SIMPLE TRUTH: Into the pit

Published 3:21 pm Thursday, September 13, 2012

By Charles Christmas

I am very grateful to Stephen Dawkins, managing editor of the Clanton Advertiser, for inviting me to resume my column, Simple Truth. My return follows a very delightful and rewarding three-year, 24/7 ministry of caregiving to my forever darling wife, Louise, and support of her very fruitful personal ministry in the face of huge handicaps.

May I give my own definition of the word “pit” in the subject of today’s column? It means a very difficult experience or very difficult circumstances. Joseph, a younger brother of Jacob’s sons, was cast into a real pit. So was the prophet Jeremiah. Others have had their “pit” experiences, such as the apostles John and Paul, John the Baptist, our Lord Jesus Christ, Job, Louise and me. Here is how it happened to us three years ago:

My wife’s legs became progressively weak. After walking some 15 yards, it was necessary for her to stop and rest. At about 30 yards, a wheelchair was required, yet she was still performing her volunteer ministry four days a week as hostess at Baptist Medical Center Shelby’s Digestive Disease Center. This had been the delight of her life for eight years.

Aug. 19, 2009, was a day of hopeful expectancy for Louise and me. Our surgeon has assured us that a lengthy decompression laminectomy surgical procedure would have an 80 percent chance of restoring some strength to her legs. After surgery, the report to us was that the five-hour surgery went well.

After her post-operative days at Shelby, Louise was transferred to Lakeshore Rehab Hospital. On the second day it was discovered that there was absolutely no feeling below the right knee and very little strength in her right hip.

After being rushed back to Shelby surgeons, an MRI revealed a hematoma and an injury on her spinal cord. A second surgery produced no positive results whatsoever.

Returning to Lakeshore for rehab, followed by 21 days in a second rehab facility, did not enable her to stand at all nor to sit in a chair by her bed for even an hour. It was also discovered that the paralysis has affected her digestive and urinary systems. This would require a permanent catheter and permanent special gastrointestinal care.

We had descended “into a pit.” Louise was disappointed, discouraged and bitter. She was very depressed and did not desire to live at times. She was hesitant to receive any visitors and did not have the heart to open any of her 150 cards and notes from concerned friends. I, myself, descended to my life’s lowest point. I remember during a two-day period at Lakeshore, I was asked by my best friend and also by a wonderful niece, “How are you doing?” I told the truth when I replied, “Today is the lowest point of my entire life.”

After 62 days in hospitals, the two of us were sent home. With the support of the home health agency’s periodic visits, I was to be her primary caregiver 24/7. I would also handle all of the duties of the house. We were “in the pit.”

You also have probably had or are now having your “pit,” a very painful experience or very difficult circumstances. It can relate to death, divorce, unemployment, addiction, injury, material losses, sickness, family problems or other entrances into “the pit.” Maybe we can find some help for now or the future in my next two columns: “Living in the Pit” and “Out of the Pit.”

–Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.