Friday, June 24, 2011

It's Good to Be Alive Again… And Again

I hate to admit it but I am a "reject." In fact I must have the word "reject" stamped on my forehead. I have almost lost count of how many times I have been rejected and not allowed to enter the Spirit World. As I carefully consider it, however, I suppose it's not such a bad thing to be rejected from that sphere of existence. I guess I will just have to force myself to patiently wait to take that final step from mortality into eternity.

I believe the essence of my latest brush with death is captured in Charles Dickens' novel, "A Tale of Two Cities. His first sentence in this classic book is, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the season of hope, it was the season of despair…"

After being taken to the ER, I was found to be septic (acute infection in the blood), from an inflamed gall bladder. I was then admitted to the ICU. After being there for several days, I became totally unresponsive and remained so for about 10 days.

After a week in this state of unawareness, I was subjected to a series of tests to determine if any damage had been done to my brain due to the severity of my illness. Following brain wave tests and scans, they shot ice water into my ears. Showing no response they then tried to get a gag reflex which was also unsuccessful. That, along with the outcome of my brain tests, showed some damage to the brain stem.

For my family, it became a season of despair. At that time, the head doctor of the ICU, made it very clear to the family that she was certain that I would forever remain in the state I was in and recommended that I be taken off life support. If not, then I would have to be admitted to a care center. It truly was the worst of times.

However, it was also became a season of hope because Jo Anne and the children told the doctor that they would rather take me home and wait and see what might happen. There are not words to express how I feel about this act of faith and hope in the face of such a dire prognosis on the part of medical science.

And then wouldn’t you know, while arrangements were being made to take me home in an  ambulance, I just woke up. All the plans for my imminent funeral were thankfully put on hold. Or as WC Fields said, “ Rumors concerning my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”

On Friday afternoon I began tracking with my eyes. On Saturday I began chewing ice and swallowing. Come Sunday afternoon with all my family present, I began to talk. The family, uncertain if there had been any brain damage or not, began asking me tricky questions like who was in the NBA championship series. I immediately responded, “Miami and Dallas.” I could also sadly recall what a dreadful season the Dodgers were having. Sensing I could recall all that really mattered in life, they finally concluded that “Jack was back.”

To say the least, the doctors and nurses were pretty amazed. In fact, the doctor who suggested my time had come said she was grateful she had been 100% wrong. After spending another week in ICU, trying to make a comeback, I was finally safely delivered to my home by ambulance on a gurney – not nearly as dramatic as Lazarus coming forth from the tomb. I basically slept for the first four days only waking to drink and eat small amounts. When I finally woke up from my Rip Van Winkle nap, my communication skills left much to be desired. I barely had the energy to say one or two words at a time like "hungry," "thirsty," and "suction me.”

Beginning the fifth day, however, I was more alert and began speaking in complete sentences, asking a lot of questions concerning what had happened. Jo Anne revealed to me how close to entering the Spirit World I had come. It was a very sobering conversation. To think that my visits to Taco Bell and In N Out Burger had almost come to an end was very traumatic.

In contrast to being the worst of times, my family revealed to me how it was also the best of times. Some of them were always with me 24/7, especially Jo Anne who slept on her semi-comfortable air mattress in the ICU room with me, being relieved occasionally by other family members. All the children, the boys, in particular, spent many hours together visiting, reminiscing, and bonding than they had for some time. There was much laughter as they recalled childhood experiences. Sometimes for Jo Anne it was the worst of times as they revealed things she was totally unaware of. It made me feel good to know of this outpouring of love, faith, concern, and togetherness of my children, their spouses, and my grandchildren while watching over me.

After returning to the land of the living, it was also the best of times for me when my sons, sons-in-law, a grandson -- who is now at the MTC getting prepared to serve his mission in the Argentina Buenos Aires South mission -- and other close family members, gave me a special priesthood blessing. I remember Mike, my oldest son, pronouncing the blessing and hearing the inspired promise that I would fully recover and regain my health once again.
I have been told how many wonderful friends were praying for me both in and out of the temple. I do believe it was the faith of family and friends and their many prayers in my behalf that pulled me through. I take no credit for this healing miracle.

Since being home, I have an increased testimony of the importance of prayer and scripture study in bringing the spirit of peace and comfort into our lives. At first, while still recovering from all I had been through, I found it difficult to concentrate enough to pray or study my scriptures on the computer and felt somewhat discouraged by it all. The first day I was able to do so, all of the depression and bad feelings disappeared. I have been so much happier ever since. Prayer and scripture study is the key in bringing light and peace into our lives. The peace I am referring to can only come from the Savior who said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid." [John 14:27]

I also had come into my mind two other scriptures I recite to myself and ponder daily. They have inspired me to never give up or give in. The first is from a revelation given to young Joseph Smith, who was just beginning his work as a prophet, seer, and revelator. "Be patient in afflictions for thou shalt have many, but endure them, for lo I am with thee even unto the end of thy days." [D&C 24:8]

We are told that what the Savior says to one he says to all and so I apply it to my own situation, as you can to yours. We can endure anything that comes our way because He is with us even unto the end of our days. He expects us to endure our afflictions well and hopefully come to the realization that we cannot successfully traverse this minefield of mortality without Him. There is just no other way!

The second Scripture that is so important to me is from the writings of Nephi, "Wherefore ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore if ye shall press forward feasting upon the word of Christ and endure to the end. Behold thus sayeth the father, ye shall have eternal life." [2 Nephi 31:20]

For me, in my situation, enduring to the end doesn't mean to the end of my life or when the Second Coming transpires. It means to the end of each day. If I do the things Nephi has suggested on a daily basis, I do believe the gift of eternal life, and peace in this life, can be attained. And yes, "It's Good to Be Alive Again!"