February 6th was a typical busy day for us. We were out late and my phone died, so as soon as we hit the door, I put my phone on its charger. It was about a quarter to midnight. It takes my phone a few minutes to boot back up after a flat line, so I did a few things around the house to shut it down for the night and made it back to my room about 12:05, to see that I had a few missed calls, voice mails and text messages. My heart dropped because they were all from the same person; my niece. See, she’s away at college and I was thinking she had an accident or she was in trouble, either way I knew something was wrong.
So I call her without reading the messages:
“Uncle Derek, my mama is in the hospital and I don’t know what’s wrong. They just said they found her unconscious bleeding out her head.”
Those 25 words are tattooed in my head; I never forget the feeling that came over me. Is she dead? What’s happened? I don’t even know if I can help! These are just some of the thoughts racing through my mind in those moments on the way to the ER. When I show up she’s in a treating room in the ER and she’s there out of it, but restless at the same time. I could tell she was scared but just didn’t have the capability to express it other than the constant movement of her left side.
A stroke. A massive stroke on her left side. I was devastated. The matriarchs on both sides of our families had strokes. Now here’s my sister in the same boat. That was the day our lives changed.
I have always loved my sister dearly, but the four months leading up to this event left us strained. Because my sister was dealing with some major, life changing stress which lead to bouts of serious depression, she had cycles of shutting me out and crying out for help. My impatience with her, ultimately won out. I allowed these cycles to keep me away. I felt like nothing I said was helping so, I just stayed away. In the six months since her stroke, I’ve often wondered where she would be if I had listened better, or called more often … something … things would be different now.
I’m in no way writing this to blast out my sister, nor am I searching for sympathetic validation. What I am saying is never allow yourself to be completely shut out of people’s lives, especially when they mean the word to you. Today, my relationship is a lot better, but significantly different. She has difficulty communicating with me, but there is no longer the wall of depression shutting me out, nor is there the barrier of impatience.
While I hate she has suffered so, I thank God for our relationship today. I say the words, “love you” more. She enjoys hugging me (or petting my head) more. We laugh more. We shared more. What I thought was devastating, actually made things better relationally. What we thought was a terrible earthquake, actually forced us closer. Turns out, God still works miracles at midnight.
“Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn’t believe their ears. Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose.” Acts 16:25-26, The Message
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