I went through then to what I am going through today. No matter how much my heart was breaking and I just couldn’t find the strength I needed, God was there by my side leading the way. He always gave me more strength when I needed it.

The same thing is happening again now. I am going through different circumstances but, God is still holding my hand and giving me the strength to get through each crisis I am experiencing. Through writing about this difficult memory, I had various moments of when God revealed healing to me as well as revealing He used that difficulty to prepare me for what we are going through today. He was with me every step of the way then, He will be with me every step of the way now.

In closing, know my friend, God is doing the same for you. He is using circumstances in your life or maybe even my own to show you He is there for you as well. He is walking side by side with you and providing you the strength you need to get through your own circumstance.

Call on Him, He is waiting and listening. You saw how many times I kept calling and every time, He provided me with what I needed when I needed it. He will do it for you as well.

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