This is about a personal experience I shared with my husband during his cancer treatments.
This was not an ordinary day. This was going to be a special day. Today Larry and I were going to leave behind us the reminders of cancer and explore the beauty of the Bavarian Alps. Today we were just going to be ordinary people in love with each other and God's extraordinary world.
The bus was going to leave at 12:40pm. We had made arrangements through the clinic to travel on the tour bus to Wendelstein. A tourist destination in the Alps. Larry had his infusion treatments in the morning before lunch and we had the afternoon free. We arrived in the dining room a few minutes before noon to make sure that we wouldn't be late, in fact Larry decided that after the soup (which you get for yourself) we should eat our dessert (also self serve), before our entree arrived so that we didn't waste anytime. He was very excited about the day trip and in his own words, "We are NOT going to miss this bus."
Lunch was spaghetti with olive oil and garlic, which we ate in record time. A quick trip back to our room to freshen up, grab our jackets, passports, camera and money, and we were out the door. The bus stop was only across the street near the fountain. We made it with 10 minutes to spare.
Two buses came at the same time. One was very small and there were many elderly people that got off it to go into a restaurant. The one behind it was much larger and as we were trying to figure out what to do, a woman came up to us and asked us if we were going on the tour to the mountains. She pointed out the name on the larger bus, which of course just happened to match the name of the travel agency that the tour was through. - Duh!
The Bus driver spoke very little English and my 8 years of German have been mostly forgotten. I know just enough to say, "I'm sorry, I don't understand you." We couldn't understand any of what he was describing on the trip to Wendelstein, but it didn't matter. We understood everything we needed to; this was the most beautiful scenery either of us had ever seen. Green gently rolling hills, mountains towering behind them. Charming 'fachwerk' cottages scattered about with flower boxes on the windows and porch railings, overflowing with petunias and other flowers in purples, pinks, white, and reds. Cows roaming the hillsides. This was no ordinary bus ride. We were in love with God's creation.
When we arrived at Wendelstein the bus driver asked, if who wanted to go to the top would please raise their hands. I understood just enough of this part to know that this is what we wanted to do. There was a tram ride that takes you to the top in 7 minutes - 2,000 meters. (you do the math, because I can't...). The bus driver took us in with him to show us how everything worked and explained that we would take the tram up and then take the cog train down the other side into Brandenburg. He assured us that he would be waiting there for us at 4:00. We had nearly 2 hours at the top.
The tram ride was nothing ordinary either. Dangling from a cable thousands of feet in the air, stuffed in a box with about 30 other people, while the box bobs back and forth, up and down. Don't think I'd care to ever do that one again anyway.
When we got to the top of the tram ride there were several things to do. There was a Bavarian band that was just finishing up playing. Their music lent the experience another layer of surreal-ness. There were two sets of stairs that you could climb. A restaurant if you were hungry. And for the truly adventurous and physically fit, a path that you could hike that ascended to the very top. I'm not sure how much farther it was, but it was very steep - and I'm a wimp. The only way I'm getting to the top of any mountain is by artificial means.... just ask my daddy. He stopped carrying me quite a few years back and that was the end of my mountains climbing days.
We took the two sets of steps. From the first set you could see, I think forever. I was told that on a clear day you can see Italy and the Mediterranean sea from the very top. All I know is that it was amazing. While we were standing there, a cloud was wrapping itself around the mountain down below us. It looked as if God was unfurling a sail or shaking out a blanket. The gentle white enveloping movements as graceful as a ballerina and even more moving than the most perfect ballet. This was no ordinary dance.
When we descended that staircase we decided to check out the tiny souvenir shop. In our haste and excitement to leave, neither of us noticed that Larry had once again forgotten a hat. Keeping his head covered whenever he goes outside is extremely important and being that much closer to the sun made it even more so. No hats in the shop. I was kind of hoping they'd have one of those German mountain climber hats. He needs to branch out in his hat wardrobe. So far all he has is an accumulation of baseball caps. We did find a couple of gifts, but nothing much, so we decided to brave the second set of steps.
This set of steps led to a beautiful stone chapel, complete with stain glass windows and a gilded altar. Larry and I spent several minutes sitting in one of the small wooden pews, in prayers of thanksgiving for all of the family and friends who are helping to make this trip possible, and to our gracious Heavenly Father, who never ceases to amaze us.
We spent several minutes walking around the chapel, leaning over the high wall to look at the tiny cows on the hill sides and way down in the valley below. The chiming of their cow bells drifting up to us on the breeze was sweeter than any wind chime I'd ever heard. Larry and I stood there mesmerized by their gentle lullaby. This was no ordinary hymn.
When we came back down from the choir of the cow bells, we came across the clean up crew. These must be distant cousins of the sparrows in the Detroit Airport. This clean up crew consisted of black birds. Very content, well paid black birds. Very sociable too, not nearly as quiet and inconspicuous as their cousins the sparrows, but quite adept at their job none the less. In fact, when things got slow they were not shy about begging for something to do...
Even though we still had well over an hour and a half we decided to take the train down to Brandenburg early. We found the tunnel that led to the train, used our electronic tickets to go through the turnstyle and went to the platform to wait. There weren't many people around yet, so we figured that we still had a while to before the train arrived. Larry and I stood there on the platform with our arms around each other, exchanging kisses, watching wisps of cloud coming in the opening across from us and marveling at how wonderful this day was. This truly was no ordinary day.
Suddenly the platform was full of people. The train must be coming soon. The area around us became very crowded, packed in tightly. I felt Larry's arm begin to tighten around me and I looked up in to his face. I knew that look. I'd seen that look before, once in January and many, many times in my worst dreams since then. The dreams where I would wake up and need to spend the rest of the night awake to make sure that he was breathing, that he was okay. The nights when God would whisper to me,"Give him to me. I'll watch over him tonight, it's okay. Go to sleep and rest. Give him to me." And I would say, "I can't".
I love God. I trust God, at least I try to. But in those moments, when my sleeping mind has revisited the car accident in January, it's just too hard. God says, "give him to ME", and I say, "I can't, I'm afraid if I do You might not let me keep him."
Today I was going to have to trust - all out trust.
I knew that face. I asked Larry, "Are you all right? Honey, are you okay?" His face just continued to contort. His arms cramped up around me and his legs began to give way. I began to plead with God. "Oh God, please, not again, not now. NO, No God, Please not again." And I tried to reassure my husband, "It's okay Larry, I'm here, it's going to be okay, it's going to be okay."
The crowd of people seemed to part and yet close in. Everything slowed down, almost in slow motion. The same thing happened during the accident. It's almost as if God slows down reality in order to give you time to react. Two men were suddenly there to help lower Larry to the ground, so that he wouldn't hit his head. A woman was yelling for a doctor. Another woman was leaning over him to check his heart rate. An elderly man was caressing my back to comfort me, and someone else was yelling at everyone else to back up.
The first response teams there appeared out of the clouds, I think. They quickly took over. The crowd was ushered on to the train and the platform was cleared. A German doctor who spoke perfect English just "happened" to be on top of the mountain with his family at that moment. He also appeared from nowhere and very calmly took the situation in hand. The fact that Larry had an IV port and that an infusion needle was already in place from the clinic made their job even easier. They had an IV started in seconds.
This was a very short seizure compared to the one in January that caused the accident. Larry's eyes never closed. He was coming back around by the time he was lying down, he was just dazed and confused for awhile afterward. He'd had no idea that it was coming on, but he remembers that his face began to twitch. And he remembers fighting the seizure, he didn't want to have another one, he would not give in to it. Because he fought the seizure so hard, he was aware of most of what happened. Larry is not sure if this is better than being unaware or not, but he would rather fight than give in - anytime.
A silver tinfoil blanket was placed under Larry so that he didn't get cold from the hard cement floor of the platform and a woolen blanket had been placed over him to keep him warm. He had an oxygen mask on that prevented him from talking, and yet all around him there was noise. Noise from the medics speaking in a language he could not understand. Noise from the people backed up in the tunnel through the mountain wondering why they were not allowed to come in to the platform to get ready to board the next train. Noise from the echoes as these noises bounced back and forth to each other and around again.
I could see in his eyes that he was confused and scared. I wanted so desperately to do something for him to help him feel more secure, but I could not think what to do. Then I felt an overwhelming urge to sing to him. And for the first time I didn't stop to worry about whether or not I would look silly, I just followed my heart. And I sang to him.
I'm sure we looked to be quite a sight. Larry on the ground with a big tinfoil Kleenex underneath him and a big wool blanket on top with an oxygen mask. A doctor in civilian clothes and a medic in first response climbing gear on their knees working from a large first aid kit, another medic in climbing gear on one knee holding the IV bottle in the air so it would work, two more first responders doing crowd control to keep the other tourists from entering the platform and me, sitting cross legged on a large yellow pad that the train manager gave me to sit on, leaning over my husband singing Amazing Grace inside a mountain that echoes. I guess it's a good thing I can at least hold a key, and not just on a chain. When I asked Larry later if he remembered me singing to him he smiled and said, "Yes", he wasn't sure what song, he thought maybe it was Old Rugged Cross, but he remembered me singing to him and it had helped to comfort him. I'm so glad that I followed my heart and followed God's urging, instead of worrying if someone I didn't know was going to think I was weird. Of course, since Larry thought I was singing Old Rugged Cross instead of Amazing Grace - scratch that part about holding a key.
This un-ordinary day was about to go above and beyond my comfort zone of acceptability and given how far I've been stretch in the last 9 1/2 months, that's pretty far out there. The next train was getting ready to board, the passengers were having to get on from the side instead of the platform. I wanted to take Larry with me on the train to catch our bus to get back to St. George's Clinic, but that wasn't going to be allowed. If you have a seizure on top of Wendelstein the only way your getting down is by helicopter and the only place you're going to is to a hospital. Okay, we can work with that, we'll just call the clinic from the hospital so they can come get us. Not.
Only Larry is going on the helicopter and the hospital that he is going to is uncertain. Say what? "Give him to ME" This is So not going to work. My husband doesn't understand German. I barely understand German. He is confused and scared and I'm staying with him! No, I'm not staying with him. There isn't enough room in the helicopter for me. CRAP!! "Give him to ME" "No, You might not give him back!"
"Shelley, give him to ME. You have no choice this time. Trust me. Give him to ME."
I was given a phone number to call to find out where they were taking Larry. Then I was hurried on to the train so that I wouldn't miss my bus. MY BUS!! I'd forgotten about the time to meet the bus, would they wait for me? I boarded the train knowing that everyone there knew what had happened. There were only a few vacant seats left and none of them as isolated as I felt and wanted to be. As I sat down and the train left the station, and I took my last glimpse of my husband lying there on the floor of the train platform, I realized that I had not been given a chance to tell him goodbye, no chance to kiss him or reassure him, or tell him how much I love him. I'd just been put on the train and left him behind.
The tears began to fall. I tried to stop them at first, but there was no point in it, so I just let them drop. I knew everyone near me was watching me and I didn't care. I wanted to pray, but I couldn't think of the words. It was about time for the second church service to start back home and I knew that was the service that my friend Dawn goes to. Dawn can always feel my hurts. She always knows when I need prayer, even when we haven't spoken for a week or more, she just knows. The only thing I could think to do was ask in my heart, "please pray for us Dawnie, please pray for us."
I watched the sky , but I never saw the helicopter leave. I learned later that they left from the other side of the mountain. I wanted so much to see the helicopter, so that I could whisper to Larry that I love him.
About half way down the mountain I told God that I didn't want to go through this alone. Shortly after that a woman sitting near me started talking to me, trying to reassure me that everything was going to be alright. She asked if she could help me in any way, take me anywhere. I told her I wasn't sure if I'd missed the bus or not, so she offered to bring back to Bad Aibling. I don't know her name, only that she works for a television crew that had been up on the mountain. But God knew who she was and I wasn't alone. This kind woman drove me an hour out of her way to bring me back to the clinic and then drove the hour back to Brandenburg. She wouldn't let me pay for her gas. I wasn't alone. This was no ordinary woman. This was a friend in my time of need.
When I arrived back at the clinic the first thing I did was to go to the nurses station. Iris was the nurse on duty, but she was due to get off any minute and had a train to catch to go home to Rosenheim. She asked if there was anything she could help me with. When I told her I needed her to help me find Larry she became very confused. The word seizure is not in the small translation dictionary we used to try to understand each other. I tried to explain what had happened and gave her the phone number. Iris spent 30 minutes or longer calling and being transferred from one person to another until she finally located Larry. He'd been taken to the hospital in Rosenheim. He was been held overnight for tests on Monday morning and then he could probably come "home". All of these calls made Iris miss her train and the next one wasn't for an hour. However, since she was going home to Rosenheim, she would take me with her and take me to Larry at the hospital. She had even requested that I be able to stay at the hospital. I wouldn't be able to be in the room with Larry, but I might be able to stay somewhere in the hospital to be near him. This is no ordinary nurse. This is a new friend.
Iris had to let me into our room, because Larry had the room keys in his pocket. She came to get me an hour later and we walked to the train station. She pointed out interesting items and facts during the train ride and the walk to her apartment to keep me distracted. When we arrived at her apartment she gave me a bottle of water and showed me photos of her beautiful children. Then she drove me to the hospital and helped me maneuver the labyrinth of corridors and hexagons and strange floor numberings that are very foreign to me - go figure! And when we finally found him, Iris came in to see Larry too, and gave me her phone numbers to call her if I needed a ride back to the clinic in a few hours.
This is definitely no ordinary nurse!
Finally seeing my husband again after four agonizingly long hours and being able to finally say,"I love you" meant as much to him as it did to me. He wasn't in a private room so I couldn't stay in the room with him. For the first time I was going to have to leave his side in the hospital room. "Give him to ME. This isn't your watch." "I don't want to, I've always had this watch."
Larry wanted me to come back to the clinic where he knew I would be safe. If I couldn't be in the room with him then there was no reason for me to stay at the hospital. This is no ordinary man, my husband. He was larger than life before his brain cancer. He's even more so now. I think most people if given the diagnosis of glioblastoma multiforme IV brain cancer would ask," why me" and give up. Not Larry. He's never once asked why me. He's only asked God to, "use me". He would never consider giving up. And it was his American oncologist telling him to either continue the chemo he was on forever or stop everything and see what happens that brought us to Germany, to the cancer clinic, and to the top of Wendelstein. Larry is no ordinary man. And I am so blessed to be his wife.
I came back to the clinic, but I couldn't sleep. This wasn't right. I wasn't supposed to be in this room alone. Larry wasn't supposed to be in a hospital room in Rosenheim. I spent 2 hours on facebook hoping someone I knew would be online that I could talk to. Not part of God's plan. Everyone else was enjoying their Sunday afternoon. I had to face my fears in God's Book.
About midnight I turned to my Bible and it opened to Isaiah 51:12-16 (the Message) this is what God had to say:
"I, I'm the One comforting you. What are you afraid of - or who?
You've forgotten me, GOD, who made you, who unfurled the skies, who sounded the earth.
And here you are, quaking like an aspen before the tantrums of a tyrant who thinks he can kick down the world.
But what will come of the tantrums?
The victims will be released before you know it.
They're not going to die ******
They're not even going to go hungry.
For I am GOD, your very own God, who stirs up the sea and whips up the waves,
named GOD-of -the-Angel-Armies.
I teach you how to talk, word by word, *******
Even while I'm unfurling the skies, setting the earth on solid foundations,
and greeting Zion: 'Welcome, my people'"
After that I could sleep. This was a hard lesson. And like the Israelites, I'll probably not get it completely this time either. But I pray that I don't soon forget that I can trust God. That I can give Him complete charge of everything, not just my problems, but with those whom I love, my dreams..... everything I hold dear to my heart. God told me that I would marry Larry when I first saw him. Before we'd even spoken He told me that, "This is the man you've been waiting for." I told Him no then too. When will I ever learn. God knows the desires of my heart, even more importantly, my Heavenly Father knows best.
This was no ordinary day - this was the day I started learning to trust the Hands of God.
God did give Larry back to me that day. I was given the precious gift of almost three more months with him before my watch was finally over for good. I still know that my Heavenly Father knows best. Larry went Home, but the cancer couldn't go with him. It had to stay behind in the body that had ceased functioning not long after our mountain top experience. And just as I sat beside him, holding his hand on top of Mt. Wendelstein on that distant day in Germany when God whispered to me, "Give him to ME"... I had the privilege of holding my beloved husband in my arms as he went home to be with Jesus. I heard his last heartbeat with my head on his chest. I felt his last breath as my tears cried out, "Oh Father, I'm giving him to You!"