God doesn’t always answer the way we would have imagined.
Wednesday morning, as I was reading my devotions, the Lord put some verses on my heart. In Psalm 77:1 the Psalmist describes his situation:
I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
There is no description of a deliverance in this Psalm, but it struck me that the turning point was in verses 11-13, where he affirms:
I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
What struck me was that the Psalmist did not reflect on his deliverance…but on the fact that God had delivered in the past. Reflecting on God’s perfect holy ways and on his power was enough to give him comfort.
Little did I know just how soon I would need that truth.
Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori
Our train left at 5:45 pm from Milan. Around 5:35 my mom and I climbed onto our train, anxious to get back to our families. As I lifted the suitcase onto the overhead compartment I felt something warm and different in my mouth. I sensed that something was wrong, so I turned to my mom and to the other passengers with me. They all looked white as sheets. I looked at my reflection and I could not see my teeth (remember, my mouth was still numb from the operation).
I touched my mouth and got a handful of blood. I ran to the bathroom and tried to rinse the blood out. No water came out of the faucet, so all I could do was spit. As soon as I spit my mouth was full of blood again. I tried the other bathroom. No difference. Another sink full of blood. Panicking, we decided to get back off the train before it left for a 6 hour trip (it was the last train of the night for Perugia). My mouth kept filling with more and more blood. I began swallowing it, because I didn’t know where to put it. I couldn’t rinse out my mouth, so I didn’t know where the bleeding was coming from. At this rate, I figured, I would pass out before I got to a bathroom in the station.
The police called for an ambulance, but it felt like forever before they came. I kept losing more and more blood. Finally a policeman encouraged me to spit the blood on the ground. Then I remembered all those movies where they would put pressure on an artery to stop the bleeding, so I stuck my thumb on my tongue and kept it there until I could get it checked. The ambulance came and brought me to the emergency room of the nearest hospital.
By the time a doctor saw me, the bleeding had stopped. In fact, he couldn’t even understand where I bled out. Everything seemed to be in place. We got in touch with my tongue doctor, and they decided to keep me for a couple nights in observation at this little hospital (the cancer center doesn’t have an emergency room).
As they brought me to my room, my mom asked if she could stay the night with me. The person bringing us was categorical: she would have to leave the hospital immediately after dropping my luggage off. I prayed in my heart to God: “Lord! Where are you?? I haven’t seen my wife and children in over a week. We missed the last train of the night. I may have to be operated on again, including the wretched feeding tube. I almost bled out and now they want to send my mom away in the middle of the night!”
It was then that Psalm 77:1,11-13 came back to mind. “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” I figured God had given me those verses for a reason so I forced myself to focus on the fact that God had been mighty in my life to this point. After all, the present seemed pretty dismal. Even now, as I write this I can’t help tearing up as I think about it.
The nurses brought us to my room, where there was already another patient. Then something happened…the one nurse looked with compassion on my mom and changed his mind, bringing us to another room, where there was only one bed and a recliner sofa. They attached me to an IV and brought me a bowl of milk and even gave my mom a sandwich, and brought sheets and a pillow for the recliner for her to sleep on.
Before we went to sleep Wednesday night all I could do was look back amazed at how God had taken a situation of utter desperation and turned it around, giving us above and beyond what we needed. Once again.
Duomo of Milan with Claudio
Needless to say, I am still in Milan. Friday, Claudio from my church came to trade spots with my mom (he just happened to be a little over an hour away visiting relatives!) Friday morning I went back to my cancer center, where my doctors checked me at regular intervals.
Claudio and I checked into a hotel near the hospital. Today my doctor came again to check on me, even though it’s his day off.
Monday I have one last checkup, then Alessio and Roberto from our church will come pick us up and bring us home, Lord willing.
Every checkup has been perfect. They have no idea what happened to me. And I have been on strict orders to take it easy and relax. I have not even attempted to pick up a suitcase! We have walked a bit, I have rested some, I saw Milan’s main square for the first time in my life.
It feels like the calm after the storm. I wrote this little poem as I reflected on this moment of stillness that God is giving me after my near-death experience.
Lord, help me not forget.
When the storm is over,
When gone is all that tore
at my very life and breath.
Lord help me not forget.