by Marian Jeanet Stewart Warren
The white roses
By Marian Jeanet Stewart Warren
It was the last day of June in 2009. It was a sometimes typical June day here in Spokane, Washington, whose weather in June can change on a dime. This particular day we got the better side of that dime.
I think before this account proceeds any further, there is a whole lot of personal groundwork, so to speak, that needs to be laid—perhaps not an easy job for me to explain, or for you to understand.
Things had not been going well in my life, most especially health wise—and family wise—for about the proceeding two years. There is so very much to tell, that one barely knows where to start. Much of this may be long, tedious, and just plain boring—but I think I can promise you that if you can endure to the end, it will be worth it. To you Christians, does that last sentence remind you of any scriptures in the Bible??
[ Matthew 10:22—"And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." Matthew 24:13---"But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." Mark 13:13— "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." Hebrews 12:1-2----"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2.) Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."]
How do I begin—without driving you all nuts?
Health----In October of 2007, while taking out a recyclable bin, I slipped on the last three steps, falling with all my too considerable weight on my left leg, ankle, and foot. Not being totally stupid, I knew this was not too good. Upshot—a broken leg and ankle, surgery, a metal plate and several screws, and seven months of recovery.
In February, while still in a walking boot and on crutches, I again fell on the last three stairs, this time at church. This time, a concussion and a lovely trip to the emergency room, followed by a couple of weeks of nausea, some vomiting, some pain, and lots of ringing in the ears—one ear even becoming almost deaf.
While in the emergency room, I was complaining of back pain, as I already have a longstanding history of this problem. During a CT to double check on this, it was discovered that I had a small mass on my left adrenal gland—which of course would require follow-up with a specialist. These appointments take about three months to even get many times. Luckily, or by the grace of God and Jesus, after a consultation and some testing, my specialist had the good news for me—that the mass would be about 99% non-cancerous. Yeah, good news, and it would only require yearly monitoring.
Finally, after about three months I could begin to try to start doing things remotely normally again. Also, about the end of August my sister and my 82-year-old Mother were able to come up for a visit. We were on a roll!!
After Mom had been here about two weeks—almost a major miracle in itself—she had to fly home suddenly, as my Step-father had been hospitalized. Of course this was a big letdown to all of us and a great worry also.
About three days after this happened, I began incessant vomiting, on a weekend of course. I have had a 20-year-plus history with an ulcer, so this was not a first for me. After about the tenth round of throwing up, I figured that maybe I would have to take one of my trips to the emergency room. This began my being very ill for the entire months of September and October of 2008.
When they began testing, all of a sudden the word "blockage" came to my ears. Well, this cannot be good. Later came that S word—"surgeon," which also cannot obviously be good. I mean; this is not exactly rocket science here to figure out.
The short version—yes, it really is! Five days in the hospital, with tube down my nose and throat, just to get me stabilized. Then I was sent home one week to rest and celebrate our youngest son’s birthday before I went back for the actual surgery. This required the removal of one-third of my stomach, along with several of the acid-producing glands or ducts—and required cutting of the vegas nerve, which I later learned can cause problems. This lovely visit was 12 days, most of which also with my favorite companion, the ever-present tube down the nose and throat—and—along with what I had come to believe was the only food known to man—my beloved chipped ice, which they rationed out like it was gold.
No, we’re not done yet! Two days after I was discharged from the hospital after my surgery, my husband was kind enough to share with me a nasty cold he had come down with about the last four days of my hospitalization. Now, we are really having fun! I don’t even think I need to hint at how horrible I was feeling. During this time, I was literally eating and drinking virtually nothing at all. Bouts of nausea began, which medicine failed to treat, and six days after discharge back we went to the emergency room. I have to say "we" because the date was 4 October 2008, our thirty-eighth wedding anniversary. We dined in customary style—me on IV’s and limited ice chips—but Jim really splurged on Pepsi and peanuts. I was there for a quite common complication of my type of surgery. This little stay was seven days. So out of two months, I had spent 24 days hospitalized.
I know–everyone is starting to wonder just where this is leading. Well, sometimes you just have to wait for the good stuff.
Family—My Mother (now 85 years of age) and my Step-father live in California, as does my sister and several nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.
My sister and one of my nieces had gone through years and years of legal and custody battles—which invariably took a toll after awhile. This was also extremely expensive—the brunt of the cost borne by Mom and my brother-in-law.
Then–like a sudden bolt of lightening, my brother-in-law became severely ill. Near the end of April of 2005, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given three to 12 months to live. He died on 6 June 2005. The sudden and horrific impact on my sister and especially his young daughter, about age 18 or 19, cannot even be imagined.
In August of 2008, my sister lost her home in California and is still dealing with the impact of this. She came up here to live with us for awhile. Obviously, it seemed almost like she had lost herself—along with all the rest of it. The strain on Mom , especially, can in no way be remotely described----unless you are a mother; then you might have a clue. But are you going through this at age 85?
I think this is most likely way more than you wanted to know about the inside workings of my body, mind, or life. Ha!
After all of the above health problems, I had moved into our youngest son’s old room. Besides all the physical issues, I developed what I guess one could characterize as emotional issues from the combination of it all—health, insomnia, worry about family, and much more.
One day, or evening, I was sitting in bed in this separate room. I think it would be more than accurate to say that I was just fed up with the whole ball of wax! So–I began talking out loud to God and Jesus.
Right here---I should stop and tell any of you Christians out there who may be sanctimonious, condemning, self-righteous, not completely honest with yourself, or maybe just fearful–that you may not be prepared for what follows---but it could be that you might need it the most. It reminds me of the scripture in the Bible where it says to take heed when you think you stand---lest you fall.
I Corinthians 10:12----"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
For all the rest of us ordinary mortals---Christian or not---perhaps my account may be food for thought or even soothing balm for the soul---at least I hope so.
Anyway, I’m starting to talk to God and Jesus—quite loudly—and I guess the nice word would be passionately. I’ll relate it the best I can.
I asked God and Jesus—"Are you guys even really up there; and if so, what do you do all the time? Do you just sit on thrones to be constantly worshiped by the angels and whatever strange creatures you have up there??"
"In case you haven’t noticed lately, things aren’t going too well for a good part of the around six billion of us who inhabit this beautiful blue and white globe you created for us."
"My own life is a mess. My health just receives one blow after the other, and my husband is not much, if any, better off. My sister’s life is a total mess. My own spiritual life is not too great either. My Mother is aging in years and under a lot of stress, as well as my Step-father. My oldest son is an alcoholic." Oh, there’s more, but you get the point, I hope!
So—I’m continuing on.
"Father and Jesus, do you even care? And what are you doing up there all the time, just twiddling your thumbs?"
"And the Bible–is it just so many words on a printed page—or is it your word, inspired and faithfully translated?"
"You know Father, I realize that after all these years of basically dabbling in the Bible, church, and religion—I don’t really know you at all!"
"In addition, I don’t really feel like you know me at all! I know the Bible says differently, and I think I believe it, but it doesn’t get from my brain to my heart and soul—I don’t feel it."
It would be a good point to interject here that we humans need to understand that feelings are not necessarily facts. Maybe that is the bottom line about what faith is. But, this is a whole other topic.
At any rate, I’m on a roll here with my talk to God and Jesus. After all, that’s all prayer is.
So—after not being a happy camper, and telling the God (Gods) of the universes so—quite loudly at times—I’m starting to wind down.
"Father God and Jesus, I will sincerely, sincerely apologize if I was rude or disrespectful. However, I will never apologize for being HONEST!
And on I go.
"It seems to me that you, your Son, and your Bible all teach us to be honest. Besides, no relationship worth anything can be built, or sustained, without honesty. And I kinda think that maybe my relationship with you and Jesus just "might" be one of the more important ones!!"
We humans can be funny creatures. Christians—or trying to be Christians—are no exception. Sometimes we are worse! Who do we think we are kidding; God knows every feeling, thought, problem, discouragement—and hidden topics—anyway! That’s why he is God!! Hard one there!
There you have it.
Of course I realize that a lot of "religious" people would scream—blasphemy! They’re the type who would say that God would strike me dead for talking to him that way.
Well, I’ve got news for them. God is a big boy; he has broad shoulders; and I personally think he values honesty. After all, that’s what he really wants from us: a real, and honest, relationship! Anything less is a sham. It’s us somehow thinking that we can, or could, hide anything from him to start with!
People can think, feel, or say what they want. All I know is that for a fair while after that prayer—I could see the hand of God in my life on a regular basis. God not only did not strike me dead; I think he valued my honesty!
In addition, God personalizes. The things I saw or experienced would not have meant anything to the masses. They were not supposed to; they were "tailor fitted" just for me, as an individual.
Is God good, or what!?
Now if I haven’t lost you already, I want to go back to the beginning of this story—the last day of June 2009.
On 1 July 2009, I had an appointment with the specialist I see for my adrenal gland problem. I knew that I had to keep the appointment, or it could take me two or three months to get another one.
So, on this last day of June, I was scheduled at Deaconess Hospital for a CT on my adrenal gland. Ordinarily this would not have been a major deal, but this particular day I was literally feeling like "death warmed over." But, it had to be done, and it had to be done that day!
I parked right across the street from the hospital in patient parking for the doctors’ building. It wasn’t hard, and it wasn’t far to get to the hospital—over to the stairs, down the stairs, across the crosswalk, up the stairs, in the hospital, to admitting, to CT. Easy and simple, right? No!
I felt so bad that day that I literally had to tell—and will—my feet to put one in front of the other; then the next in front of that one—and so on in this small, but difficult, journey. I don’t ever remember feeling quite so weak, tired, and powerless. It was a terrible feeling—one I’d just as soon not have again.
I finally arrived to get my CT scan. It seemed like just finally getting to the object of my small journey, along with cooler air, helped me a little.
In fact, the tech asked me toward the end if I had dozed off. I said, "No. But if you want to survive as you get older, you had better learn to relax anytime the opportunity presents itself!"
I left there dreading my little mini-journey back to my car.
But, God and Jesus were there, and that makes all the difference in the world!!
As I came out of the main hospital entrance and crossed the little road there, I made my way to the top of the stairs that I had to go down to reach the crosswalk.
Suddenly—really magically almost—I noticed at the top of the stairs on both sides were these beautiful, billowing masses of lovely white roses. They were positively breath-taking, at least to me.
I remember even now sitting right down on the steps and gathering those pure, white masses of roses to my face. I remember their soft, velvety touch and their pure fragrance. I, almost literally, thought I had died and gone to heaven!
Suddenly I knew. God and Jesus were there. They do love us all!! They are passionate. They are forgiving. They do offer the most seemingly small personalized event that can mean much more than what it appears simply to be on the surface.
To others, the experience might have just seemed ordinary—or they most likely would have merely walked right by and never had the experience. How very sad!
God, and our brother and Savior Jesus, are always there. They are with us and will work regularly in our lives—in ways we may not even recognize in this lifetime. They take us to the heights, but even more importantly they are there with us through the depths and valleys.
Oftentimes, we cannot feel them; we do not know they are there, or, we are even sure that they are not there. Just remember that feelings are not always facts.
It is such a completely personal thing, and obviously our personal experiences are just that—personal, individual to us. And, as with almost everything in this life, it boils down to FAITH.
Even without realizing it, we humans always end up putting our faith in something. It could be God, or it could be evolution. It could be in our spouse or mate, our job, work in general, sex, alcohol and other drugs—the list could go on forever.
All I know is that on the last day of June 2009, I saw; I felt; I even smelled the God of all things take the time, the thought, and the love to give me several moments of peace and happiness with the gorgeous white roses that he made for me—and for you.
by Marian J. S .Warren