If You’re Going Through Hell
If you’re going through hellRodney Atkins
Keep on going, don’t slow down
If you’re scared, don’t show it
You might get out before the devil even knows you’re there
A Cross-Country Move
On June 12th, we packed up our apartment in New Haven, Connecticut. It was a grueling day. Even though we had hired people to pack our U-Haul, our 3rd-floor walk-up proved to be a formidable challenge for both the movers and ourselves.
I was with my mother-in-law – who had volunteered to drive the U-Haul – and my husband. Neither could help much with hauling trash bags and recycling to the curb.
For some reason, Daniel was feeling dizzy and nauseous. Rather than being compassionate, I was annoyed with him most of the day. It meant that I had to do a lot of things myself.
With the cats in tow, we finally left the apartment around 2 pm on Sunday, and successfully stopped at our first pet-friendly hotel that evening. We had broken up the 21-hour trip into four days of travel, with three overnight stays in Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana.
When we stopped in Slidell, Louisiana two days later, something was wrong. By 3 in the morning, Daniel was vomiting in the bathroom. I asked him if he thought he needed to go to the ER.
Twenty minutes later, I was wheeling Daniel into the emergency room. He was in too much pain to stand.
After hours of waiting, we were told that Daniel had a perforated colon. The nurse told us that he was “very sick.” When you have a tear in your GI tract, the risk of sepsis is very high.
Six Days in Slidell
Around midday on Wednesday, Daniel was admitted to an inpatient unit, where he remained for the next five days.
Anyone who has had a loved one in the hospital knows that it messes with your sense of reality in the worst ways. It seems like all you can do is worry and wait. I prayed obsessively and intensively. I asked friends and family for financial support. I made a million phone calls as I tried to navigate insurance and moving logistics.
And people came through for us. From financial support to prayers to handling the rest of our move. I have never felt more humbled by my own dependency or by people’s selfless care.
Daniel was so sick that they initially planned to take him into surgery on Friday. After a conversation about risk, and unusually good infection levels, they told him that he could wait a couple of days.
By that Sunday, he was feeling remarkably better. And the next day, he was discharged.
The three of us went back to the hotel and napped. A few hours later, we hurriedly packed up our belongings and made the 5 1/2 hour drive to our new home in Houston.
I feared that if we delayed the trip much longer we’d get trapped in the gravitational pull of Slidell indefinitely.
A Terrible Twist
Things weren’t over, however.
The following day, my dad was hospitalized. The diagnosis? A perforation in his GI tract. He was rushed into exploratory surgery the following day. That surgery led to an invasive procedure. It has caused a great deal of pain in his body. He will have a long recovery.
When we heard the news about my dad, we were horrified, and creeped out. How did Daniel narrowly avoid a surgery only for my dad to have the very same surgery a few days later?
It immediately made me feel like some dark, supernatural shadow rested over my family. I kept joking, morbidly, that we were in a Final Destination movie.
I recalled the story of Job, who loses everything all of a sudden in a sick negotiation between a figure named Ha Satan and God. I thought about the demonic possession in Mark 5, when Jesus casts a host of demons into a herd of pigs, who run into the sea and drown.
Though I left the world of charismatic Christianity years ago, in the midst of ongoing trauma, “spiritual warfare” felt like the only explanation. Our world felt charged with evil and suffering.
And yet, we are all still here. We made it out of Slidell. My dad made it out of surgery. My grandfather, who had a stroke while all of this was going on, is back at his retirement home.
I didn’t know how to feel about anything through all of this. I’ve been having nightmares for the past week. Sometimes, I wake up and sob.
With recent political decisions made in this country, evil feels compounded. Survival feels difficult. My extraordinary need for the care of others has never been more evident.
I begin my new job as a minister on Friday. Sometimes, but especially now, the idea of caring for others in the midst of so much uncertainty and suffering feels ill-advised, if not impossible.
But that’s what we have. We have each other. I have people who have demonstrated that they will show up, pray with fervor, and meet me in my helplessness. I understand better than ever that I cannot be a caregiver without also being a care-receiver.
It is impossible to bear these traumas on our own.
We are fragile and the world is terrifying. But we just might survive it.