Two and a half years ago my father fell. He went into emergency neurosurgery at the age of 92 and eventually recovered, but that first month following the surgery – the long stay in the ICU, then the hospital room, then the nursing and rehab hospital for physical therapy and occupational therapy and speech therapy waiting to see if he would ever be able to process words both coming into his brain and coming out his mouth – that first month was not my finest hour.
Alongside in Anxiety
It’s not that I wasn’t able to come alongside Dad. I was and I did. But I didn’t do it alone and I didn’t find it at all easy. In fact, my ability to do anything at all was completely due to the people around me. As I found myself dealing with the stress and anxiety – and the physical manifestations of them in my sleeplessness, loss of appetite, lack of focus – I needed people.
My wife is the one who drove with me the two hours to the Bay Area hospital and sat with me in the waiting room during Dad’s emergency surgery, who helped me work through all the logistics of going through Dad’s recovery period and then moving him to a senior assisted living apartment in our town. It’s not the first time she’s come alongside me when I’ve found myself anxiety-ridden over dealing with Dad’s medical emergencies. (See The Best Woman I Know.)
Others came alongside as well, including a whole slew of bloggers loaning me their words in order to keep my blog going when I didn’t have time to come up with my own posts. Their guest posts not only kept the blog going; their words kept me going. Each of these women wrote what I needed to hear as I was going through the stress and anxiety of those seemingly interminable weeks. (The posts by Adriana Kassner Cunningham, Michelle Van Loon, Jennifer Grant, Susy Flory, Carolyn Custis James, Keri Wyatt Kent, Aleah Marsden, and Cara Meredith are all linked in How I Got by with a Lot of Help from My Friends.)
The Blessed Offer
There is another whose support came at just the right time, too. Mark and I have known each other for years. His kids were in the youth group I worked with in church, and his oldest son became my son’s Bible study leader when my son entered high school. I reached out to Mark during the days my father was in the hospital, asking for prayer.
“Sure. Tell me how I can pray.”
“Liz had to fly to San Diego for some family stuff for a few days. I’m still driving to the Bay Area every other day to see Dad and check in with his doctors. I just need strength. This is hard.”
“When are you going next?”
“I can go with you. I’ll even drive.”
That is Mark. Offering to drive through Bay Area commute traffic each way, including navigating the freeway through San Francisco itself, and then back again through the same traffic – that offer came easy to Mark. His kindness lifted my heart in that moment.
I ended up not taking him up on his offer, though, and perhaps that’s a good thing. What I thought was going to be a two hour visit at the hospital with Dad and touching base with his doctors turned into a full day of visiting Dad, talking with doctors, waiting for lab results, talking more with doctors, talking to the hospital social worker about discharging Dad to the rehab hospital, and eventually making the long drive back home.
Mark would have handled it all without complaint. But the blessing he brought to me wasn’t to be obtained only if I’d taken him up on his offer. It was in the offer itself. I knew I wasn’t alone while Liz was gone. Mark’s words told me I had someone I could rely on, lean upon. Knowing this lowered my stress, relieved some of the anxiety, and allowed me to sleep better that night.
Liz flew back into town a couple days after that and she made the trips with me to and from Dad’s hospital. Her presence was the best anxiety relief I had. And Mark kept checking in, asking how to pray and offering to come along if we needed him.
A friend in anxiety needs.