Sunday, November 6, 2011

Remembering November 2005 And After (part two)

Here is the continuation and conclusion of the reflection posted on All Souls Day:

“I’m fine,” I told myself.

I felt shaken up, a little overwhelmed, a little out of joint. It was a Friday afternoon by the time things settled down and I had my rental car. I decided it would be a good idea to see my chiropractor on Monday, so I made an appointment. Then I tried to push my way through the many activities of a busy weekend.

Something wasn’t quite right.

Indeed it wasn’t. I should have been in bed. Complete rest will slow the progress of neurological damage after a concussion. Running around like crazy can make it worse.

I ran around like crazy through the rest of Friday and Saturday. Crazy in more ways than one. I became increasingly confused. But not enough to stop me from getting through my business.

Then on Sunday I started losing my balance.

Oh no, I thought. Here goes Lyme disease again! There are so many diverse symptoms that can accompany a Lyme flare-up that people with CLD are tempted to blame it for everything. I was also fatigued, but that was nothing new. And confused.

Monday morning I made the short drive to the chiropractor. By then it had been 72 hours. I was slow-minded, confused, and had balance problems. I wasn’t feeling very well, but I was used to not feeling well. Neither my wife or I realized that I shouldn’t have been driving anywhere at that point.

The doctor looked at me for a few seconds, and then asked, “is your wife at home?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Call her, and if she can’t get you we’ll call an ambulance. You need to go to the emergency room right away. You’ve got a concussion.”

“A what?”

That’s what it was, all right. I couldn’t even take a few steps with my eyes closed without falling over. The ER doctors explained the basics to me, and my own doctor and a neurologist followed up. I had a major concussion. I was ordered off my feet for a week. I was told it might take a couple of months to recover normal brain functioning. Meanwhile I was supposed to take it easy and avoid stress as much as possible....

“Ah...heh, heh...I’m a teacher...ha...y’know, thick-headed students, grueling lectures, papers, finals, senior theses coming up....” Stress? That’s the job description.

What could I do? We were two thirds of the way through the semester. I couldn’t just bail out on my “kids” (as I always used to call my students). So I worked six brutal weeks, laying down with splitting headaches between lectures, wearing sunglasses to cut light sensitivity, seeing students in my home as much as possible, and even having a few read their papers to me aloud. I needed pain medication to get my grades done, which contributed further to wearing down my immune system. This was all like passing out party invitations to the semi-dormant Lyme bacteria in my system.

I finished the grades. But my overall health was a wreck. And the concussion wasn’t healing. I had headaches. I had increasing difficulty following a conversation. And although I could still lecture, I was finding it harder to put words together in ordinary circumstances. I was still losing my balance.

By the middle of January, instead of being at opening weekend for the Spring semester, I was in the hospital. My semester was cancelled. I was demoralized and depressed.

Why had this happened?

When I got out of the hospital, I did nothing but rest for two months. I played games with my children. My limitations forced a certain simplicity upon me. The anger faded, and I began to heal. I also began to see a Catholic psychotherapist. This too was the beginning of a whole new dimension in living with my illness.

I began to heal.

On the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the college chaplain came to visit me and gave me Holy Communion. Something began on that day, something that has slowly grown in me even in the midst of many subsequent setbacks in physical and mental health. Something deep in me began to heal. I was being prepared for a new task in my life.

As I began to feel better, I started working out. My strength returned, and with it a measure of energy that I had not felt in years. I started working on papers for publication, and by March I was doing everything but classroom lecturing. The previous year, I had patched myself together to return to my work. But now, I was beginning to feel well.

Could it be that my prayer was being answered after all?

Healing, as it turned out, has proven to be a much more complicated task than it appeared in those months. Still this temporary health was a blessing, and though I’ve had many setbacks and struggles since then, God has brought us through them all in a way that has made it possible for me to give attention to what was closest to my heart.

Indeed, it was this window of health that made possible the great gift that I had prayed for on that November morning.

Eileen and I prayed in March, about a possibility. We talked about it. We knew there were risks. But we judged in faith that God wanted us to take them. We prayed for another child.

And God blessed us. God granted the prayers of that November morning. If we had seen the road ahead, with all its trials, would we have had the courage? It is good that life is in the hands of God. Because looking back at that difficult road, we see even the darkest places lit up by the face of our beloved Josefina, and we have never had the slightest regret.

God’s ways are mysterious, and I still do not know how He will fully answer the prayer of that day in November. But I do know that I was struggling with work and keeping my head above water in those days. This was an absorbing focus of my energies, and there was no thought of another child and no plan to seek one. There was only a desire and a prayer, reaching out to some wild unknown future.

We were a family of four children and a father who struggled with his health and the burdens of a difficult job. Then the burden and the struggle were taken off my shoulders. I was forced to rest, in body and in mind. From this rest I found energy and health (even though, as it turned out, only for a time, and as a preparation for new trials that I have already described on this blog). This time engendered in us the hope and the willingness to risk asking for an unlikely gift, and a space was opened in the history of our family for another child.

Without that accident that God permitted to happen as a consequence of my foolishness, there probably never would have been a Josefina Janaro.

Can anyone imagine this family without her?

Thus what seemed miserable at the time became the beginning of an immeasurable good. And it was not my plan that produced this but God, who works everything for the good.

He allows those who trust in Him to perceive this, or at least to glimpse it a little, enough to muster the courage to take risks.

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