From Michelle. 17 September, 2010. 2 p.m.
Dear friends and family,
I am writing from the now familiar corridors of the Harborview Medical Center, where Steve spent eight long weeks in rehabilitation. While Steve engages in a host of appointments, I get to enjoy the putrid green and yellow shadows of the hospital basement cafeteria and reminisce about our continuing adventures this past week.
A highlight was a trip to the pool, just Steve and I. As most of you know, Steve had been to a pool once before where he stood for the first time unassisted in the water. I was absent from that momentous occasion, however, and eager to try this method, where my size and strength mattered little in assisting my love. After a few discouraging days, it proved to be a sweet and encouraging time for us both.
Going to the pool is no small matter. There is getting changed, with heavy limbs, pressure stockings, belly bands and other tricky paraphernalia to navigate in the chair, there is the temperature of the pool as Steve has little ability to regulate his body temperature, and there is the not so small matter of getting Steve from his wheelchair into the special contraption that lowers him into the pool. On Steve’s previous visit Steve had two experienced therapists and a strong male friend to assist him in the process. This time we were on our own and feeling both tentative and excited about the process.
Needless to say, we managed to navigate all of it, and with a few adjustments and floating devices, we had him standing in the pool! We did a few warm up exercises, kicking and bending the legs, and then we were off… walking. Steve held on to my shoulders and looked me straight in the eye and lifted a leg. While this took an extraordinary amount of effort, every muscle necessary for the movement of walking seemed to be present. Then Steve lifted his other leg. And again. And again. While at times his balance wavered, or his left leg tried to cross his right, essentially, Steve got to feel his body walking again. And again. And again. I kept expecting him to be finished, but he wanted to do more, and more. We inched our way to and fro, his face grimacing with the effort, but an occasional elated smile breaking through. Back and forth we went in the small distance of the pool at which he was sufficiently supported by the water but where I was still able to stand (mostly on tip toes!). A great number of elderly folks swam by, and kids splashed away in the opposite corner, but we were so engrossed in our little miracle moment that we hardly noticed. The great effort it cost only made the achievement of that moment sweeter. We cannot know how strong those muscles will become, and whether or not they will be able to function that well against gravity, but here in the pool, for that moment, Steve could walk!
Moments like these are the footholds across the chasm I spoke of last, the love and hope that rises forth from unexpected places to buoy us onward in the dark. A friend sent a poem that described it aptly:
We travelers, walking towards the sun, can’t see
Ahead, but looking back the very light
That blinded us shows us the way we came,
Along which blessings now appear, risen
As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,
By blessings brightly lit, keep going toward
That blessed light that yet to us is dark.
As we look forward the darkness still blinds us. Not only Steve’s fingers and legs, but every future prospect remains hidden from view. Our team of caregivers and our call for this year remain only dimly lit. I have been praying for a sense of purpose for this time that has been set apart, beyond what is obvious: Steve’s healing. Knowing God, I expect that far more is happening both within us and beyond us than what we can see in the plain, brutal reality of Steve’s injury. It is this journey and these events that I am more interested in. My hope is that with all physical certainty wiped away, our spiritual vision might gain in clarity. Our vulnerability is in that sense truly His strength. We continue to walk in blindness toward the light!
With love and deepest gratitude always,