The strange normality of our world continues for us as we live with both the reality of a son who has suffered a major neurological episode and the uncertainty of my melanoma’s effects. It’s been a week of concern and activity on both fronts. Ben will have been in the Mardon Neurological Rehabilitation Centre for a week tomorrow for an anticipated twelve week stay. He has settled in well. It’s Day 37 since his seizure and hospitalisation. His progress is steady although he’s continuing to show a number of signs that indicate the road ahead is a long one; twists and turns we’ve witnessed already show it’ll involve days when we feel we’ve hardly moved at all or even moved backwards. Positively, he’s communicating well (although his voice intonations have a way to go) and we can see more of the normal old Ben – including his sense of humour – coming through. He’s expected to dress himself each day and appear in the dining room for his three main meals. He has a great small flat to himself complete with a TV, a small kitchen and bathroom. French doors open out onto a patio. It’s all part of the National Health Service…quite impressive by anyone’s standards, surely. He has a pretty full timetable posted each week including physio, occupational, speech and language therapies, and is more than impressed with the care that the staff are giving him. He had a five hour home visit yesterday which went well.
Of concern however are occasional but repeated bouts of vomiting and also the continuing shakes. He was on an exercise bike on Thursday while in a rehab session when he felt a seizure coming on as his body started to shudder. Thankfully, the nearby nurses were alert and came running, and what seemed like a growing convulsion was averted. But it plainly indicated to both him and us that his condition is not stable. He had another electroencephalogram (EEG) scan in the hospital during the week which will no doubt be examined along with the expected (and long awaited) results of DNA tests as they start to appear.
He and all of us remain concerned also about his wife Gabriela’s immigration status. It is playing on both their – all of our – minds. She’s currently here on a six month tourist visa which, if they are to stay, needs to be converted to one which allows her to stay longer and even to work. The current immigration laws mean that unless one’s foreign spouse is from within the EU, the British half of the relationship needs to be earning in excess of £17,000 to bring their spouse into the country. Even then, the application needs to be made from the foreign spouse’s home country and can take up to two or three months to come through. Plainly Ben is in no position to be in employment (with probably another 2-3 months in rehab) and Dabi feels she needs to be with Ben during these vulnerable times. We’re thankful for a recent kind offer of help in high places which may just provide an answer. We pray Father will open unexpected doors in this matter. In the meantime, dear Dabi lost her grandfather back in Brazil this week. We pray Father’s comfort for her and her family. We’re so grateful for the love that the Clements, Sharps, Smiths, Salters and Dysons have been showing, offering her hospitality and friendship.
As Ben and I sat chatting last week and were reflecting on what it meant to have lost twelve or more days of memory while he was unconscious in the ICU, he said that he remembered, at one point, he felt himself to be slipping away, dying. I asked him how he felt about it, knowing what he’d written on the blog weeks before, and he simply said, ‘Peaceful’. He then recounted how, on another occasion, the room was totally black and he saw a large angel, bright, standing at the foot of his bed. Some may say it was the results of a drug-induced delirium…maybe, but Catherine had particularly been praying that an angel would be encamped at the foot of his bed. As he and I talked, it led on to a long discussion about death and what the scriptures show us…the promise for the believer in Jesus that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, and that one day, as Christ returns, those who’ve died already ‘in Christ’, their bodies will be resurrected and transformed – the perishable will be raised imperishable, we’ll be clothed similar but vastly different to our current earthly bodies, entirely in line with Jesus’ body after his resurrection – recognisable and yet not; able to appear through locked doors, but able to be touched. Absent is all the nonsense about floating around on clouds playing harps, but clothed in spiritual yet physical bodies ready to live in a new transformed environment, heaven and earth combined, face to face with God and rejoicing as we hear “a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ (Revelation 21). We were both encouraged thinking about it.
It’s been a strength for me to be considering these things again this week as I’ve had a few days feeling pretty unwell, leaving Catherine understandably somewhat vulnerable and concerned. A couple of nights of heavy and profuse sweats (last experienced three months ago and often associated with advancing cancer) alongside three days of feeling increasingly ‘feak & weeble’, made us wonder whether I was taking a turn for the worse. However, this weekend I’m feeling much stronger. It was a good week though to quietly sit and finally write letters to each of our children – letters to be kept safely and given to each of them in the event of my death. It was a precious task I’d delayed doing as I knew it was going to involve both time and some very careful gathering of thought – communicating love, hopes, memories and reflections.
I face my next CT scan this Friday 6th February. It’s expected to show the tumour inflamed and angry, reacting to the drug. A second scan follows a month later – that’s the one they’ll be looking at closely as it’ll indicate where things are heading.
Some wonder how we cope. I guess that we’ve learned to simply take each day at a time and not worry about what tomorrow might bring. It’s about knowing that Christ is already there ahead of us and that, for the present moment, Father has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”