Last night during our midweek fellowship meeting which was taking place in the lounge of our home, I received a text from Annie (not in our lounge or our home).
“Ryan please can u come up if u feel strong enough after mtg. Even with mattress to sleep…i need u.”
It’s rare to the point of never that I receive requests like that from Annie. In fact, she is often the one insisting that I go home to get rest after long stays and difficult days at the hospital or hospice. Both places are but a five minute drive door-to-door from our home which helps a great deal in bridging and preventing any emotional distance and fragility that tends to increase and wither with miles and time.
As the last of the many precious saints that gathered yesterday evening left our lounge and home, I found myself preparing a plea before calling the hospice nurses to ask permission for this late night intrusion and inconvenience. Thankfully I still had access to an inflatable mattress we used when Annie’s family came to stay with us over the New Year; hoping that this might assist the staff as much as it would my sleep I called them. Fumbling through my – as ever – long-winded introduction, insisting that my request was no indictment on the care that Annie was already receiving, the duty nurse’s understanding was surpassed only by her accommodating. She assured me that as soon as she put the phone receiver down, she’d be preparing a bed for me in Annie’s room. If the conversation lasted any longer, I am sure that she would have asked if I would require a newspaper, cocoa, pipe and slippers. I just wish I could rate their service on Tripadvisor.com! I have no doubt that they would have welcomed Milo too, but following previous experience, spending an overnight stay in a hotel chain which allowed dogs, Annie and I know how delicately (and deafeningly) sensitive Milo’s barking reflexes are when disturbed by bumps, shuffles, whispers – or mere rumours of – in the night!
Yesterday morning and afternoon wasn’t great for Annie. She caught in between a lot of pain and a lot of tiredness. Some days, the same concoction of pain medication that worked wonderfully the day before, might as well be a fistful of candy. The ‘pain versus fatigue’ tug-o-war ended with a stalemate last night leaving Annie frayed and fragile. Sometimes God’s healing comes through the minds of doctors and nurses, sometimes His relief through through the sharp end of a syringe or beneath the shiny shell of a pill; and other times yet, through the fellowship of a good friend, a husband. Ask my wife, I can often be a pain; but it’s good to bring and be the pain relief that can’t be reached by medic or medication. We spent over an hour talking and listening to God and one another through His Word and through prayer and testimony and at the last ‘Amen’, God’s remedy for a troubled night had eased in and taken effect.
I was offered breakfast this morning but manners and habits kept me from accepting. I never eat breakfast (cue a surge of comments from concerned mothers!) and even if I did, I know I have this terrible ‘british’ disposition which seems to suffer hospitality when I am on the receiving end – I know my American friends and family remain resolute to beat that out of me! But I was nourished in heart by Annie’s appetite which made light work of a couple rounds of toast and a mother-bear sized bowl of porridge.
The doctor dropped by this morning to tell us that they’d like to send Annie for an x-ray at the hospital this afternoon. They hope to assess the amount of fluid in the as-of-yet undrained right lung pleural cavity. The same x-ray will hopefully reveal the efficacy of the talc-glue on the left side. You may recall us telling you that once the fluid was drained from the left side, they filled the cavity with surgical talc hoping that the gap would be glued and closed in order to dam or prevent a future fluid build-up in that area. That part of the operation has a 50-50 success rate and by tomorrow they hope to have some closure one way or the other. Following the x-ray, perhaps early next week, Annie will be re-admitted to the hospital in order to drain and dam the right side. This should require just an overnight stay at the hospital – but the nights are known to outlast a number of days in that place! Lord’s willing, if all goes as well as can be expected, Annie will return to the hospice for a few days respite and recovery and then perhaps back home?
Annie’s x-ray appointment is scheduled for 3pm (we’ll be leaving as soon as I publish this post) and we’ve decided to take a wheelchair walk through the woods as our passage between worlds. The hospice is separated from the hospital by a wooded area which takes roughly 15 minutes to walk through. And on a crisp wintry day like today, it will rather be like leaving Narnia! The appointment should be brief and then we can walk back through the wooded wardrobe to Annie’s hospice haven.
Heavy snow is forecast here tonight and into the weekend so I may stay another night on my bed which is now folded and tucked away in the corner of Annie’s room.
Just a few days ago Annie experienced another troubled night. On that occasion instead of reaching for the mobile phone to text me, she reached for her fountain pen and poured out her heart in praise and poetry. In the resulting poem she drew strength from reflecting on the incredible opportunities that God has given to her since her return to the hospice. More doctors have continued to come into this little room not simply just to counsel but now – it appears – even to seek counsel as they individually and personally enquire of Annie’s peace.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. – 1 Peter 3:15
I’ll leave you with the poem Annie recently composed below.
How can you smile through this?
Don’t you want to shake your fist?
Curse the one who ‘allowed’ for this?
Hide away in denial’s bliss?
How can you sing a joyful song?
When the pain’s been hanging around so long?
When everything right has gone all wrong?
You’re feeling weak, no longer strong?
How can YOU, be happy for those
Who have no worries, who have no foes?
Whom everything, their way, seems to go
With never a trouble, never a woe?
How can you on your sick bed rest?
As you writhe in pain or endure more tests?
Surely, you must have to confess
That your life has become an awful mess!
How can you smile? How can you sing?
How can you be happy? How can you bring
Anything positive? Anything good?
Anything joyful from the place where you’re stood?
And why am I asking? Why do I care?
Is it because I see something there?
Whatever it is, I know it’s rare
Maybe that’s why I want you to share?!
If you have a secret that gives you this..’thing’
I want, NO, need to know, so that I might have ‘in’
So please find the words, I am listening
I’ll need it when I go through suffering.
Well..the answer is simple, containing one word
It’s something you will have many times heard
To me, it sounds sweeter than the song of a bird
The word is JESUS and JESUS is THE WORD!
the poem is amazing, what a true gift you have, loving you very much (both of you) praying for you today as always. joyx
I write with tear stained cheeks. Thank you Annie for the poem. What a gift it is. My words are pale and inadequate but thankfully our Savior is faithful to intercede and I know He is interceding. I do not know and I have not tasted the kind of fatigue and pain that you know. I have watched the suffering of my child as he went through chemo and radiation treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma. And I rejoice in being a year out of no evidence of disease.
Annie you were on my heart as I worked in the barn yesterday. I spent 5 hours helping my parents sort through boxes and get rid of a ton of trash and even more that was given away. In the course of the time I found letters you had written me… and I wept.
I remember being in England during your wedding and desperately trying to figure out a way to come to where your ceremony was to be held. But I didn’t know how to get there from London and I didn’t have a place to stay. I was woefully underprepared to visit. I remember the frustration of knowing that I was a few hours from where you were but I could do nothing about it…. so I prayed. And I asked God to bless you and be with you. And I had to trust Him that He knew best and there was a reason I wasn’t to be there.
And I sit again… frustration resurfacing once again and I have to ask the Lord to calm my heart… He loves you and has purpose and plans beyond that which I can see. There is nothing I can do this side of the pond. But instead I ask our Father to care for you and sustain you.
And I am thankful for the marvelous evidence of grace I see in your life. And I am sad at the pain and brokenness of this world. Sad at your suffering and wish I could take the pain away from you.
My longing for Heaven has only intensified over the years. I think the sharp pains of desire for Home first started with the loss of my sister Libby and my nephew Sam. It has grown throughout the years as other saints have followed her. This world is a place we are passing through.
Anne, I pray that your walk Home is peaceful. I pray that you feel God’s nearness and love. Would you say hello to Libby and Sam for me when you see them?
Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for loving Jesus. I look forward to when I see you again. And I long for the day when we’re all together and in the presence of the One who made us. What a sweet day that will be.
You have run a good race friend.
I hold you in my heart.
With Sincere Affection,
Jennifer Wratten Napier
What an amazing poem!
Oh my goodness, I am now in floods of tears from the poem Annie has written- it is beautiful and should be put to music.
Annie you are amazing, you are the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth. He is using you more powerfully than you will ever know. I know many people will be now going to heaven because of you and the peace and love of God that flows from you. You are an amazing woman of God with an amazing man of God alongside you. God bless you both and may He pour His grace into you both x
Just wanted to say – love Annie’s poem and I’m praying for you guys as always.
A lovely poem – AMEN! Hope walk in the woods was a beautiful experience and that the xray was as ok as it could be. X
I’m praying right now. Guthrie
Hi Ryan! Thanks for this update that gave me the impression to really be on your side yesterday night and today… we continue our french prayers for you! Big hug, Dan