Two Long Nights

The morning of Wednesday, April 27, we got the kids out of their beds around 5 a.m. No big deal for Virginia- she'd been up since 3. We headed to the basement because the tornado sirens were sounding. We lost power, but not before Findley managed to secure the only cup of coffee to be had in the house that morning.  We had no damage from those storms, but the weatherman warned the worst was yet to come. The kids were let out of school at lunchtime in anticipation of 'violent, long track' tornadoes. Findley came home around 5 and we turned on the local news to see what was headed our way. We watched in horror as the live feed showed the mile and a half wide tornado ravage Tuscaloosa. I felt so guilty watching- knowing that people were losing their lives as I sat there with my mouth hanging open- but it was riveting. I couldn't turn away.

At 5:50 the station flashed up the projected path and arrival times for the tornado. It was forecast to be within a mile of our house at 6:02, so we headed to the basement and put helmets on the kids. Thankfully for us, it jumped a few miles north of the projected path and we escaped without any real damage.

Findley and I stayed up late watching news reports from Tuscaloosa, Alberta City, Pleasant Grove, and Hackleburg. I could not stop crying watching the devastation as it was revealed, block by block, home by home, life by life.

The victims of last week's storms woke up the morning of April 27th, expecting to live a normal day. Instead, they found death and destruction waiting at their doorstep.

Obviously our tragedy is very different. It was manmade, it was preventable, and it only injured one person. But the feeling of loss is the same.

I was talking to a mother last week who lost her son in a car wreck a few years ago. She echoed all those feelings I was having as a result of the tornadoes. 'It's been a really hard week,' she said. 'Watching the survivors weep for their lost loved ones is almost more than I can bear. It brings back so much.'

So that was our Wednesday- it started early and went late, but thankfully, we were not directly impacted by the storms.

Virginia woke up very early Thursday morning. Amy took her on a walk in the afternoon so she could get in a little cat nap. When they were about a block away from our house, someone turned on a leaf blower. Virginia completely fell apart. She cannot handle certain loud noises if she is tired. She was crying so hard and arching back with such intensity that Amy had to take her out of the stroller and carry her home.

I met them at the back gate and tried to get her to stop crying, but she was too far gone. She threw up several times, then passed out in my arms from sheer exhaustion. When she started to stir, she began having a seizure. Findley walked in the door just in time. Virginia quit breathing (a first for her), he started breathing for her, and I called 911. The paramedics were here in under 2 minutes. We went to Children's via ambulance, fairly confident she had just had a seizure, but wanting her checked out.

They sent us home a few hours later, but Virginia had four more seizure between 11 and 11:30 pm. We went back to the hospital to get something to knock her out so she would quit seizing. Of course, even a whopping dose of ativan doesn't make Virginia go to sleep, but it did stop the seizures.

It was after 3 am by the time we got to a room, so I got to watcg the Royal wedding live. (How's that for looking on the bright side of things??) Really I was staying awake to keep an eye on Virginia, but I figured I would watch anyway. Findley wasn't really that interested!

We have had very few acute medical crises since Virginia was born. This was only her third hospitalization. But every time it happens, I get a new understanding of what happened to her, something I try not to think about in my daily life.

I don't see Virginia the way the doctors do. I wouldn't describe her condition in the same terms a text book would use. I see her as a happy little girl in a wheelchair. Yes, things are different for her and for us, but we have each other and we have built a great life. We have looked at the horror of what happened on October 3, 2003, and we have triumphed over it in the best way we know how. It isn't that I haven't dealt with what happened. Believe me, I have. I have just realized that dwelling on it doesn't make anything better. In fact, it often makes it worse.

But when I have to go to the hospital with Virginia, some of the lies I tell myself are exposed. I see how fragile she is. I come face to face with the extent of her brain injury.

It is easy to think I have forgiven those responsible for Virginia's injury and suffering, but when she is sick and struggling, I realize all my anger is still there. It is extremely intense and I honestly wonder if it has a permanent place in my heart. I hope not, but watching Virginia suffer seems to render me helpless against it.

When we arrived home on Friday, April 29, I was close to being pulled into a pit of despair.

So what did I do about it? I vented a little a lot to Findley, Laura, and Molly. I shed some real tears. Mom and Dad came so Findley and I could catch up on some much needed sleep. I watched Tangled with Virginia about ten times. I held her a lot, and told her even more than usual how much I love her and how proud I am of her. She and I went on a lot of walks so she could rest, but we stayed on the trails- far away from noisy yard equipment of all types.

And after a few days of sorrow, I began to see the sun again.

For what seems like the millionth time, I made the conscious decision to embrace life and all its depth. It seems like I have already made that choice, but I guess I am a slow learner. When Virginia's suffering reaches new levels, I have to revisit some of the lessons I thought I had already mastered.

There are days when that decision is easy to live out, and there are days when I feel like I have to tell myself over and over again to choose joy and not succumb to the darkness.

None of us know what lies ahead on any given day. There is no way to secure shelter from most of the tornadoes in our lives. But we can do our best to serve God by loving those around us and seeking joy in the midst of our storms. It's not an easy thing to do, at least for me. Often I fail far more than I succeed.

I am grateful that God gives this slow learner multiple opportunities to master what is important in this life. And I am especially grateful that none of Virginia's suffering will be in vain for we serve a God who has already won the final battle.

Ok- if you are still with me- sorry for the rambling post! Here are a few catch-up pics.

Easter egg hunt at Findley's parents





Passed out on the way home after Easter egg hunt

In basement, preparing for approaching tornado


Perking up in first trip to ER

Feeling even better, still first trip

Human pillow, hospital, round #2

watching Tangled, one of probably fifteen times that weekend