Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Faith Walk: Chapter 5

This post is part of a series of journal transcriptions from my second retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY during May 28 to May 30, 2004.

Saturday May 29, 2004 11:10 AM EST (Part 3)

Phil is very distraught as any father can imagine he would be. My heart is breaking for him. I hold him, and I tell him I love him. I assure him that I am not going to leave until he asks me too, and that we will get through this. At this very moment, while I am journaling this story on a garden wall here at Gethsemani, a ruby throated hummingbird suddenly appears near me dancing and flitting among the flowers. Part of the holiness and mystery of Gethsemani for me is the appearance of such natural wonders at precise moments. I feel God is paternally attentive here. He reaches out with delicate touches of grace at the perfect moment it is needed. Just two weeks later, I am writing with the tears of reflection on this heartrending event, but God reassures me with this small, magnificent gift.

The evening and early morning of May 16 and 17, 2004 is a long, but special night. Christ as the Church reveals Himself this evening. Sandra and Jeanine minister to Patti beyond waiting room doors, while Tim Mangrum and I stay with Phil. Tim is the family’s physician and pediatrician, and he is amazing. He knows just what to say and when to say it. God has truly gifted Tim as a healer. I try to stay quiet and offer physical support through hugs, shoulder massages, and head rubs. However, I do serve as a periodic spokesperson to the waiting room crowd. There must be 50 or more people present from the family’s community of faith including our elders. I am not sure, but I think every elder was present that night.

At one point in the evening, the elders and our ministers come back to pray over Phil and Patti. Phil begs for forgiveness and resolution. They nurse him with spiritual love, tell him there is nothing to forgive, and that terrible accidents occur sometimes. It is the first natural response, but we all know Phil does blame himself. Every one of us would do the same to ourselves. They understand this, and thus offering forgiveness is vital. Therefore, the elders offer forgiveness when he pleads for it. Then we encourage him, and we pray that he begins forgiving himself. We also pray for the Holy Spirit to protect this family for Satan; that he not be allowed to leverage this event for any negative affects in this family’s relationships.

I believe this time of prayer by our elders was a critical time for Phil, and may have prevented many future problems as well as immediate detrimental thoughts or actions. Christ’s love through Christian family is an amazing power that overshadows all negative powers.

Earlier that night, the nurse had told me that since Phil asked me to come back, that I should not leave him. In these situations, they feel strongly that a close friend or family member stay with the parent involved in the accident. Phil’s family and his in-laws do not live in town and will not be in until at least tomorrow. I told the nurse I would not leave Phil until he kicked me out. I told him this too. He finally kicked me out at about 12:30 AM, Monday morning. I left reluctantly.

Nathan was now out of surgery, stable, and resting. The results were that Nathan’s foot was amputated, but his knee and a good portion of his lower leg were intact. He had two places that needed skin grafts and muscle repair, which would require additional surgery in the next few days. Long-term, with a prosthetic, he would have a normal, active life. There would be few limitations if any. He would be facing future surgeries as the bone at the stump would grow, but the surrounding muscle and tissue would not. Therefore, the bone would require 2-3 more amputations as Nathan grows. Nathan is alive. Now, Phil Patti, Nathan, and Bailey must let God’s love heal them. The Church rallies around the family in the coming months.

We cannot overlook 7-year-old Bailey, Nathan’s older sister, and a big sister to our daughter Maria. Bailey witnessed the aftermath of the accident, and she likely witnessed the accident itself. She will have much to deal with. She is currently at a neighbor’s house—she was not brought to the hospital. We pick up Bailey Monday morning, and she plays with Maria at our house before we take her to the hospital to be with her family.

Bailey has spent the night with David and his wife, Jackie. They are fellow church members, and another neighbor of the family. They have been at the hospital and running back to the house for the family getting clothes and toiletries for them. David and Jackie had picked up Bailey late from another neighbor's house. I meet David at Phil’s house with our lawnmowers at 6:30 AM. We need to finish mowing the lawn, which is high. We are both working on a restless two to three hours of sleep. Our first task is to clean up the accident site, which I will not detail out of respect for the family. David and I are thankful that the family is spared the additional trauma of dealing with this job.

After we complete our tasks, I take Bailey to our house to play with Maria. I shower, and then the four us, Bailey, Anita, Maria, and I, head to the hospital for a day that we know is going to be tough on Bailey. Nevertheless, she has a strong, resilient spirit. It is her courage, energy, and happiness among tragedy that inspires Phil, and the rest of us too. It will be a long road for the family with periodic setbacks. The emotional trauma will take much more time and effort to heal than will the physical. The family’s community of Christ must be in this for the long haul and I know we will.

Sandra, Patti’s close friend, and her husband Noel are at the hospital. They have the kindness to pray over me about my interview this afternoon in the midst of this much more important ministry. Anita and Maria drive me to Hendersonville for my afternoon interview with EASI. My job situation is in sobering perspective at this moment. It doesn’t seem to really matter, as I look over at my wife and daughter—whole and healthy. I thank God.


erinlo said...

You have such a way with story telling and I feel like I'm right there. I am jealous of all the prayer warriors- especially the elders.

Tony Arnold said...

Thank you for the kind words. Our elders are special. I will pray for you, your family, and your adoption process. I will also pray that your family has a Church home that are prayer warriors and have a strong eldership.


Amanda said...

I just met Patti for the first time last week.

She is an amazing woman and I can't wait to get to know her and her family better.

Stephen Meeks said...

Don't know another way to respond to your comments to my posts, so hope you get this.

About empathy...I suppose what I'm aiming for is a call for us to get ourselves in such a postion that we can empathize. Empathy with the poor means either being poor or choosing a life lived in poverty--Mother Teresa style. When I lived in Kenya, I gave up a bundle of conveniences, but I never lived in a mut hut, though I bisited daily. I never depended on the rain and my crops for my food, because I was supplied by churches. I don't know that any of this is 'wrong', just doesn't allow us to fully empathize. I'm glad that Jesus didn't try to relate to us long-distance. It helps that he became just like us.

Always thankful for you encouragement, insights, and comments. Stephen

jettybetty said...

You do have a gift with words!
I am glad you journaled this time of your life--God is always with us--but in times like this it is really obvious He is present. It would be so easy to rush through--and then in a few years you would forget some of the details--the ways God assured you through a difficult time. I love the way the hummingbird was even an encouragement to you.
I am so sorry Nathan lost his foot--how is he doing?? I still don't understand tragic accidents like this. How is Phil doing now?
Your sharing this part of your life with us--is very much glorifying God.
Next time, hopefully we will hear what God has in mind for in the way of a job!

Tony Arnold said...

Patience, JettyBetty. At the end of the journal entries, I am going to post an epilogue of how things are now, what has gone on since this time, etc.


melissa said...

Tony, thank you so much for your note! I would love to come to your group when I get down to Lipscomb! I will e-mail you when I get down there to get the details.

jettybetty said...

I just got the "book".

Anonymous said...

Tony -

I was referred to your blog by Amanda from her comment on July 2 to JD's "Best Unknown Blogs" post over at Weekenders, where I blog on weekends along with several other people.

I had actually dropped by here before several times, but this time (yesterday) started reading back a ways and have gotten caught up on your journal entries from your retreat last year. Very interesting to read and compelling.

I now have you marked as one of my favorites on my computer so I can come back and read more.

Your writing style and story remind me a lot of another Christian blogger I read all the time and have become very close to, David Barnett, over in Katy, Texas. You'll have to check him out sometime when you have the time. I have him linked from my blog and also commented on him at Weekenders on July 2 as a good "unnkownn" blog to read.

I can't wait to hear more of your story and to find out what happens in your job search. And, to see how things go with your friends and their little son who was hurt so badly in the lawnmower accident. Good writing.

Tony Arnold said...

Dee, thanks so much for the post and the links. I am honored. I will check out David Barnett's blog. I hope to get a new post out soon. Work and Church are demanding this last and this coming week and with family, something has to give. The others take priority, so everyone hang in there with me.

Sorry for the delays.