Staying in the hospital for an extended period of time as a patient is a challenging experience. Nurses and doctors coming into your room every few hours to assess, poke, stick, and say, “if there is anything you need you know where the call button is, don’t hesitate to ring me.” So you ring them when the alarm button on the IV pump goes off at 3am and they are nowhere to be found for 20 minutes. The first couple of days are spentrecovering from surgery, heart attack, broken bone, whatever fading in and out of sleep and grateful there is such a thing called a morphine pump. By day five when the pain has eased, the routine quickly moves to monotony. You can only watch so much TV. If the stay extends beyond five days claustrophobia becomes a condition and if it goes beyond that Jack Nicolson starts coming to mind.
Joree came home this weekend after a (in her case) short ten day stay at Paradise Valley Hospital. Not sure any of us would agree with Paradise, but the care was outstanding and it is so good to have her home. So many of our friends prayed for her surgery and recovery…we are grateful. As difficult as a hospital stay can be for anyone, imagine sitting ten days with a young lady that cannot speak. Someone must be with her 24 hours to assist the hospital staff with her care. Joree has a vocabulary of about 15 words. Ouch is not one of them, so understanding her pain is something we have learned over the years. When Joree is in the hospital, you are in the hospital.
Even as I write this there is a hint of whining I can hear. Whoa is me kind of thing. But as I reflect over the last ten days I realize once again that a hospital stay with Joree is like spending time with an angel. After three days she no longer required any pain medication despite an eight inch incision running vertically on her abdomen. Joree and I play a game with the word “no”. She says ‘”no” and I respond with “no” in return. She changes the length of the word, adds a syllable, says it loud or quiet and I mimic her each time until she bursts into laughter that causes me to respond with at least a grin but mostly with giggles or a burst of laughter. If you are near it is almost impossible to be angry, upset, depressed, anxious…her presence and behavior just won’t allow it.
In the hospital this game goes on as long as Joree is awake and as long as you are in a confined space with her. At home, we come and go and she cackles without engaging, but in the hospital there is no place to go so ten days of saying “No” can lend itself to monotony. Not for Joree. This stay I have never seen her so filled with joy. Nurses came in every six hours to stick her finger for blood. Vital signs every four hours waking her from a sound sleep. Technicians checking all the tubes in and out of her and executing breathing treatments with masks and smoke billowing around her face. And every moment, the smile, the laughter, the joy never waned.
I have thought long about how all this can be. How does she endure this so many times and never complain? Where does all that joy come from? She appears to not understand much of life as we know it and yet, her joy is constant. Our Lord was sent here to suffer. The whole reason for the coming to earth visit was to endure unimaginable pain and agony. The rest of the time he demonstrated compassion, laughter, joy and shared it with a blind man, a lame man, a demon possessed boy and I imagine in those moments the joy they experienced overwhelmed them. What was it like for Mary and Martha to see their brother walk out of that tomb?
Who is Joree anyway? Don’t you think it would be just like our Lord to see a child that is suffering from the curse of sin experience joy? Wouldn’t it be just like him to send a helper to fill a broken body with joy? He did it himself. He came here to suffer and to endure death so we may have hope. Joree is a living breathing example of our Lord. She didn’t request a broken body. It isn’t fair that she has to suffer while the rest of us go through life “normal”. But the joy…the joy…We whine and moan about things every day that just don’t go the way we desire. We worry, and fret and despair over things totally out of our control and what do we get in return…sadness, depression, anger, frustration. So, who has this life thing figured out?
I believe more each day that Joree is an angel. Keep reading I haven’t gone over the edge…yet. Do you have a better explanation? Our Lord knows suffering. Our Lord LOVES. Our Lord has no desire to see his image bearers suffer. Our Lord sees Joree just as he sees you and me and for some reason he has chosen her to be a shining example of joy…bolsters my faith. Challenges me when I go off on my own and believe I can manage this life thing by myself. Stay with Joree for a minute and she touches your heart. Walk with her for ten days in the hospital and it changes your soul. I can hear her right now as I write. She is babbling, she is laughing, she is singing…She is connected to our Lord and he is ever pursuing us and calling us home. I think Joree is always there.