Sitting in a hospital bed two weeks ago, I was convinced I wasn’t going to Engage. I shifted my weight a little in church, feeling a small pain in my stomach. I thought to myself, Maybe it’s the Indian food from last night. Maybe it’s the bread and grape juice from communion. It’ll go away.
I texted Ari hesitantly: I think… I need to go to the ER. Something is wrong with me. Now, I am extremely stubborn about my health. I have a high pain tolerance and haven’t been to an emergency room in 5 years. I’d rather suffer than take pain killers and or go anywhere near a hospital.
I got home, barely able to walk at that point, and fell down on the couch shivering. I couldn’t help but think of Jeff‘s appendicitis story that he told at the beginning of each MTH2010. The chills kept growing, fever came on like wildfire and within 7 minutes we were on the way to Ari’s second home.
When your husband does nothing but read CT’s, MRI’s and deal with trauma all day long and he looks worried, it’s easy for a girl to panic. I cried. It hurt to cry. I stopped crying. Not only did I have a huge event that weekend, but I had to go to Cayman in 7 days. Miss Engage? No way. Yes, my mind when straight to work. Ari told me to be calm and not focus on work for a second. He called all the docs and I stumbled into a hospital bed and a gown. I also started to slip into more serious pain. I told Ari to call Katharine and Emily and prepare them to take over for one of our busiest weeks to date.
I’m not sure if it was Ari’s sage advice or the morphine they injected in me, but I stopped thinking about work for a moment. I just prayed. I prayed for the lady in the bed next to me, too. I couldn’t see her, but she sounded like she was in her 90′s, in a lot of pain, and very alone. I wanted to ask the nurse to push my bed up next to hers so I could hold her hand and pray with her, but a flood of surgeons quickly squelched my spirit. Surgery? Surgery!? As I was poked and prodded –while dazed from pain killers that were having very adverse affects on my sensitive body– another nurse started an IV. It all happened so fast. The combination of stress, needles, and the word surgery quickly took the blood from my head and I was out cold. For someone who relishes control, passing out is by far the worst feeling on earth. It’s not a laughing gas dreamy relaxed feeling. It feels like I am at the end of a marathon and someone just clotheslined me.
I slowly woke. In a dreamy state, I looked at a picture of a taco in a magazine my the bedside and whispered, “that looks good.” I barely remember this, but Ari says at that point he ordered me a CT scan. Yeah, I was confused. A taco looks good and I need a CT??! Explanation coming…
I was wheeled to another room. I don’t remember much of this part. Ari stood at the helm in front of a half-dozen monitors (I only know this because the story was recounted to me by Kyle who was in NC to shoot a wedding and had taken a taxi to the hospital). I had downed a jug of yummy contrast and before I knew it they were injecting dye into my arm and sending me through the beast of a machine.
They wheeled me back. An hour passed. More pain meds. Then… silence.
While I waited on the results, sweaty from fever, cold the next second from chills, the movie in my mind of the last two weeks played.
Ari had been on night call. This means he worked from the time I left the office (7pm) and got home from work when I started work (8am). We would see each other for 20 minutes at the most, like two ships passing in the night. Previously, this has been the worst time for us. When I did see him, he was irritable from sleep-deprivation. I wasn’t much help either. I’d avoid him during call weeks as to not stir the pot. I would try to plan travel around his call schedule.
These two weeks were also production weeks for my last two weddings that I’ve had on the books for eons… read #7 on this post. The weddings were back to back, both huge, both full production. Needless to say, I was a little busy.
But, despite all of this on my plate, I vowed that this time – this wedding season and this call time – would be completely different. I deep cleaned the house, did the laundry, bought gifts, deep cleaned again, had the carpets shampooed, planted new flowers, obsessively organized, cleaned his closet, his car, stocked the fridge, wrote love notes, love emails, love texts, ran a bazillion errands, paid bills, and did whatever I could think of to make his life smooth while he was a night owl. 110% worth all the effort. One morning, I woke up to this card:
Lara, I wanted to say thank you for going out of your way to be so sweet this past week while I have been working nights. I realize I haven’t been as grateful as I should, but I really do appreciate everything you do. I’m also really happy to see you not so stressed during this tough week before your weddings. I think it is a measure of your growth as a business owner. I love you a lot and am excited to spend more time with you. Ari
It’s that last part, about my growth as a business owner, that got me. One reason I love him so much is that when he says something, he means it. He never tells me something just to make me feel good. Yes, this can cause trouble for someone like me who craves encouraging reassurance, but it has ultimately helped me to be stronger and more independent. Last summer was the most stressful time of my life thus far. The magazine had launched that January, I already had a ton of weddings on the books that I would never think of giving up, loads of travel, speaking engagements, photo shoots, and no concept of how to balance it all or give any of it up. This year was different. I was… gasp… relaxed!
So, just 10 hours before my hospital visit, wedding #1 went off without a hitch. It was perfect thanks to intense pre-planning and my amazing (understatement) team. Exhausted, I still pried myself out of bed in the morning for church. I needed some Jesus in my life. I needed to sing my heart out.
That morning we did something unorthodox and watched a video called “Rain”. The message: Things don’t always work out the way we want them to, or the way we think they will. Sometimes we don’t even see it coming. We get hit with some form of pain out of nowhere leaving us feeling desperate and helpless. That’s the way life is. Still, it makes us wonder how God can let these things happen to us. How God can just stand by and watch us suffer. Where is God when it really hurts? Maybe God is actually closer to us than we think. Maybe it’s when we’re in these situations, where everything seems to be falling apart, that God gets an opportunity to remind us of how much He really loves us.
I could blame the following on the morphine, but I think it was much more powerful than that. For some reason, I pictured grandpa Cecil in a cotton field in Alabama, where he grew up. He would go farm to farm selling milk, flour, and handing out Bibles. Sometimes that meant trekking miles and miles between houses. To pass the time on the long journey, he would sing hymns. His singing lead him to become the song leader at church and later an elder and preacher. I found myself humming one of his favorites “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” when the nurses, Ari and Kyle left my bedside for a moment. As the melody washed over me, I started to feel peace… the peace that passes all understanding. I knew I was going to be OK.
Ari came in with a solemn look on his face. “The good news is…” Am I the only person whose stomach sinks when that phrase is uttered? It just means there is not-so-good-news. “The good news is that you don’t have to have surgery.” What!? I was relieved but at the same time angry. I couldn’t imagine a pill or an apple a day would kill this pain. I couldn’t walk or sit up. I needed to get better pronto. Not that I wanted to have surgery… please refer to previous mention of passing out. After 3 doctors and the ER chief told me that I most likely had appendicitis, I was just very confused. “You have a mass… a benign tumor about the size of a golf ball. It has outgrown its blood supply and is dying. As it dies, it is releasing toxins into your body that are causing you extreme pain.” I cried. “You will most likely have this recur for the rest of your life.” I cried again. “When you said the taco looked good, I knew you had an appetite which means no appendicitis. You never eat tacos.” I smiled, trying not to laugh and induce more pain. Ari was so kind as he gently explained everything to me. I couldn’t even begin to express how proud I was of him in that moment for doing what he does best –as seemingly simple as it was– to help me. I could barely speak, but I didn’t have to say anything. I know he saw the gratitude in my eyes and felt it in the grip of my hand. He pulled out a piece of paper and tried to draw a diagram of what was happening. I felt a new kind of love for him in that moment. We’ve been married for 4 1/2 years now and I’ve never had the chance to see him work. (Sorry, baby… I wasn’t listening to you as you were explaining and drawing. I was thinking all of these nice things about you instead. I’m pulling the morphine card again here.) Visiting him in the ER was an unexpected blessing and a turning point in my respect for him. I am in awe of what he has on his plate every day… far more serious cases than mine. He deals with cancer all day long. He has to tell people they may not make it. He has to diagnose the worst kind of incurable pain. Then, he comes home to me and I wax poetic about brides, emails and politics. He never says to me, “Babe, I deal with cancer all day. You’re problems are not that big of a deal.” He should. I love you, Ari. Thank you for being you and for your unending kindness and heart of gold.
I was taken home with enough pain meds to put a cattle farm out, put in bed, and watched. They don’t tell you how long it will take for it to go away. They just say “self-medicate until it feels better.” Fun, right? I like concrete solutions. This did not seem like one. Come to find out, my mother and grandmother have experienced the same thing. I am not one for pain pills, so I took one and tossed the rest. I would rather be in pain than not be able to make decisions. That’s just me. Luckily, after about 4 days, the pain started to subside.
I was so fearful that I wouldn’t be able to do wedding #2 that week, but –again– thanks to my brilliant team, it was beautiful. We all joked about me coordinating the ceremony from a gurney. Not funny. If you are in weddings, you know what the wedding hangover is like… swollen feet and 5 showers wouldn’t make you feel so fresh and so clean. And then there was Cayman the day after this wedding. I can handle a lot, but I couldn’t imagine –after being in a hospital bed just days before– doing a huge wedding then getting on a plane to an island where I’d be surrounded by the who’s who in weddings. Hello! Slow. Down. Life! Engage is the kind of event that I felt I had to be at the top of my game for. I felt the pressure caving in on me. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me or see that I wasn’t at my best. I didn’t want to seem unsocial or distracted. I just didn’t want to talk about it. But, as I reflected on my past Engage experiences, I was overwhelmed by the thought that it is an incredible privilege to go and even if I got sick or was in pain, I wasn’t going to die. I’d kick myself if I didn’t push through. I did not have to be perfect. I got encouraging messages from my soon-to-be room mates, Jasmine Star and Harmony Walton, who I was really looking forward to spending quality time with. So, I started to go through the “packing motions” as best I could. I know them well. Suitcase out, pack the travel size toiletries, undies, socks, bras, clothes, Luna Bars and Greens Plus Bars, Jay Robb, green tea, make the bed, get the computer, charge my extra iPhone battery, take out the trash, rinse and repeat. Even 3 hours before my flight I still hadn’t checked in. Fear of not being my best was holding me back.
Then, a note from Ari that morning : I hope paradise is wonderful and don’t forget to look around and be grateful for the opportunity to be in such a place. And remember to cut yourself some slack. You are only a person who can do so much and be so many things to so many different people. Just be who you can be and if it is not enough for some, then they are asking too much. I love you.
I pulled the trigger and checked in for my flight. Now do you see why I married him? Thank you, Ari (and so many great friends), for encouraging me to go and just be me.
My Engage!10 Grand Cayman MegaPost is up next… so excited to share what turned out to be the best week ever. Thanks for listening, friends.
P.S.S. Happy 38th anniversary to my parents! I love you both more than words. Thank you for inspiring us to love deeply every day and enjoy the best parts of life- family, friends, great food and beautiful sunsets.
P.S.S.S. I’m getting on a plane in a few hours. Excited about a little surprise weekend fun. More to come…
And yes, if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know I have to give something away. Just have to. Why not?!
Leave a comment on this post telling me about the person in your life who has encouraged you the most and win a copy of one of my favorite books.