There is community in shared suffering.
I think I read that in some book somewhere, or heard it in a sermon. But it's true.
The waiting area of the Trauma Unit has become like "Six Degrees of Separation." We come in as strangers with our own separate troubles, but as we talk we find out we have so much in common.
There are so many connections to one family that is up here that it's almost ridiculous. It turns out some of the members I've known for years. The ones I don't know I have much in common with through common friends. One has spent a lifetime in sports and we crossed paths often in my former life. Another is a West Point grad who can relate to the stories I tell about my own son and The Citadel, a missionary who flew back to be here and, since my own family has so many mission connections, we talk about that.
There is another family up here because of a bizarre motorcycle accident. (I don't want to give away too much about any of them since I didn't ask and they don't deserve to be dragged into this blog). But again, as visitors have come and gone, there are people I know, that I have worked with somewhere along the way, that know me. And in once case, someone who has been incredibly helpful in explaining the legal process involving the guy who hit MG, and getting me information.
There is another guy who used to ref high school games that I knew, and another family with some shared connections, so that we now are able to share each other's burdens; we're able to rejoice with small victories both for the immediate family and because it gives us hope for our own situation; and we cry over setbacks, again knowing such setbacks are a reminder that the best physicians in the world still only "practice medicine,'' because there will never be a way to know that they've got it absolutely, 100 percent right every time.
The wife of one of the greatest high school baseball coaches in Alabama - if not the country - was working here as a volunteer today. Her husband passed away, but her son and I are friends (although we don't see each other nearly as much as we used to), and her nephews used to play ball with my sons.
It's a very small world. For whatever reason, not everyone had people bringing them food and drink and snacks like I did over the weekend, and when the gift-bearers left, I'd go around and share. SB had the opportunity to pray with one lady who still waits for some good news about her family member who is up here; a pastor that came up to see me wound up talking to another family and, hopefully, bringing some comfort to that situation.
And sometimes they share their own funny stories, because as Jimmy Buffet once said, "Tragedy has to become comedy or else it gets really old, really fast."
One young lady told me her mother had finally been moved out of the intensive care part of the trauma unit and into a "regular" room on the same floor. She was so glad, because her mother had not slept. "She was having nightmares about robots coming to get her,'' the young lady told me with a smile. "She kept hearing all the beeps and breaths of the machines around her, all the tubes reaching out for her, and somehow it became robot nightmares."
Another guy told me about his friend who, in addition to his serious injuries, had a sore on his "bottom." His buddy was on a ventilator and couldn't talk, but was trying to tell them he wanted to be moved because his rear end was hurting. No one could understand what he was saying, and rather than give him a pen and paper to write it down, they were calling out guesses as to what he wanted. Every wrong guess was rewarded with a one-finger salute. "I've never been flipped off so much in my life!" he told me.
Everyone asks, "How's MG today?"
First, she's kind of awake. She has followed commands - except she won't squeeze any one's hand. I'd like to say that's because she knows she's my squeeze (eye roll goes here). But she will wiggle her toes on command, and stick out her cute little bubblegum tongue, and nod her head to answer a question.
She actually got mad today. The nurse came in and turned on the bright over-head light, and it startled MG. She raised her eyebrows and furrowed her brow and started trying to open her eyes. And when the nurse rolled her up on one side to put some pillows under her, to change her position, her facial expression said (to me), "What the heck are you doing?"
As I told someone today, when this is all over and MG looks back on all of this, she's going to kill me.
But I'll gladly die a thousand deaths at her hands when this is all over.
Medically, blood pressure is good. They've turned down the ventilator and she's more than doubling the number of breaths from the vent, which means she's really breathing on her own. They asked her if she was in pain, and of course she shook her head "No." They removed the tube that was going into her actual heart to monitor something to do there (again, MG is the one who always asked the questions; I just want to know how to read the numbers). There are about half as many machines hooked up to her now as there was on Saturday.
Yes, I've been angry. People ask me about the guy who hit her. I got the accident report today. I'm not going to go into it, but it doesn't take a lot of imagination to know he was not in his right mind. There have been charges filed that are serious. Whether or not he has insurance is still questionable, but it doesn't look like he does.
I don't care. Oh, I do care - let's be honest, it's human nature. But my focus is on MG, my kids, my family. I am sad for him, because one horrible decision led to one split second that will change his life forever. I don't know how often he got away with driving in that condition, but it only takes once.
Yes, I know my life will change forever, too. MG's life will likely change forever.
But we are not people without hope. We know that God is in control.
For about three years, I was obsessed with the book of Job. MG used to get so tired of me studying it and re-reading it and trying to share with her what I learned from it. We were playing one of those games with friends about "if you were stranded on a desert island, what one book would you want,'' and I said, "Job."
The book basically comes down to a wager between God and Satan.
Satan says that God has blessed Job so much, no wonder Job loves Him. God says Job's faith is not about what he has been given, but who gave those blessings to Job. Satan says he can make Job turn on God, and God says "give it your best shot."
And so the battle begins.
But you think about it, that's all of our lives. I believe God has faith in those of us who have faith in Him, and Satan believes we don't have enough faith to withstand his tests. There is an unseen audience that watches the battle, and we puny humans are privileged to have the opportunity to win huge, cosmic victories for God on an almost daily basis.
Why God would put His reputation in the hands of such unstable creatures as us, I don't know. I am afraid I lose more than I win. But God keeps me in the game, just as with what has happened to MG I know she's not out of the game yet, either.
I'm repeating something I wrote here so forgive me.
But ancient religions believed that the actions of the gods above affected the earth below. Zeus got angry and thunderbolts rained down. The ancient formula was "As above, so below."
But that's not the way it works, according to Jesus. Our actions here on earth affect what goes on in heaven. Jesus said, "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me" (Luke 10:16). The actions of men on earth affect the spirit world. When the disciples went out and performed miracles, Jesus reported that "demons fell from the sky."
So what we do here does affect the Cosmos in some way we can barely begin to fathom.
It's an incredible responsibility, a ridiculous "challenge and opportunity" (as one former Alabama coach used to say so often) that we're not up to alone.
I don't always get it. But if I understood everything about God, then I'd by definition be God - all knowing, all understanding, and with that kind of knowledge perhaps all powerful.
And I'm not God. If I were, I'd never have let this happen to MG.
But if this hadn't happened, I'd never have felt the love of people like you; I'd never have heard so many encouraging comments, reconnected with so many old friends and made so many new ones; not had the chance to see God work in so many ways.
I did a story once on a coach who had cancer. It was horrible, but I spent a lot of time talking to him, and the story came out really well.
Later I told him, "I'm so sorry you had to go through this." He told me - and I'll never forget it - "Don't be. Because without this, I'd never have gotten to know you the way I have; we'd never have become friends."
Sorry. That may sound sappy and Hallmark card-like to you. But it was a powerful statement about community.
And sharing each other's burdens - and watching them turn into joy.