We arrived in Switzerland. Life has had its share of challenges and we were happy to leave Congo for a bit. Leaving Nyankunde was stressful, bittersweet and full of last minute details. It was a relief to step on a plane and say goodbye to it all. After layovers and some tough times with tired toddler, we arrived in Switzerland. International travel! Such a bizarre experience! You just leave one reality behind...and wake up in another. We were ready to reconnect with family, eat cheese and chocolate, relax, enjoy life with no life-or-death decisions. We were ready to have a great time!
On Sunday morning I called my folks and Anita picked up the phone. I knew instantly that something was wrong. She told me that my father had woken up confused, had stumbled into the bathroom, fallen and was lying there unresponsive and unable to speak. I ran over and found my father in the bathtub. We were able to get him into a chair. The paramedics arrived and took him away in the ambulance.
Without going into all the details, my father had a major stroke which has left him weak and unable to speak. He is now stable from a medical point of view. He has been in the hospital for nearly a week now and his mental status has improved. He is able to walk and can move and care for himself, but he cannot speak. He can nod his head and communicates through body language. We are not sure what’s next. We have extended our stay for a week. We are hoping that he will soon be transferred to a rehab hospital. After that...??? Could he go back home? What kind of improvement can be expected? What’s the chance of another stroke or medical deterioration? Only God knows.
We grow up idolizing our fathers. I did anyway. He was the guy who always knew the answer, who could always figure it out, who could make it work. When he was there, I knew everything would work out. He was a consummate learner, a profound thinker, a great preacher, an eloquent and well-read person, a jokester, incredibly generous, a hard worker and a kind man. He was not without his faults, but he was always the sort of person I aspired to become. As I got older, you start to see the points of weakness, but there was never a time I did not admire him in a profound way.
It’s a bit shocking to see him now. He is pale and moves with uncertainty. He can’t say anything, but in his eyes I know that he understands. That brain is still there, but it took a huge hit. It is stunned, slowed, trying to figure out how to get around the devastated areas. It seems like such a tragic loss of that knowledge. It feels like a major museum or university just burned down. He had a stroke before and for years later, complained about the “brain fog”. I can only imagine how it feels now.
Still, there is profound grace in this difficult time. Anita has been a pillar of strength. It is a blessing that he can move, feed himself, etc. I feel like if there is any brain that can find its way around the obstacles, it is his. It feels like a blessing that we have been here, though it’s been hard to know what to do. For now, what he has left is kindness and love. He gives Emmanuel a hug. He holds Anita’s hand. He smiles and shrugs with helplessness.
Please pray for Jim that he will find ways to communicate. Pray for strength for Anita.
As I was running from our hotel to their apartment, I wondered if this might be the last time I would see my father. It turns out not to be the case, though no one can say what the next days will look like. Still, I had an overwhelming sense of peace. I knew that he had lived his life, run his race well. There were no regrets. So, it looks like he might have more days. These days might be hard, but each one is a gift.
We plan to return to the US on December. We are looking forward to seeing friends and family. We will celebrate the birth of our Lord with Lindsey’s family in Wisconsin. If you’re reading this, we’d love to see you!