Sometimes as humans we feel so strong and almost invincible. Other times we realize just how fragile human life is. Pondering on our brief, unpredictable time on earth...I let it get to me. FEAR.
But here's the good news: With strength, compassion and God's help...I sent it back to hell, where it belongs.
Most of you know my son is 13 and pretty severe on the autism spectrum. With him being non-verbal and having an extreme resilience to physical pain, it's hard to tell when he's actually hurting. For example, he broke his arm a few years ago and we didn't even know until the next day that anything was even wrong. We just thought he wasn't feeling well. Also, a good percentage of people on the autism spectrum deal with something called SIB (self-injurious behaviors). For our boy: its hitting himself. He started when he was really young banging his head on walls, floors, or any corner he could find with a sharp edge. We recently found with a helmet on (or currently his vintage green trucker hat), he stops hitting his head...but has since moved on to punching his chin repeatedly.
Because of the punches to his lower jaw and since he can't tell us what he is feeling, we thought maybe his teeth were bothering him and scheduled a dentist appointment. All pretty basic stuff so far... But after the initial checkup we had to schedule a simple outpatient procedure. Because of his special needs he must be put under anesthesia even for dental work. His procedure was set for Friday at 5:30 AM and I was totally calm and collected about it.... until Thursday night, when I let fear creep into my head.
I had just received this text about my mom's mom: "Granny just had a heart attack or stroke not sure which one yet. They just put her in the hospital," triggering fears for my son.
It made me realize that no one is immune to the hand of death and illness. Ultimately, its not up to us when the second of our last breath will be. That's an extremely vulnerable thought when it comes to people you love and care for so deeply. Now as I thought on my son and his minor surgery, I re-read in my mind all the warning waivers I nonchalantly signed-off on for him to be put to sleep. I kept re-citing all the warnings and possible death hospital jargon until FEAR just completely set in. I just wanted to cancel the procedure that was bringing these thoughts to my head.
That night I fell into a dream where I relived a tragic event from one of his previous minor surgeries gone wrong when he was only about 3 months old. It was a close call with death and I had just seen it all in my mind's eye, again. I woke up scared and unable to voice the dream--no nightmare, out loud for fear that I would "jinx" our son. If that's even a thing. My wife picked up on the way I was acting and kept asking if I was ok, but I kept blaming the pre-sunrise appointment time on my behavior.
There was a tenseness to my demeanor that seemed to spread throughout the environment of the extra chilly hospital room. We waited for a few hours in that tiny tiled white room as the sun started coming up. Then our son started resisting the drowsy medicine, the nurses, my wife and anything that got in his way. When the moment came to wheel him back to the operating room it took 3 nurses and one doctor to hold him down. He was screeching, crying with panic and fighting like a tiny incredible hulk begging without words to be taken off of the stretcher. That is a sight that sticks and it made us feel utterly helpless and heavy. Emotional tears and comforting hugs from the hospital staff swarmed the area until we were back out in the waiting room.
After 30 minutes or so we got a call from the doctors telling us everything was going exactly as planned, and within another few hours we were in the recovery room listening to him hard-core snore. As he slept, my wife gently stroked his hair and started putting lip balm all over his cracked little lips from the procedure. Seeing the tenderness and compassion she has in these situations inspires me to live life with that same kind of pure heart. When he began to wake after about 2 hours, he again started fighting and we couldn't keep him in the wheelchair for discharge. We tried putting his flailing body on my wife's lap in the wheelchair but she couldn't hold him down. I scooped up his angry and confused body and carried him across my shoulder.
As I carry his squirming dense 90 pounds to the car, I realize how much of a team me and my wife are: strength and compassion.
When we got home a Frost Family Nap ensued, and all of the worries and fears I had the previous day had disappeared. In my dream instead of horrific images from our past I was greeted by a man in a red coat reminding me of my future. He said:
"I will hold you in my strength, and reveal the promises I have for your future"
I woke up the same day that all the fear and confusion had taken place, and remembered only the truth that God revealed to me in that dream. He held me in his strength, both physically and in other ways. He carried me through as I carried my own son. God cares about his children and their future and I am a child of God. Today, and until I need it again, that's what I will hold on to.