Monday, January 31, 2011

Hope – Adrenaline for the Soul

continue resume is A couple of weeks ago Jo Anne was coming down the stairs from her bedroom early in the morning to turn up the heat.. Being a little groggy she failed to notice the step down to the heat register by the entryway. She said on a scale from 1 to 10 in terms of a graceful fall hers was a one. She landed on her right shoulder and because of the intense pain she thought she had broken it. She was able to drive herself with her good left arm to the urgent care facility near our home. In my helpful way I encouraged her to go for it but to be careful!

After a thorough examination it was determined she only had a severe sprain. Her arm was placed in a sling and she was given some
pain medication. I told her she was a wimp and that if I sprained my shoulder I wouldn't ask for pain medication – I would just tough it out. The doctor said it would be several weeks before she would have the full range of motion in her shoulder once again.

Well, what a pathetic couple we looked like for a few days with me totally paralyzed and in a mega power wheelchair and unable to move, and Jo Anne with her arm in a sling. Thankfully our daughter Jackie and her husband Nathan who are living with us for the time being have made it possible for us to get through this little ordeal.

Several days ago my caregiver was getting me ready for the day and I passed out. He and Jo Anne were able to revive me and we thought it was just a random episode but just as Jo Anne left the room I passed out again, my lips turned blue, and it was with great difficulty that they brought me back. The life-support system had not failed as it has a number of times in the past. This time I apparently was the one that failed. I had no premonition of what would happen, it was like a light switch being turned off. Jo Anne called the paramedics and as usual they came roaring up to our home with a fire truck, paramedic unit, and an ambulance. At least it provided some entertainment for the neighborhood which all turned out to see what was happening with Jack this time. Six big paramedics came rushing into my bedroom to lend assistance. Some of these men had been to our home several times before. My blood pressure was way low and my heartbeat was not doing very well either. We convinced them that Jo Anne would drive me to the ER and that we would be okay until then. They hesitantly agreed and about a half hour later we made the drive to the ER.

To make a long story short I spent three nights in the hospital with Jo Anne sleeping on an air mattress by my side. Do you think I love her? Past experience has taught us that hospitals are ill equipped and prepared to safely take care of someone in my condition. It was discovered I was severely dehydrated which was causing my kidneys, and heart to begin to shut down. They fixed me up thankfully and I am home once again! As my good friend John Nelson often says when these kinds of things happen to us, "If it's not one thing it's your mother!"

Are we discouraged and think our lot is hard? I don't think so! We have hope that things will get better and that we can endure this temporary inconvenience of paralysis, passing out, and a sprained shoulder without giving up or giving in or getting discouraged. We feel like the Apostle Paul when he wrote: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair…" [2 Corinthians 4:8]

Watching Sports Center on ESPN (my third favorite channel only superseded by BYU TV and Turner Classic Movies), one of the hosts of the show in quoting a famous coach, and I can't remember which one, said "Hope is adrenaline for the soul!" Now, Sports Center is not exactly the Scriptures or the home of great thinkers and philosophers but when I heard that statement I realized, based on my own life's experience, how true a statement it was.

How many times have we seen a team seemingly outplayed and being defeated, but because of hope that they can still turn the tide and win, miraculously come back and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? I am convinced that it is hope that keeps us going forward in spite of the challenges and seeming tragedies that can come into all our lives.

I believe there are at least two different levels of hope that are operative in our lives. There is the hope that no matter what the problem is that there is a way out and that things can get better. And then there is a higher level of hope which the Scriptures call "A perfect brightness of hope." This perfect brightness of hope is faith and hope in the atonement of Christ and in the great plan of happiness. Fortunate is the man or woman who has both levels of faith/hope alive and well in their lives.

I believe we all have within us a God-given desire to live as long as we can regardless of how strong our faith and hope is in life after death.. I know the seven or eight times my life-support system has failed and I have almost left mortality and taken that step into eternity I have not been saying to myself "Oh boy, I get to die and go to the spirit world!" On the contrary, during those desperate circumstances I have been fighting with every molecule and atom of my being and crying out to the Lord in my mind and heart to let me have just one breath of precious life-giving air and oxygen. Knowing that help is not likely to come in time there is still an element of hope that somehow my life will be preserved.

I have had many friends who have suffered from cancer and instead of dying have opted to undergo surgery, chemotherapy and radiation which has made them sick and miserable for extended periods of time. Why haven't they just turned their faces to the wall, accepted the perhaps inevitable, assumed the fetal position and let nature take its course? It is because of hope – hope they can be cured and remain upon this earth with their loved ones as long as they can. I am sure this kind of hope is pleasing to our Heavenly Father.

We all know however, that in spite of our hope for a cure, sometimes the cure doesn't come. That's when the next level of hope sustains us– the "perfect brightness of hope" that life is eternal, that there will be a glorious resurrection, and that families are forever. This is the hope that sustains us when we realize there is no cure in spite of our hope that there would be one.

Two hours after my accident at the beach while in the ER room of the Laguna hospital two dear friends convinced the neurosurgeons to let them give me a blessing. I had just come out of a two-hour coma and my mind was very foggy. I knew one thing though, and that was that I was paralyzed and couldn't breathe on my own and that the condition might possibly be permanent. The only part of my body the neurosurgeons would permit my friends to touch was a portion of my foot. Laying their hands on that part of my body a special blessing was given. 21 years later I still remember the promise made in that first blessing following my accident. I was promised the following, "You will be able to continue to be a husband to your wife and a father to your children!" Those words sank deep into my heart and although I could not see at the time how such a promise could ever be fulfilled in my physical condition, I was filled with hope that such would be the case.

I came to learn that a cure of my physical condition was not to be and that the promise made by the Lord through my friends would have to be miraculously fulfilled in some other way. It has been! Through some desperate and depressing times those words have continued to fill me with hope and to want to never give up.

We just can't make it through this minefield of mortality without both levels of hope. I know so many wonderful people with health challenges much more severe than mine who are great examples to me of how hope truly is adrenaline for the soul. My nephew, John Michael Stuart, born with severe cerebral palsy has gone on to receive a BA degree and a Master of social work degree, has become an author and powerful motivational speaker and has blessed the lives of many. I think of Rob Hadlock who lives in our neighborhood and was rendered a quadriplegic while in high school by diving into a shallow swimming pool. He graduated from high school, BYU, Hastings law school in San Francisco, and is now a practicing attorney in Southern California. He married and he and his wife have adopted a beautiful little baby girl. I do not have words to express how proud I am of these kinds of individuals who with hope – both levels – teach us all so much.

I contrast them with the doctor from Texas who had a snow skiing accident in Colorado about the same time I had my accident, and ended up in a condition similar to mine. When he realized his condition and the prognosis for the future he made three requests. He wanted to drink a margarita, watch a Dallas Cowboys football game, and then have somebody pull the plug. All three wishes were granted.

Faith hope and charity are inextricably intertwined and form a powerful and strong lifeline that anchors us to the love and power of Christ that we all need so badly in our lives.

No one said it more beautifully than Nephi of old: "Wherefore ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ [this is faith] having a perfect brightness of hope [this is hope] and a love of God and of all men [this is charity] wherefore if you shall press forward [not looking back on the supposedly good old days] feasting upon the word of Christ and endure to the end, behold thus saith the father, ye shall have eternal life." [2 Nephi 31:20 – commentary added]