Sunday, July 27, 2008

Waking Up

There are problems involved in waking up.

Some of us live in a dream. Some of us sleepwalk through life, afraid of what we'll experience if the meds wear off. Some of us exist in a nightmare that doesn't seem to end.

But there is a call for all of us to wake up.

"Wake up, o sleeper,
Rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you." (Eph. 5:1)

Katherine is in the process of waking up now. For the past two weeks, it’s been as if the anesthesia is finally wearing off...Narnia is thawing. She really had us fooled before. She seemed so alert and ‘with it’ at times in the ICU that we thought she was more aware of what had happened than she actually was. We explained that she had been through brain surgery, that her life had been in grave danger, but that God was answering our prayers for her healing. She would nod and give us a thumbs up, or point up to heaven and then make a fist, which meant “I am strong in the Lord.” We learned to communicate fairly well through hand signals, and thought we were all on the same page.

And then it turned into Groundhog Day, where we had to live through everything all over again. And again...and again...the effects of short-term memory loss. That has given us the gift of repetitive loss. For instance, things which we thought had been understood, processed, and accepted are felt as fresh wounds. As our efforts at communication have become increasingly successful, our knowledge of this has deepened.

One morning I walked into the room and heard a croaky but insistent “Mom!” while I was still washing my hands. When I came around the curtain, Katherine was frantically beckoning me to her side. “My eye,” she mouthed/croaked, “My eye!” I looked at the eye in question through the fake glasses patched on one side. “Yes, it looks so much better,” I told her. It took me a few seconds to untangle her next comment: “I had no idea!” “What?” I asked. “That it turns in!!!”she said while pointing to her nose.

She had just seen herself in a mirror for the first time...that she remembered.

Another day, she was lying on her side, holding onto the rail in an attempt to alleviate the pain in her hip. With sad eyes, she looked up at me and said, “Wus.” “What??” I kept asking her to repeat. I eventually deciphered, “Worst. This is the worst thing there is. THE worst thing that could happen.” Believing it is important to let her grieve, I agreed. “Yeah, this is about as bad as it gets.” She nodded. “But we still have you,” I added in a moment or two. “And James still has his mommy. Would you rather be here like this or be in heaven now?” (Trust me, I wouldn’t be asking that kind of question if I didn’t already know how this particular person would answer.) Her response was to give me the chunky baby thighs sign, accompanied by a lop-sided grin.

On a third occasion, when she was having a particularly bad day, she communicated words even more heartbreaking. By this point, her speech had begun improving to the point where we were understanding about 75% . That day she felt that something had been misunderstood and miscommunicated by a staff member, and for some reason it was absolutely vital that we get it. She was talking to me and her nurse Phil. “I just want you to believe me! Inside, inside (she pounded her chest for emphasis) I’m normal! I’m normal inside!” Of course, she didn’t sound “normal” as she said this. Right now she sounds kind of like a fifth-grader’s imitation of a “retarded” person coming through a robot's voicebox. (A temporary condition, I hope and pray.) Phil and I were both grabbing for the tissue box. “I just want to go home! I just want to hold my baby!” She rocked her empty arms. Phil and I mostly just listened as she got it all out. She wiped her eyes, pulled herself together, and held my hand. In a barely audible tone, she mouthed, “It’s a nightmare, Mom. A nightmare that doesn’t end.”

An endless nightmare...well, maybe a prolonged, drawn-out one. We know that all dreams, even bad ones, come to an end.

Personally, I hate waking up. It’s unpleasant on multiple levels. I usually wake up tired, grumpy, and aching. I cringe at leaving the soft haven of my squeaky old canopy bed for the harsh realities of morning. Many times I put the pillow back over my head and tell whichever family member is bugging me that I “just need to finish this dream to see how it ends.” But we all know that can’t be done. (Unless maybe you’re still in college.)

Waking up to the cruel reality of her broken condition is hard for Katherine. It is even harder for those of us who love her dearly. But it also indicates that healing is taking place. She is returning to life, with all of its pain and challenges, joys and delights. She has felt some tingling in her face, which is similar to when your foot or your arm’s been asleep and then the feeling starts coming back like pins and needles. It’s not pleasant when that happens, but it’s better than complete numbness.

Sometimes even pain is better than feeling nothing at all.

Katherine’s crisis has forced me to wake up as well. Something like this has the effect of instantly clearing the cobwebs, dissipating the fog. I’m guilty of sleepwalking through a lot of life, of living in fantasyland much of the time. This has jolted me back hard to the reality of the frailty and brevity of life..."la condition humaine." I carry an awareness that every day could be my last. I am not the captain of my own ship. None of us are here for very long, anyway. I’m on a trip that’s well beyond halfway over. (Unless, God forbid, He makes me stay here ‘til I’m 110 for being such a slow learner.) I remind myself that I could lose the ones I love most at any minute. I am trying to prioritize more than ever before. What REALLY matters today, at this hour, in this present moment? WHY AM I HERE?

It is time.

As Paul warned the believers in Rome:

“ This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” (Rom. 13:11)

...Arise, shine, for our light has come...


Brittany said...

Ms. Kim,
During church this morning I thought of nothing but Katherine. As we worshiped I pictured Katherine in my mind.. and you.. and Jay... and baby James. I don't know if today is a "better" day with Katherine or a particularly hard one but I want you to know the prayers are still going. ALso, I wanted to say that I've felt compelled to pray for Katherine's nurses this week and I've been doing just that. I'm praying that they would have a deep sympathy and love toward her as they care for her and speak with her. I know first hand what a difference that can make. With all my love,
Brittany Wood Bolemon

linde said...

You are not forgotten. On many levels you are not forgotten. Katherine has been "refreshed" in my mind the past couple of weeks. Please know that Katherine is still in my thoughts and prayers!

Love and prayers from Texas.

plilr said...

My heart breaks every time I read one of your updates, because you get so much more personal and on a deeper level that the others. It is so easy to get swept up in her latest accomplishment--the trach being removed--that it is easy to forget just how much more she has to overcome. Katherine is in my thoughts every day, as are you, Jay, James and the rest of her entire family. You guys are such inspirations. Never give up.

Marie said...


Your spectacular way of sharing your inner-most personal thoughts along this roller coaster ride of faith has provided fuel for me as I too navigate a "new normal" in the wake of shocking health news regarding a loved one.

Three weeks ago, my beloved Aunt Carol was diagnosed with stage four primary peritoneal cancer. The survival rate peaks at 15%.

I am standing firm in the belief that God is performing mighty miracles in this and through this and I believe He has purposed her to be among that 15% to beat this cancer. She is planting seeds for God's kingdom and glory with every medical milestone she claims victory over. God is being glorified with every up and every down and her endurance is producing amazing depth of character and strength which is touching the lives of countless others, just like Katherine is doing from her own hospital bed.

We must live each moment and make every decision by faith. Steadfast faith.

I drew great strength and perspective from the admirable way your family has been walking along this journey with your daughter. As I sat for two weeks straight at my aunt's hospital bedside, I often thought of you and your family and especially your precious Katherine. I cover you all in prayer several times throughout the day and I praise God for the miraculous way He is using your journey of faith to knit together an ever-expanding body of Christ as we follow your example of living by faith.

God is doing mighty glorious things in you and through you with every breath you take and every word you write.

I look forward to the day I get to meet your daughter and hear her testimony of being fully delivered and restored from this grueling condition. I whole-heartedly believe that day is coming!

My life will be forever blessed by the gift of partnering with you in prayer for Katherine's restoration. Your words of wisdom are nourishing to me. Reading the affirmative declarations of faith by Jay Wolf are growing me in my faith and are encouraging me to rise up and provide deeper support for my own family as we help my Aunt fight this cancer.

Thank you for who you are to those who've never met you, those whom you continue to edify with your own journey of faith. I appreciate your honesty and candidness.

The song "Rise" by David Wilcox has been an inspiration to me and I believe the lyrics will bless you as well.


Marie Kennedy
Orange County, CA

(I used to attend Bel Air Pres and know people who are acquainted with Katherine)

Jill said...

Kim, I found the site about Katherine and have read it with great interest...this was my family almost 3 years ago, Aug 7, 2005. The roles were reversed as my father, 62 at the time, almost died from an unknown AVM that burst after falling from his semi truck. The fall created its own bleed and TBI.

The Dr. came very close to not operating since my father was "too far gone". But he saw the cross earring that my father has worn since I was a little girl and said to himself "I am going to use the skills that God gave me then its going to be up to Him" He told us this after he had removed a tennis ball size clot and the AVM. This faith filled Dr. prayed with us that it was in Gods hands now. He made us no promises and said we would just have to wait and see what happens. My sister and I felt a great peace come over us as he prayed with us and thanked him for giving our Dad a chance and going ahead and doing the operation.

As you know, we really didn't know what we were in for and what to expect. We took it one day at a time. He was in a very similar condition to Katherine. Right side paralysis, trach, feeding tube, etc. He also almost died from septic shock and blood clots that went to his lungs.

I tell you all of this to let you know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I know that every case and patient are different especially with AVM's and the brain, but reading about how Katherine is progressing, I feel VERY positive about her recovery after going through this with my Dad.
The word God kept whispering to me, and sometimes yelling was "PATIENCE" It is very hard to accept that things are going to happen in Gods Time and not ours.

As you describe Katherine Waking Up and her earlier signs of alertness, that really struck home. The "not with it" times were very hard. Katherine seems way ahead of my Dad in understanding what has happened to her and her feelings of being Normal on the inside, a very positive thing from my perspective.
I feel the signs that were given early on in both our cases are signs from God to keep us going. There were days we were so happy because my Dad opened one eye or purposefully moved his finger or his toe. We needed those signs. They kept us going.

Thanks to God my Dad walked(with a walker) out of the inpatient rehab center on Dec. 23, 2005. He had been an inpatient at that center for alittle over 2 months. He got his trach and feeding tube removed while there and gained use of his right side and was able walk out.

I remember coming home that day and telling my sons about it and my 4th grader at the time said "remember when we were excited that Grandpa had moved his finger". The words "PATIENCE" and "In Gods Time" came to my mind.
It has been almost 3 years and my Dad continues to improve. He has recovered beyond belief, to look at him you would never know what he has been through. He occasionally uses a cane but most of the time does not. He still suffers from some minor short term memory issues and once in awhile has a hard time word finding. Life has changed for my Mom and Dad but we are forever grateful for his recovery.
Please know that I will continue to pray for Katherines recovery and for the entire family. May Peace and Patience be with you all!
Sincerly, Jill Meyer,

candycarrillo said...

You must know by now how many of us Katherine/Kim junkies go first thing in the morning to the Blog. My sister hasn't quite figured out it is not "blug", but that always makes me laugh, and laughter is precious these days, moreso than ever.
This last blog has been your best and so bittersweet to me, Kim. Katherine is realizing just who Katherine was, now is, and will be again in God's timing. Her precious baby KNOWS his mommy!
If pain is returning to formerly numb places, healing follows- what a praise!
I have lived half my life in a fog- Katherine has probably accomplished more in her short life than most ever will, so much of it for The Lord.. And, we all KNOW she will be healed. Many of us have felt that particular peace for so long, hearing about all the miraculously answered prayers. It's as if we had check lists for the miracles, like NASA preparing for a successful launch- Ventrix out-check, fever down-check- eye healing-check, etc.
Speaking of her eye, here is an excerpt from a devotional by Chuck Swindoll about waiting for God to act: "God counsels with His eye. The eye makes no sound when it moves. It requires a sensitive, earthly eye to watch the movement of the eye of God---God's directions. All He may do is turn your attention in another direction. But that may be all you need.
As you wait, listen. Pore over a favorite passage in His word, Quietly give attention to His presence, and He gives you direction.(End)
He also says, "Come as you are, all who are burdened, and I will give you rest." He loves you!
As you work so tirelessly with rehab., remember to rest in Him.
Much love,

John said...

You may not remember me. I'm John Costa ( Johnny ) . We were in school together. Long ,long ago..

I have been keeping up with Katherine since I heard about her from Cynthia Stephenson. We saw her at a small class reunion a few weeks back.
I stand amazed at your faith and strenghth in these difficult times.

Having lost a daughter 12 years ago, your struggle has special meaning to me. Sandy (Harrison),my bride of 35 years, and I, will continue to pray that God will raise Katherine up and restore her.

God is so good. He is walking with you and your family each step of the way. If you have not read "The Shack " by William P. Young , I highly recommend it. It ansewed many questions including the proverbial " WHY ".

God bless.
Remember, PaPa is especiallyfond of you.

John Costa

Jordan Tree said...

I got this in an email and it reminded me so much of Katherine.
> This is an outstanding testimony from Tony Snow, President Bush's Press Secretary, and his fight with cancer. Commentator and broadcaster Tony Snow announced that he had colon cancer in 2005. Following surgery and chemotherapy, Snow joined the Bush Administration in April 2006 as press secretary. Unfortunately, on March 23, 2007, Snow, 51, a husband and father of three, announced the cancer had recurred, with tumors found in his abdomen,- leading to surgery in April, followed by more chemotherapy. Snow went back to work in the White House Briefing Room on May 30, but has resigned since, "for economic reasons," and to pursue " other interests." Tony died July 12 of colon cancer. He was 53. The following was apparently written by Tony a couple of years ago. What a strong testimony to the faith of one person. Oh, that we all could be this strong.
"Blessings arrive in unexpected packages, - in my case, cancer. Those of us with potentially fatal diseases - and there are millions in America today - find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence "What It All Means," Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer the "why" questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can't someone else get sick? We can't answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer. I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out. But despite this, - or because of it, - God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face. Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere. To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life,- and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many non believing hearts - an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live fully, richly, exuberantly - no matter how their days may be numbered. Third, we can open our eyes and hearts. God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease,- smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see, - but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance; and comprehension - and yet don't. By His love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise. 'You Have Been Called'. Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet, a loved one holds your hand at the side. "It's cancer," the healer announces. The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. "Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler." But another voice whispers: "You have been called." Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter,- and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our "normal time." There's another kind of response, although usually short-lived an inexplicable shudder of excitement, as if a clarifying moment of calamity has swept away everything trivial and tiny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions. The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies. Think of Paul, traipsing through the known world and contemplating trips to what must have seemed the antipodes (Spain), shaking the dust from his sandals, worrying not about the tomorrow, but only about the moment.There's nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue - for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer,and the most we ever could do. Finally, we can let love change everything. When Jesus was faced with the prospect of crucifixion, he grieved not for himself, but for us. He cried for Jerusalem before entering the holy city. From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness, and begged for forgiveness on our behalf. We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us, that we acquire purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God's love for others. Sickness gets us part way there. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence. But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy. A minister friend of mine observes that people suffering grave afflictions often acquire the faith of two people, while loved ones accept the burden of two peoples' worries and fears. 'Learning How to Live'. Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God's arms, not with resignation, but with peace and hope. In so doing, they have taught us not how to die, but how to live. They have emulated Christ by transmitting the power and authority of love. I sat by my best friend's bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. He kept at his table a worn Bible and a 1928 edition of he Book of Common Prayer. A shattering grief disabled his family, many of his old friends, and at least one priest. Here was a humble and very good guy, someone who apologized when he winced with pain because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable. He retained his equanimity and good humor literally until his last conscious moment. "I'm going to try to beat [this cancer]," he told me several months before he died. "But if I don't, I'll see you on the other side." His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn't promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity, -filled with life and love we cannot comprehend, - and that one can in the throes of sickness point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms. Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don't matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do? When our faith flags, he throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it. It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up, - to speak of us! This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God. What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us who believe, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place, in the hollow of God's hand." T. Snow
A Survivor's Comment: "Amen!"
Sorry this is sooo long, but I couldn't find anything that I could delete!
Still praying for ya'll in Marietta. June

Meg said...

I look forward to reading your blog. As I mentioned to Katherine in a note, your writing is beautiful, not only because of your poetic way of expressing yourself....a true gift from God.....but also because as a Mom and grandmother, I feel your pain. My mom was diagnosed with MS when I was a senior in HS, and she's now 76. It is so painful to see her precious body in a fetal position, totally helpless to do anything for herself. The disease is a cruel one, gradually robbing her of all dignity and ability to survive. We have to listen closely to hear what she's saying because the chest muscles have grown so weak. Also in her home is my 110 yr. old grandmother, also mostly in her bed (She'll be 111 on Sept. 3 if she makes it til then, and she appears to be healthy physically). My 83 yr. od dad cares for both of these precious women along with various other caretakers. All this to say that I've asked the "why" question so many times of God and still have no answers. I do know, though, that like Katherine, both women, despite their physical conditions, smile when we visit and are happy to be here. They, like Katherine, are Christian women who've gone through many frustrations and discouragements, but their faith still holds. There's peace in that knowledge. Know that I'm praying for your precious girl and for your family as you care for and encourage her.
Meg Brooke (Catherine Brooke's mom from B'ham.....a ZTA sister of Katherine's)

michelle said...

Dear Kim,
My mind and prayers are on Katherine. Her family as well. May God continue blessing you. I have been praying for Katherine and her family ever since hearing what happened to her. My Sunday school class as well has been praying for Katherine. I know God will continue healing her, it just takes time and that time is "God's time". I love to memorize Bible verses and use them in my everyday life situations. One I would like to share is: "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. From the book of Psalm 54:4. I have several but wanted to share this one. I will continue praying for Katherine to heal and her family peace of mind. God bless you and yours.

Love In Christ,
Michelle Adams (Troy, Al)

suzirockett said...

on the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand!
when you need rest and a home cooked meal...please call it would be our pleasure to host as many as would like to come over the hill for fellowship and food.
Let us bless you..just call
much love and prayer Suzi