Sunday morning was an incredibly beautiful day. The sky was filled with a hazy sunshine and a nice steady breeze gently massaged the clouds that dotted the horizon. The day had a special feel to it, but I felt that way because it was Memorial Day weekend, a time to honor our fallen heroes.
I told Donna and Paige to enjoy the first visit with Aimee while I visited Warren Baptist Church in Augusta. It felt strange not traveling with them for the first visit as I have done nearly every day since Aimee arrived in Augusta. I felt that at least one member of our family needed to be in a place of worship to give thanks for Aimee’s wonderful and miraculous recovery. I was actually late arriving for worship, because I ignored the GPS and thought I knew a better way to get to the church. I didn’t. Computer trumped man.
I arrived at the church around 9:25am and I quickly called Donna before I walked in. No answer. I wanted to get an update on Aimee’s condition and I figured Donna and Paige would have phones at the ready. They didn’t. Paige didn’t answer her phone either.
The first ICU visit starts each morning at 9:00am sharp. Maybe Donna and Paige couldn’t get to their phones. I shrugged it off and went into the worship center and slid down the empty back pew to my left. The special music was just concluding and the pastor was stepping up to the pulpit to deliver his message when I noticed my phone buzzing. Someone was leaving a voicemail. I opted to check it later.
The longer I sat there, the more I wondered who had called me. Curiosity took over, so I checked the number. It was Paige. Hrmmm…maybe she was just returning my call. Nothing important. Posssibly…but what if it was important?
When my family calls, I usually jump right on it. It doesn’t matter if I am in the midst of a client meeting, I ask the client to excuse me and I take it. What if one of my daughters was stranded on the side of the road? What if Donna had an accident? Thinking such thoughts cause one’s mind to wander. I wanted to be able to concentrate on the sermon, so I grabbed my phone and started typing. Ah, the wonders of texting.
Me: I’m in worship now. How’s Aimee? Sent: 9:43 AM
I set the phone in my lap and listened to the sermon. Pastor David McKinley was talking about success and how the world is so engrossed in achievement. I have always considered my family to be my greatest success. I made certain early career sacrifices so that I could spend more time with my wife and daughters. I smiled when I thought about that, because our family is really a very tight and cohesive unit, and I believe it was that God-blessed cohesiveness that helped pull Aimee through much of her illness.
My phone hadn’t buzzed. For some reason my text messages do not alert me when I put my phone in silent mode. It was 9:50 AM and I was hoping for some feedback, so I checked my phone. There were two text messages awaiting my attention.
Paige: Aimee’s talking with voice! Sent: 9:44 AM
Paige: She’s talking!! She said her mind is blowing! She’s very excited! Sent: 9:45 AM
I cannot even begin to explain the emotions that I had when I read that. Pastor McKinley’s voice faded into obscurity. My first reaction was to leave immediately, however, the half hour visiting period had ended at 9:30 and the next one wouldn’t start until noon. I may as well wait and enjoy Pastor McKinley’s well-delivered sermon. That, however, did not stop me from texting a reply to Paige.
Me: WHAAAAAA????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sent: 9:50 AM
Me: WHY DIDN’T YOU CALL ME??????????????!!!!! Sent: 9:50 AM
Paige: I called n left a voicemail. It happened at the end of the visit. Sent: 9:52 AM
Me: OMG…CAN I COME IN BETWEEN VISITS AND TALK TO HER? Sent: 9:53 AM
I was ready to bounce. Pastor McKinley was progressing well through his sermon and he was building on the idea of sacrifice. He referenced Jesus’ words in Mark 8: 34-35:
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
I love that scripture. My focus went back to the sermon. Five minutes had passed, so I checked my phone. Two new messages had been received.
Paige: maybe. She said she was a lil tired and said she was going to rest so she could b bright eyed n bushy tailed for noon visit. Def bring the voice recorder! She’s so amazed! Sent: 9:56 AM
Paige: praise God until noon! 9:58 AM
I was so excited I wanted to spring up out of the pew and into the aisle and do a dance. My fellow Baptists probably would not have appreciated that, so I resisted the urge. Instead, my fingers danced across my phone.
Me: I am soooo excited! WOWZERS!!!!!!!! Sent: 9:48 AM
Pastor McKinley continued through his sermon as I put my phone away. I focused on the message over the next 40 minutes. McKinley spoke of sacrifices made by our troops for the freedom we enjoy today. He also spoke of the personal sacrifices that we must make and he honed in on his theme: Success in life is trading our life for God’s favor and things that last forever. I can only give a big Amen to that.
As I write this I have to pause to give remembrance to the many American soldiers who lie in marked and unmarked graves across the world. Those soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice for us so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we have today. Those men and women will always enjoy a special place in my heart and I hope they reside in your heart as well.
Pastor McKinley wrapped up his sermon by discussing the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, so that we could enjoy eternal life. It was quite fitting that this important sermon would conclude with Holy Communion, or “The Lord’s Supper” as we Baptists tend to refer to it.
As the ushers prepared to pass out the unleavened bread, I checked my phone. It was 10:39 AM and I had a message waiting.
Paige: Just wait until you hear her. She sounds like Aimee! Sent: 10:28 AM
That made me chuckle. Who else would she sound like? Groucho Marx?
Me: I never doubted that she would sound the same. It won’t be long until her trache is closed and she is eating on her own. Sent: 10:39 AM
Paige: they said her trache may be out in a week or so Sent: 10:40 AM
So there it was. I had been anticipating this seminal event for quite some time. Aimee Day had arrived and I was in church worshipping and taking Communion. How fitting was that? God spoke to me through David McKinley on the same day that Aimee spoke to her mother and sister. While I regretted not being present for Aimee’s first words, it really didn’t matter a great deal to me. Having the opportunity to be ministered to with God’s Word at that moment was truly apropos. That being said, it goes without saying that I was a basket case for the rest of the day.
I met Donna and Paige off the hospital campus and I quickly changed clothes. We made it back to the hospital a bit before noon and as soon as I arrived I posted the following Facebook update from my phone:
…is AIMEE DAY!!!!
Our baby can talk. Details will follow later today.
I was ready to see Aimee and talk to her. The nurse had walked out of the ICU to talk to us in the hallway. I felt a pang in my stomach. What was this all about? The next few words burned like a hot poker in my gut.
“Aimee doesn’t want to see you.”
I was already a basket case, and although I remained silent and stared at the floor, I was doing emotional backflips. This was our most anticipated visit of the past three weeks. I had missed the morning visit and now I was being told I couldn’t see my baby at the time when she was finally able to carry on a conversation. What kind of mental torture was this?
I will spare you the next five hours of our life. Those five hours had several bizarre turns and they seemed to never end. In those five hours I did what everyone had been asking me to do for three weeks. I ranted and I railed. Fortunately for the hospital staff, I did it in the car as we drove back to the house. The next visit wasn’t until five o’clock, so I had five hours to blow off steam. I think all that pain could have been avoided with a little better communication, but as we were to find out later, it really wasn’t as big a deal as I was making it.
When I finally spoke to Aimee at five, I learned the real reason she didn’t want to see us. She had been given what I call “the magic poopy” drug right before the noon visiting hour. What that drug does is make you very nauseous when it hits your stomach. When it migrates to your intestines, you cramp up for a bit until it offers you the ultimate release. I think that’s about the nicest way I can put it.
Not only did Aimee “dis” us, she dissed a doctor who wanted to talk to her at the noon hour. It didn’t matter. The second I saw Aimee, my consternation immediately vanished like a puff of steam. I was never angry with Aimee, but I admit to being upset with the hospital staff. I had been patiently waiting on God’s timing for three weeks, but I admit to being less than patient with the hospital staff’s timing. Bah, whatever, I’m only a man and I am not perfect. If I didn’t wax emotional every now and then, well, then I wouldn’t be true to myself. I need to interject that I never blew up at the hospital staff. I carefully controlled my emotions in their presence. This was a learning experience for me, because it reinforced the fact that this whole ordeal is not about me, it is about Aimee. I have understood this all through our ordeal, but I can only thank God for reminding me.
The five o’clock visit was wonderful. Aimee was expressive and she clearly elucidated her thoughts. Her long term memory was intact. We listened to the iPod Shuffle that Eddie Mattock of Pittsburgh had sent her and she told me the story of Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. We discussed ideas of how to utilize wilderness therapy/eco-psychology for amputees. We talked about her current physical condition. We smiled and at times we said nothing. Just being there and seeing her happiness put a certain peace in my heart.
During the nine o’clock visit, Aimee was growing extremely tired. She had been sitting up for several hours and she started mouthing words like she did before they capped her trache. Donna saw this and said, “What’s the matter honey, have you lost your voice?” Aimee smiled and said, “No, I’m just tired and I forgot I could talk.” We left soon after and let her get her rest. It had been a big day.
As I write this, today is Memorial Day and Aimee continues to talk and joke. Her nurse bumped her head and Aimee said, “Now my nurse needs a nurse!” Then she winked at us and said, “I’ll take care of her.” She then waved her arm in the air and said, “these fingers can work magic.” She grinned at us. She knew she didn’t have any fingers, but she’s not worried about it either. She knows everything is going to be fine. We know everything is going to be fine. We all know it is going to be a long and challenging road, but we will handle it together.
Oh yeah, I have gone into my Android and marked my calendar with the following annual recurring event: May 27 – AIMEE DAY.
God bless you and have a blessed Memorial Day!
Andy’s full list of blogs are here: Aimee Copeland blog
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