Thursday, December 31, 2009

Update 12/31/09 New Year's Eve

Happy New Year, dear friends!

Today I wish so much we could all be together. I want to toast in the new year with all of you fellow travellers (I'll take lemonade if you don't mind!) My heart is awash with gratitude for all you have done for me in this landmark year, 2009, one that will mark me and my family, and you too, forever. I have seen the worst and the best. I have watched the Great One take "dry bones and make them live." I have experienced agony and lofty joy. What has always remained is that like the patriarch Abraham, I am still longing for that "city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God..." I am homesick for a place I have never been, despite the beautiful life of love I have here. Heaven is the real home for God's children. There we find no loneliness, bitterness, confusion or sorrow. There the need for laws is gone, because love is the perfect law. There we no longer feel the ticking of the clock. We were never really created for time, but for eternity. I think that's why we're so uncomfortable with its passing. Time always seems to be running out. We're always fighting with it.

This is a quote by C.S. Lewis that I think sums up perfectly the Earth/Heaven conundrum we find ourselves in:

"The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure and merriment He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and pose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bath or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home."

No, this world is not safe. We've always known it, and on November 8th it was painted in big letters on our lives. Not safe, but purposeful. Risky, but worth it for love. I don't know why my loved ones were hit by a drunk driver. I don't know why they were spared when others have died. I frankly don't get the whole thing. But I know this: ultimately none of us get off this planet alive. I'm grateful for my time here. And for theirs. But this is a blip on the radar screen of eternity. This matters insomuch as we make it count for there. And simply put, all that matters there is Love. Love God, love people. It all lands pretty simply. But sometimes it takes the worst things to bring the best things into stark relief. And none of us get to that place of perfection without the mercy of forgiveness found in Jesus. Heaven just couldn't be heaven with sin. So God made a way for us even with that huge problem. He astonishes me every day.

I waxed a little philosophical here. Forgive a sleep deprived woman her babblings! I do love you all so much. You manifest what C.S. Lewis meant - the merry meetings with friends, the moments of happy love. You are what makes this world with all its darkness a place of light. The Great One never left us, and He never will. He was with us on the day we were born. He'll be with us on the day we die. Someday we're going to have a New Year's party that will make Times Square look like downtown Podunk. That's going to be some homecoming...

More on the mundane stuff of recovery tomorrow. For today, and for the rest of our lives, I remain...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Meals for the Smiths

Starting the week of January 11 anyone interested in making meals for the Smiths, please give me a call. Loriann will be taking Steve up to Sunnyview on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week. We would only need meals twice a week. Please give me a call: Judy Almy @463-6581. Thank you for blessing the Smiths!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Update 12/30/09 Day 52

Dear friends,

Hercules went to BJ's tonite to shop for all the stuff we've needed for the past 2 months. Thanks to brother Barrie the real necessities were acquired, but maple syrup, (large quantities needed for my pancake lovers), zip lock bags and buffalo busters (a must for New Year's Eve) had to be purchased. We arrived to find all the electric wheelchairs were dead, so the man wheeled himself around the store, directing me where to go with the cart. He always did the BJ's shop, so I'm lost in the warehouse. It turned out to be a really precious time with my husband. He was so happy to be doing something normal, and to be in charge of the thing. When we got home Joseph and his friends unloaded all our supplies, including 40 pounds of kitty litter. That's why God gave us 16 year old boys!

Stephen is performing magnificently in his physical and occupational therapy. His bending angle on his knee has improved, and he gets up and down onto his walker more easily every day. By evening his left leg is quite swollen. That's the leg with the skin graft. His body is trying to create new blood vessels, and it takes time for the vascular system to rebuild itself. At night he sleeps with that leg elevated above the level of his heart. In the morning the swelling is way down, and that's a relief. It's true: we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." I am always astonished by the human body. When things go wrong, it makes clear how incredible it is that things normally go right. And the healing process is remarkable.

Zabine brought Pakistani food tonite. Yum. Period.

Hannah saw Dr. Samaio today for her medical instructions going forward. Turns out she can't take gym class for 5 months. There is too much risk of getting bonked on the head. We simply can't take a chance. So the school will come up with a specially designed fitness program to meet Hannah's needs without the risks inherent in flying soccer balls, bats, or even human collisions. We will monitor her for tiredness, and do our best to help her through the transition. As always, I'm thankful for you prayer pilgrims out there, calling on the Great One to be Hannah's help.

No time for an old movie tonite. The Walker's paid us a surprise visit! We were so happy to see them. I remembered those many evenings they picked me up at Sunnyview and fed me while I wrote this blog on their couch. It's a vignette that will always stay with me. Tomorrow we'll most likely watch "The Sound of Music" or "The Apartment" (a fantastic Billy Wilder movie that won the Oscar in 1960). We'll eat our "picky foods" and watch the movie and thank the Great One for His incredible faithfulness to us in 2009.

I really long for 2010 to be a year where God is greatly glorified in the Earth. Where men see Him as the lover of their souls that He is. That goodness, grace, justice, mercy and kindness win the day in the people of God and in my own heart. I hope the pilgrim road is a bit more smooth, but I know better than to expect it. I most assuredly know that, bumpy or smooth, the Mighty One will be with us. Same goes for you. I hope your road is easy, but it may not be. I trust God to go over the rough places with you. I pray your views along the way will be breathtaking. Mine have been, especially the view of all of you. Wow.

Tomorrow we'll close out 2009. To say it's been eventful would be an understatement. But please stick with me when ball drops in Times Square...and beyond.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Update 12/29/09 Day 51

Dear friends,

Boy, do I need a haircut! Funny how you lose track of your personal grooming when there's an earthquake in your life. (One of my coworkers at Albany Med told me I smelled a whole lot nicer than I did in the hospital during those first few weeks. No shower for a few days will definitely mess with the hygiene!). Miss Clairol is also due to visit, and there is a razor somewhere in my future... I called Margo the magnificent to schedule a fluff and buff. How strange it felt to put that kind of appointment on my calendar. It seems really insignificant in the grand scheme. Still, it will no doubt make me feel a little lighter, and there's nothing like a little sit down with the hairdresser, especially a peach like Margo.

Hannah had her 3 hour neuro psych evaluation at Sunnyview today. She was anxious about it, but seemed a bit more relieved when Dr. Hess told her she could go back to school full time on January 4. He gave her 3 conditions: 1- She has to go to the nurses' office if she feels tired during the day to lie down for a bit. 2- She has to lie down for a rest when she gets home from school. 3- She can't do more than 2 hours of homework per night. Some of the deficits in her testing are in the areas of executive thinking. Those are things like organizing, evaluating concepts and seeing the "big picture". None of these things were difficult for her before the crash, but now they are. Still, we are only 7 weeks out on a typical 12-18 month recovery curve, so I maintain optimism having seen the Great One's incredible work in all of our lives. I do get angry sometimes about the unfairness of Hannah's hurdle, but I never met adversity that didn't make greatness possible. God has always had a plan for His little Miss Rejoice, and there's no way he'll let her hang out to dry. Not possible with the Mighty One. Somewhere on this broken road there's a blessing the darling girl cannot contain. Count on it.

Tomorrow we go back to Sunnyview to meet with Dr. Samaio about how to proceed with Hannah's care. She will need some therapy for the emotional trauma part of all of this, and that will cover the claustrophobia too. Keep up your prayers, all you fabulous Gen Churchers. I know you've been asking the Great One for a long time to help Hannah with her fear of confined spaces.

I've only just started to realize the emotional impact of this event on our family. You spend weeks in suspended animation, just breathing in and out, dealing with the physical stuff and the practical matters (eating, sleeping, brushing your teeth.) Then the acute phase passes and you see the lingering issues in your spouse, your kids...yourself. I simply don't know what I would do without the promise "I will never leave you nor forsake you". I don't know how to help the spirit within my daughter, or my husband or my boys. But the Book says: " He (Jesus), did not need mans testimony about a man, because He knew what was in every man..." The Great One knows what my dear ones need on the inside. I hope that encourages one of you. It doesn't matter if you're misunderstood, or if you don't even understand yourself. There is One who gets it with you. He totally gets it.

Tonite we are watching a Ma and Pa Kettle movie with David's favorite character actor, Percy Kilbride. (Show me another 12 year old who knows who Percy Kilbride is and I'll give you five bucks.) Gotta love Geoduck and Crowbar, the two Indian friends who Pa Kettle puts to work so he can kick back. This is not politically correct film viewing. But it's a hoot. I recommend the Kettles for a short trip away from terrorist threats and celebrity indiscretions and Ponzi schemes. Add a sleeve of oreos and a glass of milk and you're golden!

Tonite I spoke briefly to Officer Ernie, and earlier today I spoke to Detective Matt about getting the EZ Pass out of the wagon (not sure if it still exists, but he's checking). I was once again reminded of the first responders who saw Stephen and Hannah at their worst, and did the hard work of pulling them out of that twisted wreck, and taking care of the details of finding me and enforcing the law. Please lift up a prayer for these incredible people who keep us safe and save many of our dear ones from the sleep that never ends. I owe them a debt I can never pay.

Same goes for you. Each of you has been a lifeline for me in the land of the living. We coasted around the edges of valley of the shadow on November 8th, and you have stuck with me lo these 51 days. I can't tell you how many more days there will be. Even when it's all over, I will always remember these incredible weeks of my life. I will always carry a gratitude and affection in my heart for all of you who have walked the path with me. And I'll happily share my milk and cookies with you anytime!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Monday, December 28, 2009

Update 12/28/09 Day 50

Dear friends,

Today's short hop to Walmart was much less eventful than the infamous "Drano" nightmare. It was afternoon, first of all, and there were plenty of cashiers and no crying babies on board. I had to pick up a microwaveable heating pad for Stephen's occupational therapy. He needs to heat up his elbow/hinge prior to stretching it out. The home therapist really helped him reduce the angle on that arm with some stretching exercises involving jump ropes and pulleys over doors. Don't ask. If you visit my house plan to trip over wheelchair legs, slide boards, shower chairs and lots and lots of pillows. The left side of my bathroom closet is entirely devoted to wound cleanser, gauze pads, bandages, xeroform (cool stuff!) and ace bandages. I will be swimming in room once the man is completely healed. How great is it that we live in a time when all this stuff is available as a help to us? I think of those poor men at Gettysburg, lying on the ground without any pain killer or antiseptic or bandages. Those of you who long for the "Little House on the Prairie" days, think again.

Tomorrow Hannah goes for her 3 hour neuro psychology exam at Sunnyview. Dr. Hess will look at where she is compared to where she was 4 weeks ago. He will then create a report to send to Columbia High, recommending accommodations she might need. She really has rocketed through the stages of recovery from brain injury! There are definitely things not completely fixed, but praise God she is only 7 weeks out on a 12-18 month road to full recovery. I'm still asking the Great One for "double for her trouble". She can hardly wait to get back to school. She won't be taking gym for a little while (her left side was somewhat impacted by the bleed), but she can use that period to continue the catch up process from her absence. She'll need prayers for the transition back. There is a lot going on in a big public high school, and sometimes TBI patients underestimate the effect of all that stimulation. We'll just continue to take it one day at a time, with her and with everything else.

There was another beauty of a sunset today. The sky had the color of light caramel, and then there was a hole in the center of a cloud with a blazing yellow border around it, as if God got out his best crayon and pressed down hard. It was cold outside, but I couldn't tear myself away for quite a while. I remembered the last time I commented on a sunset on this blog. I was driving to Sunnyview and could only take a brief look at the wonder. Today I lingered. Today I absorbed it. Not even Renoir can come close to imitating those colors!

I chased hard after my alone time today, and got it. After supper I shut the bedroom door and sat on my Mary Beth cushions, in my Cathy Rose corner, and listened as best as I could to what the Dearest and Best had to say to me today. Listen to this verse from "The Message"version of the Bible: "Trust God from the bottom of your heart. Don't try to figure everything out on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go..." Proverbs 3:5-6. That simple message is the key for me in navigating the cliffs of change. I usually prefer the NIV translation, but the proletarian paraphrase of The Message so fits the every-dayness of my climb on the travellers road. I'm thinking a few of you reading this post are feeling the same way. I'm so glad we were put together at the same time in history to trek alongside of one another. Let's hold up the ones who are staggering, pick up the ones who are fallen, and encourage the ones who are trucking up that hill. In the words of Tiny Tim, God Bless Us, Every One.

A ride back to Sunnyview tomorrow, and a script in hand for Stephen to begin outpatient therapy around the second week of January. Before we know it the daffodils will be rising. Before we know it, Troy's Garden Center will be busting at the seems. Grass will be growing. And the Miracle Man will walk. It's cold outside, and I don't want to miss the beauty of winter in the pursuit of spring. All great things take time. The journey itself is part of the joy.

Don't forget to check out those early sunsets. And don't forget to send me your favorite book titles. Thank you for continuing to send the love. You've been faithful friends.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Update 12/27/09 7 weeks since crash

Dear friends,

My spiritual life is standin' in the need. For 7 weeks I've been coasting on amazing grace that has kept my tank full enough to walk a hard stretch of the pilgrim road. But now I need some time to sit down with my Bible and do the disciplines that keep all travellers strong. Solitude, meditation, prayer, the word of God - these are the tools in the workshop of our souls. Not out of guilt, but out of desire I long for my daily bread. So please ask the Great One to show me the pockets of time I need. In some ways you get used to the crazy pace of trauma. Now that we're home, it's about living the life of faith in the mundane of wound dressing, showering, shaving, home therapy and doctor appointments. In the meantime there are still homework projects, children to transport and clothes to wash. Sometimes the greater test of faith is how one deals with the tedious, the boring and the everyday. So here I am again, grateful - and grasping hard on to what is true. Wanting just to do the next right thing on this highway...Not always sure what that is...

We had some wonderful old friends visit us today. Steve's friend Hugh, whose persona is like a large bucket of pure joy, took Amtrack up just to hang with us for the afternoon. This is one of those friends you hold on to for life, because they are true blue and one of a kind, a present from the Great One Himself. He showed Steve some tips on his new Kindle (omg, I've got to have one too!), and gave me a list of book recommendations to beat the band. (By the way, that's how I choose books. I ask people their favorites and I try them out. When all this is over, I'm bringing a stack a mile high to the Cape and just try to pry me off my beach chair. I dare you...) Besides, Hugh lives in Brooklyn USA, my old hometown, and we have an open invitation to camp out there for a trip to the world's greatest city. Leave the lights on Hugh! When Steve's on his feet we're trip-trapping over the Brooklyn Bridge like I did in the old days. God Bless you, friend!

We also had the pleasure of a visit from Glenn and Mary. Glenn and I have known one another since we were 17. (An age I do not wish to revisit). We hung around with a group of folks all through college and beyond, and we have tried to stay in touch. These are those kinds of friends you don't see for a long time, then you pick up the conversation as if you were having coffee together the day before. All these dear people chipped in to buy my husband a laptop computer, complete with voice activated software in case his injuries or his exhaustion level keep him from typing. That's some kind of wonderful. Once again, I can't believe the love, and I don't understand it, and I can't pay it back. But I love you all for it, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I promise to pay it forward.

Mark the Lion Hearted put in a shower head for Smitty today. So tomorrow morning, in he goes without plastic bags on his arm and legs. It will be the first full soaking since November 8. Praise God! We've got to get that hospital smell off of the dear man, and sponge baths just don't do it. He also starts home physical therapy tomorrow, and I start the process moving for him to go back to Sunnyview in a couple of weeks for outpatient therapy. We have also got to get his vision figured out (the concussion left him with one blurry eye), and reschedule surgery to get the glass out of his hand. Lots of details, lots.

Miss Rejoice goes with Darling Amy to see Wicked tomorrow evening at Proctors. Thank you Dear Frank for the tickets! Hannah absolutely loves musicals, and loves Amy, so what a night for her! It makes a momma's heart glad to see her baby girl have such a fabulous experience after such a nightmare. Seems there's grace around every corner we turn.

It may sound strange, but I'm kind of looking forward to the holidays being over. I love it all - the lights, the music, the food, the festivity- but normal is so dear to me right now, and though I know it won't really be normal, perhaps a whiff of it will be what the Big Doctor orders to keep my feet on a straight path. Oh, I don't know. I'm rambling. I got too used to the insanity so now I have to back it down and that is another hurdle, crazy as it sounds. The Book says "To everything there is a season". Seasons come, and they go, but the rhythm stays the same. Change in the midst of sameness. It satisfies our need for both.

Send me the titles of your favorite books. You really are my favorite people. No kidding.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Update 12/26/09 Day 48

Dear friends,

Merry day after Christmas! I know yesterday's post was very long, but I hope it filled you in well on some of the details of Stephen's recovery process. Hannah is still recovering too, only her injuries aren't visible on the outside. She has rocketed through the phases of emergence from brain injury, and we are grateful. She still has some "big picture" issues to work through, and we will soon see how a loaded school schedule will play out in her life. Remember, it takes a full year to eighteen months for full recovery from a subdural hematoma.

Steve's brother came from Syracuse today with his family. It was a joy to spend time with them, and Tom has that same Smith sense of humor and quick wit that lightens any load. We say in our house that Joseph inherited his "bellow" from his Uncle Tom. Both of them have two settings on their voice volume control: off and BOOMING. So you can imagine with all of us in the dining room things got a bit loud. We ate all kinds of leftover sweets. I think if sugar consumption could heal broken bones, Stephen would already be a walkin' man!

I dismissed a bit of self pity this morning, following the advise of my favorite author C.S. Lewis, by telling it where to "get off". Self pity is a loathsome thing, sucking all the light and hope out of the soul. Stephen and I reminded one another that we are passing through this city of restriction, and that some dear ones make their way living always in their wheelchairs. To them I long to bring the stuff hope is made of, because their road is much longer than ours. It seems grace is passed out in the measure required, and at the moment it is needed. I can't figure it out, but I have lived it and observed its truth.

Tonite we have a family favorite in the DVD player, "The Princess Bride". Buttercup (The Princess Bride) has a beautiful, poor farm boy as her servant. He loves her, and the way he tells her is by responding to her every request with the words "as you wish". What a great picture of true love! "As you wish" becomes a euphemism for "I love you", and shows up later on in the film a couple of times, and at the end in a stroke of writing genius. Isn't that what true love is? Putting the other before yourself, setting down what you want to say "as you wish" to another? Jesus did the ultimate when He made His way to Calvary. He said "As You Wish" to His Father, and thus purchased spiritual freedom for man. He said "As you wish" to us in our need for forgiveness and grace. What a remarkable Savior... By the way, if you've never seen the movie, don't miss the hysterical scene between Vizzini and Wesley over the iocane powder. Priceless!

I've barely seen my 12 year old since he got some new video games for Christmas. Normally we limit him on "monitor time", but it's Christmas, and things haven't exactly been normal around here. I've got chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen to lure him to my lap, so I can smother him with kisses for 10 seconds before he's off to video zombie land again. The cat has survived without an anti depressant, and I'm actually almost caught up on the laundry (do you ever really catch up?) Soon the new year will start, and I resolve to make no resolutions. I know myself too well, and only say "I want to follow my God one day at a time." By His astonishing grace I will, and so will you my dear friends.

Time to start the wheels turning that get this house to bed. I'm looking forward to when Steve can again go out and lock the doors, check the windows, clean the litter box and accomplish the myriad of other simple blessings it hurts him to give up doing. I love the man so. I wish I could make it better.

To you my faithful travelling companions, I look to the day when some broken soul has a need, and I am able to say "as you wish". You've said it a thousand times, in a thousand ways, to me.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Friday, December 25, 2009

Update Christmas Day 2009 Day 47

Dear friends,

Merry Christmas! Santa Claus must have had a rough time getting down my chimney (but I'm quite sure he stayed very clean thanks to Courageous Kevin), because my kids had the biggest, best Christmas ever. Someone out there, and you know who you are but I don't, donated a Dell laptop computer to my Hannah Rejoice. I mean a full size one, and in her favorite color, yellow! Now, you've got to understand that this was her dream gift, and one we told her we could not get until maybe when she went to college. She is a wonderful writer, and this will be the modern day pen and paper for her great American novel. Not only that, writing is therapy for her, and as I can attest to, there's nothing like words to help with post trauma. Whoever you are: if you have children, I pray God will so fill their hearts with joy and blessing they cannot contain it. If you don't have children, I pray all the love and generosity in your heart is returned to you like a bee to the hive. Again, I can't pay it back, but I promise you I will pay it forward. So many of you shopped for my kids with a list, and wouldn't take a penny from me for the gifts purchased. People I don't even know bought cologne, video games, socks, Lego's etc... on and on. Cousin Tommy radically blessed Stephen as did so many other family members and friends. Now if a person can be killed by kindness, I've already died ten thousand times. The Great One says, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." How's that for you, people? No way you can out give God. No way. He gives back in His own way. You watch and see.

Benevolent Brother Bob outdid himself with a very special gift package to us. Included were Met's garb for each one of us, ice cream sundae dishes and a gift card to Stewart's (second best ice cream in the world), and best of all: his own personal writings including a beautiful song composed for us. I'm going to ask him to email the song so you all can read the words on the blog. The man can write, he surely can. My heart practically exploded reading his Christmas message! Isn't it amazing how God puts people together? Some write, some build, some heal, some sing, some clean, some cook, some push, some pull, some make boat loads of money and give it away. But all are needed. And all are loved.

Boat loads of money. To all of you who gave through the Advent Conspiracy, and just sent checks or gave us cash, listen to me carefully. I can barely stand up thinking about it. How does one express gratitude of this magnitude? Very soon Steve's No Fault insurance will exhaust. He's a multi million dollar man, believe me. When our regular insurance kicks in, it only covers so much, so far. I will be pulling from that pile of money to pay for therapy, co pays, medicine, ambulance rides etc... And what a pile of money it was: with the matching funds we will be getting some fat check. And to you my dear matching donor, I can't wait to see you in heaven where your identity is well known. You and I are going to dance a jig and holler together about the greatness of God. You are invisible to us and those amazing Guilzon's (who by the way, got all they needed plus some to build their clinic!!), but you are right in God's line of sight. Surely you will reap what you have sown. Amen.

I thought you might like a quick medical update which I've wanted to send for a couple of days but just couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to share. We saw the great Dr. Bagchi on Wednesday. It was a 2 hour appointment. The xray tech almost passed out when he saw the number of broken things he had to take pictures of. Well, the long and short is Stephen is healing well, and I only have to change his dressings once a day now! Praise God! It's a long process, and that alone saves me lots of time. His ugly flap wound looks "great" to the professionals. Dr. B. said "you've been lucky, everything's gone well with no infections". OK Bob the Builder. Luck? Still, gotta love that man. 2 months now (or so) to wait for the right side to bear weight. We've already picked off a whole month. His pelvis and shoulder (straight fractures) are already healed, so we can begin range of motion on his shoulder. The splint is off the right arm, so he can work it a little. Dr. Bagchi says it will always be stiff, and not real useful. But who really knows? He should have died. Judging from the chest moving up and down, and the smile on his face I'd say no one really knows. Steve's right tibia (the one with the external fixator) has shifted slightly. It's very hard to get them to hold perfectly. Dr. B.
said that part will heal a little crooked, but it's too risky to go in now and re-cut the bone. Ouch! Stephen simply said to me "well, let's just ask people to pray it will straighten out". OK. Miracles certainly haven't been in short supply around here. In 3 weeks we go back for another check on those bones. As Ezekiel says "Can those bones live?" Absolutely.

I wrote a song after 9/11 called "Emmanuel". One verse and the chorus goes like this:

You're Emmanuel, when the mountains fall into the sea,
You're Emmanuel, when the river's rushing over me
You're Emmanuel, when the mighty towers fall away,
You're Emmanuel, at every hour on every day...

You're with us, with relentless passion
You're with us, with a fierce, unyielding love,
You're with us, with a Father's grip that won't let go,
You're with us, you're with us, Emmanuel.

He's been with us through the worst, and He'll be with us all the way. As dear sister Laurie said to me way early on, "If this mountain won't be moved, we're going over it." We have, we are and we will. Note the pronoun. Remember, full life restoration is the goal. To work, to walk to excel in school, to make a public spectacle of the spiritual darkness, to give God great Glory.
Are you all still on for this great adventure? I know I don't even need to ask.

I love you with all my overwhelmed heart.

Your friend forever on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Update Christmas Eve, 2009

Dearest friends,

This will be my shortest post to date. On this holy night, my heart is so full, and my mind mostly empty. I have much to tell you, but tomorrow will come soon enough. I am dazzled by the love of God in sending His dear Son to our upside-down world. He has come to love us, and that's that. I'm awestruck. And practically speechless.

You have all been the very best Christmas present I have ever received outside of Jesus Himself. I cherish you more than words can express.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Actually, a merry BIG Christmas. The gift He gave is much too big to fit in any one's stocking.

Talk to you tomorrow after this silent night. We shall continue to go forth like the angels saying,
"Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth, Peace, Goodwill toward men!"

Your Merry friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Update 12/23/09 Day 45


Dear friends,
I didn't send out Christmas cards this year. That was Stephen's job, and he did it well. This year is different in many ways. We've been down a road we never expected, but the Great One has been our help. I have received so much grace in my life for all of my life, but now it's coming down like a blizzard. I am indebted to all of you in ways I can't even describe. The kindness and generosity of those of you I know, and those I don't has been utterly amazing. Relationships are what make life meaningful, and in that I have gained so much that as one commenter put it, I am a very rich woman. I can't keep up with the thank you's, so please accept my gratitude from cyber space. Valerie, Christina, Tracy, and all your co-workers and friends, thank you! McGinn Smith friends, thank you! Folks from far and wide who I want to wrap my arms around and squeeze like one of these memory foam pillows, thank you. Our families, thank you. My brothers and sisters in Christ from many churches, including our Our Savior's School family, thank you. And to Delmar Full Gospel Church, well, I can barely even type the words without crying. You all have been what Jesus was talking about when He said, "Love one another as I have loved you." To all of you precious people from here to England to Chicago and points beyond, my gratitude is only exceeded by my great affection for all of you who read this blog and care so much. I so look forward to the day when I can take all of your goodness and pour it out on some lonely, sad, worn, tired, suffering soul who will surely need a friend. All of you have changed my life forever. Forever I am better because of you.
Tonite I have set aside my various shortcomings and weaknesses simply to experience joy. There is a time to weep and a time to laugh. Today I mostly laughed, or cried with delight. Every day has it's machinations, but every day is a gift. And what a gift!
Steve had an appointment with Dr. Bagchi (remember, Bob the Builder?) today, and I'll give you the details on that tomorrow. It's late, and I'm tired, but I can't go to bed without saying good night to my fellow pilgrims slogging it out on the wild cliffs of the unknown territory with me. My day isn't right without you. So tomorrow I'll tell you about bones and graft sites, but for tonite I will simply say "Joy to the World, the Lord has come." He was, He is, and He ever will be. Bless His great and mighty name!
Your friend (and I mean it) on the pilgrim road,
Loriann
PS Thank you for the beautiful and encouraging comments and emails. They mean more to me than you will ever know.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Update 12/22/09 Day 44

Dear friends,

I'm afraid I've been a bit circumspect with you. In order to protect my children from possible disappointment, I have kept mostly to myself the fact that STEPHEN CAME HOME TODAY FROM SUNNYVIEW! I sobbed my head off from the elevators to the parking lot, thinking of my experiences there, beginning on November 18 when my baby girl arrived on a stretcher with no emotion and a subdural hemorrhage, and my husband was still in the surgical ICU at Albany Med. I thought of all the kindness shown to me over those brutal weeks, when you came and visited and brought food and cleaned my bathrooms and so much more... I thought of the joy on that Saturday when Hannah began to come around. I thought of the first day when Stephen could not even stand for 1 second. I thought how the road behind was something I would never have thought I could have survived, and how the road ahead is daunting still. But I have hope. Beautiful, wonderful, hope in a God who never fails and a future that will surely be difficult but where victory is assured. I remember the day I recalled the scripture in Colossians 2 "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Friends, when we all get through this thing we'll see how the darkness was disarmed by love, and how the powers and authorities of the enemy of our souls was made into a public spectacle, with the cross triumphant. Amen and amen.

So the man is home, in time for Christmas! It's not a traditional Christmas (remember Thanksgiving?), but it is a precious one. I don't feel at all normal, I'm very tired, and I can't hold a thought in my head for more than one nano second, but my whole family is here. David was surprised to see his Daddy home and both of them hugged and cried, so then I cried and it was a virtual sob fest. But so what. I couldn't care less. I think I'm giving up mascara for the foreseeable future.

Now some of the day to day tough stuff really begins. Doctor appointments (lots of in and out of the car), picking up medicines, overcoming insurance hurdles, home wound care, home therapy. Then in a few weeks the plan is to go back to Sunnyview a few days a week for outpatient therapy with home care by me only. I have no idea how to do this thing. The Great One has helped me thus far, and so He will continue. That is my only guarantee.

I have to keep it short tonite, because I've got to get some sleep. And there will be someone in the bed next to me...Someone who is alive 44 days after the worst night of my life. Linus was just on the tube telling the Christmas story in his inimitable way. Holding his blanket and looking adorably "shepherdy", he says what I want to shout from the rafters: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men". His good will toward me has been outlandish. Spectacular. Divine. Wow.

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

I love you all and really wish we could all be together somehow. So glad heaven will be all about that...Thank you for being true friends through the good, the bad and the ugly.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Monday, December 21, 2009

Update 12/21/09 Day 43

Dear friends,

Today I hit a wall. I spent the whole day at Sunnyview learning some of the ropes for taking care of Stephen at home. I gave him his heparin shot, cleaned his wounds, helped give him a shower, and controlled the movement of his fixated leg while he did his strengthening exercises. He strained, he grunted, he pressed. I'm telling you true, this is hard work for Hercules. I'm incredibly proud of him. Meanwhile, inside my own skin, I got afraid. Afraid to bring him home and not to have the security of the hospital. Afraid he might fall, or I might do something wrong and he could get an infection. Afraid of how different our lives will be from our old life before the accident. Afraid of the cold reality of insurance companies. I told you way back that fear is my mortal enemy. It circled the ranch today in a way I haven't experienced in a few weeks. It's the one emotion that can easily tip me over. We all have our Achilles heel. Fear and worry are definitely mine.

True faith is tested by strain. Just like my husband's atrophied muscles, faith must be worked out in the gym of adversity to be real. I see myself wavering, but I know that my Jesus will not let me be hammered. I will push and fight back my adversary, and God will smile because my puny faith with get just a little stronger. I will not let fear master me, though I may be "hard pressed on every side, but not crushed..." 2 Corinthians 4:8. The ancient remedies are my practical support: prayer, worship, the fellowship of the saints, and the mighty and living Word of God. Sounds "religious" when you list them. But they are as earthy and sturdy as a maple tree. Those are the tools that build spiritual muscle.

I want to be like Steve's occupational therapist's little boy. His name is Holden, and he is 2 years old. Excellent Jake (who also is an army reservist with a heart of gold and a year in Iraq behind him), Holden's dad, told us how his boy likes to play with the manger set. Sometimes he makes Jesus ride the camel (don't you just love it!). And sometimes he simply puts Jesus in his pocket and carries Him around everywhere he goes. I want to be like Holden! I've got to be if I'm going to beat off the oppression that threatens me on this unpredictable highway.

East Greenbush's finest, Officer Ernie and Officer Mike paid me a quick visit tonite to drop off a handicapped parking permit. Never did I think my car (which is still pretty dirty, by the way), would sport one of those red tags! There's an expiration date on it of June, 2010. By then we'll be mowing the lawn. We can hope we won't need a renewal on it. But I'm grateful to have one.

Be sure to read the blog tomorrow for an important announcement. How's that for a cliff hanger? By then I'll probably be feeling a little better, but maybe not. It really doesn't matter, because in the end, there will be good. The Great One can make a wrinkled old man a father of many nations, and a prostitute wind up in the genealogy of the Son of God, and a stubborn, impulsive fisherman a great apostle who turns the world upside down. I'm pretty sure He can manage with me.

Some of the blue candles are in the window. Consider yourselves posted.

Can't make the trip without you, friends.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Update 12/20/09 6 Weeks After Crash

Dear friends,

Is 6 weeks a long time, or a short time? In some ways, it seems like I've always "lived" in a hospital. Like bedtime medications and get well cards and the steering wheel embedded into my hands has always been my life. In other ways, it seems like yesterday when I heard the evac chopper landing on the roof of Albany Med, when I saw so many of your agonized faces out in the ER waiting room, when Laurie and Lisa held my hands while I stood over the broken body of my husband and the bruised brain of my only daughter. Time really is a plastic thing. God stands outside of it, knowing the end and the beginning, seeing it all in one piece, and mysteriously mixing His sovereignty with our free will. Try bending your mind around that one.

Speaking of mind bending, have you ever done one of those sudoku puzzles? I hate those things worse than poison! Steve loves them. He's done quite a few while at Sunnyview. He tries to explain them to me and my eyes glaze right over. He's so good with that brain exercise stuff. I fog over like London by the Thames. Of course, I was the high school student who took "Math for Better Living" once I got through Algebra (barely) and Geometry (a little better but still awful). I don't know what it is. Some people are put together for math, others are not. The accident report almost made me cry with its mathematical formulas for figuring out speed and trajectory. Good grief! I'll just stick to letters, and leave numbers to those with ultra-gray gray matter.

Stephen hopped 66 feet today! What about that guy. If you could see the effort he puts out to get from one place to another you would be inspired. At the end of the day, that leg he hops on (his left leg which has the flap wound and skin graft) is very sore and tired. It's just part of it. His walker contraption is what he uses to stand up and move forward. I'll drop a picture of it on to the blog soon so you can get the idea.

Pastor Dave the Humble paid Stephen a visit at Sunnyview this afternoon. Steve was so glad to see him! We simply love that man. He gave a beautiful sermon this morning about trusting in the promises of God. He pulled some things out of a little read book in the Old Testament, the book of Zechariah. I think I'm going to spend some time in the company of that letter Z prophet this week. Chapter 3 verse 16-17 says: "Do not fear, O Zion, do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, He is MIGHTY TO SAVE. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." If you are feeling apart from God, realize this stunning truth: that He takes delight in you, regardless of where you are. How incredible is that? This is not some distant, doom and gloom god, but a true lover of our souls. Pastor Dave said what I know is true; "You can do all the right stuff, and miss the love relationship with God." That's what Christmas is really about. Religion is man's search for God. But Christmas is God's unfathomable bend to have a relationship with us. Even with all our mess. Astonishing.

So tomorrow I go for training at Sunnyview. I have to learn to give Heparin shots into Stephen's stomach. It's a good thing he trusts me. (Well, maybe not during some of our summertime water fights, but usually). Judy the Good is taking the girl for me all day so I can poke Steve in the stomach and wrap plastic bags around his legs for a shower (his first in 6 weeks). Hannah will have 3 tutoring sessions tomorrow, and my boys will groan before they head off to school. Only 3 more days until Christmas break. Hurray! I still don't have those blue candles in the windows. Maybe tonite...or tomorrow...maybe next year.

Make sure you check out the photo I posted this morning of the fantastic five who did my ramp and doors. (Tom Terrific is back tomorrow to finish the doors. The poor man thought he was retired!)

Remember, the Great One really does take great delight in you. And so do I, as I overflow with gratitude for your authentic love and friendship to me. Keep travelling with me, lest I faint. I love you dearly.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Men on a Mission: Photo from 12/19/09

Here they are! Some of my heroes: The kidlet (brother Don), He-can-do-anything Paul, Tom Terrific, Mark the Lion Hearted and Magnificent Mike!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Update 12/19/09 Day 41

Dear friends,

I have a picture to download of some of my favorite fellas, who put up my ramp today and continued work on my doors. I'll have to wait til tomorrow to post it, since I'm having a bit of trouble and need the help of my teenage son (he's out tonite) with some of the technical aspects. But let me just say, never have pine and screws been so sweet. They worked out in the cold breezeway all day, and made an easy way for me to bring the main man up in to his own house! I'm looking forward to that day with all my heart, and I can never, ever thank them enough for making it possible.

Hannah is singing a lot these days, and is completely excited about the Generation Church Christmas Extravaganza coming up on Wednesday evening. If you don't attend Delmar Full Gospel Church you'll just have to imagine how much fun this party is for all the kids. Some years they have gingerbread construction contests, some years games and skits, some years songs and performances of various kinds. This year Hannah and her pals will be among those singing, and what's really great is her new teeth take away that pesky (albeit adorable!) lisp. She's got a song in her heart despite the trauma she has experienced, and that makes her momma smile from here to the North Pole. Jolly Old St. Nicholas has nothing on me in the joy department!

What treasures there are hidden in darkness! I must confess the many times in my life I have wished for an easier road (including in the past few weeks). But I can see the beautiful discoveries of a difficult path; deeper friendship with God and man, greater understanding of what matters in life, a healthy respect for my own weakness, a conviction that God is completely sovereign. I love this quote by Theodore Roosevelt:
"I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well." There are certainly troubles in the lives of every one of you reading this blog. Since it's inevitable we will be "squeezed" at some point on this earthly plain, how about we be like my friends Dick, Judy and Alma (to name just a few). I've always said, "they get squeezed and we get the wine." If we've got to experience some suffering, then for heaven's sake let's pray someone else can benefit from it!

It's a short post tonite, but there is one more thing. Normally at this time of year I yearn for a powerful nor'easter blasting up the coast. There's nothing like a big white Christmas for a girl from New England. But this year I'm hoping for a gentle 2 inches to make the world magical. I'm thrilled for my nieces and nephews in Virginia who are getting pounded (their parents may not be!). But I am thinking about wheelchairs and walkers and driving to Schenectady. Nature is a wild and woolly thing, and I'm impressed by her as she displays the power and majesty of the Great One. But her gentler side is lovely and quiet, and that's the side I'd like to see this week. Still, if I've learned anything, it's that I'm not in control...

Ever your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Friday, December 18, 2009

Update 12/18/09 Day 40

Dear friends,

I don't know if you have ever seen an "external fixator" before, but they are ugly. Pins go into the skin and attach to the bone to keep said bone from moving. (Moving is bad if you happen to be a broken bone). I will be doing "pin care" on Stephen when he gets home. I am so glad the Lord didn't put me together with a squeamish bent. I'll also be dressing his skin grafted wound and wrapping both legs, his right foot, and his broken arm. I'll be training to do all that this week.

It's construction city at my house. Tom Terrific has made my bathroom and bedroom doors wide and accessible for Steve. Tomorrow, Mark the Lion Hearted has a crew of able friends coming to build me a ramp that I can push Smitty up on. I feel terrible that it's so cold and they will be working in my breezeway! I'll just keep the hot chocolate coming, and heaven knows I have lots of delicious leftovers for lunch. I really marvel at people who can build things. I wouldn't have the slightest idea how to widen a door. Lately, I can barely figure out how to open one! I'm not only amazed by the skill, but the kindness of the folks doing all of this work for our family. Isn't it fantastic that Jesus said "whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers, you do it for ME." And to Abraham God said "I will bless those who bless you." I am on the receiving end here, but I know the joy of being on the other side. It is more blessed to give than to receive, and I am humbled to my marrow by all of it.

I nearly lost it coming home from Sunnyview tonite with Hannah and David in the car. The modern Christmas classic "Mary Did You Know" came on the radio. Here's what got me to where I thought I might drive off the road: "The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again. The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of The Lamb..." I feel like I've experienced a resurrection in my own little world. My lame one will leap, by the grace of the One who loves every one of us relentlessly and recklessly. He may "leap with a limp", but leap he will. If anyone was acquainted with the trouble and sorrow of life, it was Jesus. And if anyone knew how to overcome and have joy in the midst of pain, it was Him. And if anyone knows the heartache in us, it's Him. And if anyone has the remedy for our weary souls, it's Him. It's not a religion, it's a relationship. Hallelujah!

Stephen is struggling with a tough emotional issue right now. He feels badly that I have to carry a lot of the ball while we climb this trail. The fact that I'll be taking on his personal care and wound care is weighing on him. The truth of it is this: For 21 years that man has treated me like a queen. He has done everything for me, from laundry to bill paying to making my coffee in the morning. He has served me cheerfully and impressively since I have known him. He never complains, he works hard, he loves his family, and he has never, ever been a hypocrite. He is a biblical model of "loving his wife as Christ loves the church". He has laid his life down for me over and over a thousand times. I could never come close in a hundred years to doing for him all he has done for me. It is an honor and a privelige to "take care of him" for a while. I told him not to worry. When he's all better, I will be happy to be pampered once again. God bless that precious companion of mine!

My emotions are a whirlwind, but my soul is settled and firm. I am truly a blessed woman, with more to be grateful for than anyone I know. I get sad, I get mad, I get glad. All emotions, all great servants, none of them my governor. I leave the governing to the only One who can do it right. How I love that Savior of mine!

As for you, you've been "like a bridge over troubled water" for me. Some of you have seen me at my absolute worst, and loved me through it. All of you have been true friends in a time of need. I'm praying you will see your lame leap, and your blind see, and your mountain conquered. I mean it.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Update 12/17/09 Day 39

Dear friends,

On the 39th day, Stephen sat in his own living room. Granted, it was a test run, but he was here, and he was happy. He made his way around the house with effort, but it was pure joy. Figures it was the coldest day of the year getting in and out of the car. That part was a bit tricky. It's very hard for him to maneuver that right leg with the big ugly fixator on it. He can only bend that knee so far, so it takes some finesse to get him in to the front seat. Plus he can't bear any weight on that leg, so it's all up to his left side to do the work. It's going to be some cause for celebration when he can put that right foot down and lean into it. Did you ever in your life think you would be happy about applying pressure to a foot? What a world!

Thankfully the talented big boys are building me a ramp this weekend. (Can you believe how good you all are to me? I am just as stunned by the whole thing as I was almost 6 weeks ago. Love is powerful!) The portables were just too hard to use with the large man and the smaller woman pushing. The new ramp will take me right into my kitchen without even a bump to overcome. Can anyone build a ramp for life? Imagine gliding over all your bumps?
2 Corinthians 4:17 says "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." Perhaps they don't feel light or momentary, but all the rocks on the pilgrim road are achieving something. It's just not something that can be seen with the natural eye.

By the way, do you know I haven't made a meal since the accident happened? I have had more delicious food than a restaurant critic, and I haven't lifted a finger to make any of it. Thank you all for the gift of a satisfied tummy. It has helped me tremendously to take those trips to Sunnyview every day (WOW) without the concern of making a dinner. When Stephen gets home, we can certainly stop or drastically reduce the number of meals coming in. But I really did want you to know how much it has helped. It's been another link in the chain of my sanity.

My boys are itching for Christmas break, and their sister can't wait to go back to school. I, too am looking forward to having all my kids at home for a week. I have always enjoyed their vacations, and I think this next one will be the best yet. After all the time I missed with Joseph and David, and all the time Hannah has missed due to post trauma recovery, it will be wonderful to simply be at home with them, and hopefully very soon with Stephen as well. I want to sleep late a couple of days, with no alarm and no pressure to go and do. Of course we will have some follow up doctor appointments, but mostly in the afternoon.

I really wish I had the time or energy to do what Stephen has always faithfully done: send out Christmas cards. He always takes the time to hand write a little something on the cards. He is so great about that kind of stuff! This year, the best I can do is a Christmas post, with a photo, which I'm hoping to put up on the 23rd. So if you know anyone I know, and they don't have the blog address, please pass it on for the "Christmas Card".

Ok, since I just put my head down on the desk for I-don't-know-how-long, I think I better wrap it up and go to bed. It's been another 24 hours of God's faithfulness and grace. No doubt there's another 24 around the bend as well. For me. For you too. I'll of course look in on you tomorrow, and share the stories of the day. (I'm amazed and delighted that you're still listening). Between now and then I give you the song I sing to my kids on many nights:

"The Lord bless you and keep you,
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And give you peace, and give you peace,
And give you peace forever.

The Lord be gracious to you,
The Lord make His light to warm you,
And give you peace, and give you peace,
And give you peace forever."

Amen.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Update 12/16/09 Day 38

Dear friends,

All she wanted for Christmas were her 4 front teeth, and she got them! Hannah's new choppers are straight and match nicely with her real teeth. Both of us were kind of lamenting the fact that she doesn't have her own teeth, and these look "different" from hers. Still, how thankful we are to live in a time when such things are even possible. I told my baby girl that if I could, I would gladly have my own teeth knocked out if it meant she could have her permanents. But such a thing isn't possible. Some things change, and they can't change back. It's simply not fair. We grieve, we go through our emotions, and God moves us on again, back up the mountain. (It doesn't always happen quickly, though). I've heard it said, "we should try to protect our children from danger, but not from adversity". Adversity makes us strong. But it hurts in the making.

Tomorrow the therapists come to my house. Stephen comes too, for a "dry run" to see what accommodations we need to make for him. As I said before, things are already in gear - ramps being planned, doors being widened, and furniture already moved. Looks like I will be the main nurse, cleaning wounds, wrapping legs, etc... Next week I will spend an entire day at Sunnyview training for the task ahead. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phil. 4:13.
I have never wanted to be a nurse, but, like greatness, "some are born nurses, some achieve nursing, and some have nursing thrust upon them". I fall into that last category. I would walk over glass or eat a soft boiled egg to get the man home. So wrap I will, with bells on.

Darling Tracy and Christina One-of-a-Kind came to visit Stephen tonite to play Euchre, one of his favorite card games. Any of you from the mid west would know the game. Brother John was up today too, with his sense of humor that doesn't quit, and his homemade ice cream that truly defies description. In the face of any trial, there's always ice cream.

The just and hard working assistant district attorneys visited Steve and I in the hospital tonite too. There's that whole other aspect to this terrible accident that is just beginning to press itself harder on my consciousness since the trauma occurred. The ADA's explained to us how this all works, legally speaking. How sad the whole thing is. In the end, nobody wins. So many lives turned upside down. I felt like I have before: like I wished with all my being that I could turn back the clock, and have them turn down a different road, and have the driver stay home, and so on and so on. In a fallen world, there are things that happen, that can't unhappen. Only the Great One can give them meaning and purpose. Only He can make "the crooked straight and the rough places plain."

It seems God doesn't always protect His children from adversity either. But it's never to harm them, only to make them strong in what really matters. Love. Kindness. Truth. Justice. I have a much more profound compassion for suffering people than I had before the accident. No credit to me, it's just what happens. And my suffering has been short lived compared to my dear friends walking the pilgrim road with disabled children, or children who have died, or broken marriages, or chronic diseases, or endless need- the list could continue for miles. It's a wonder anything works down here. When it does, we see a glimpse of reality. Someday, we'll understand that we are "spiritual beings having a physical experience." In the meantime we inhabit a strange land where bones are broken and hearts are too. But God sees to it we get plenty of glorious sunsets, and laughing babies, and... ice cream. Great is His mercy.

I want to close with the lyrics from the first few verses of a song from my high school musical, Anything Goes. If you can find the actual song on youtube, look it up. It's very clever and lots of fun, and I often think of it when I think of all of you. The song is by Cole Porter (fabulous!), and it's called "You're the Top":

At words poetic, I'm so pathetic That I always have found it best,
Instead of getting 'em off my chest, To let 'em rest unexpressed,
I hate parading my serenading, As I'll probably miss a bar,
But if this ditty is not so pretty, At least it'll tell you How great you are.
You're the top! You're the Coliseum.
You're the top! You're the Louver Museum.
You're a melody from a symphony by Strauss!
You're a Bendel bonnet, A Shakespeare's sonnet, You're Mickey Mouse.
You're the Nile, You're the Tower of Pisa,
You're the smile on the Mona Lisa
I'm a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop,
But if, baby, I'm the bottom you're the top!

You really are the top, my friends. I love you dearly.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Update 12/15/09 Day 37

Dear friends,

Frosty the Snowman is on the DVD. As usual, my kids are going to bed too late. I've accepted this TEMPORARILY. My goodness, how I love them! I am so blessed just to be with them, all together at home, watching that adorable fat snowman march around with his broom. Contentment is the word I'm looking for. I miss my man, and everything is not alright, but I am actually content tonite. It has been another whirlwind day, but it's just about over. And this night I am sleeping in my new bed! No more couch for this potato!

Stephen's leg is fine. The wound specialist took a look at it. She gave the thumbs up. He felt much better this morning. He's got some nerve, after all the energy I expended on worrying. "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ?" Matthew 6:27. The wisdom of that Book is stunning. So simple, so sure.

On Thursday, the "king of the castle" as Ralph Kramden would say, is making a test run to the house with the therapists to see what he needs here to accommodate his non-ambulatory status. The wheels are already in motion, and the amount of gray matter in the brain of Mark the Lion Hearted makes me wonder why he's not a nuclear scientist. He thinks of everything. I'm quite sure given enough time he could find the lost city of Atlantis. Terrific Tom has already begun ripping off my molding (I think he's going to fix it?), to widen doors for wheelchairs and walker contraptions. I'm actually applying for a handicapped parking permit, another new experience in the life of Loriann Smith. My daughter thinks I'm the one who needs it.

My chimney got swept today by Courageous Kevin and his junior sidekick. (By the way, how does a person sweep a chimney?) I was mad I wasn't here when he did it because I was going to make him sing and dance to "Step in Time", and I was going to be Julie Andrews. I love Julie Andrews. How in the world does she hit those high notes? Now isn't it ridiculously wonderful that God even provides an experienced chimney sweep to take care of that need. I'm telling you, the Great One is simply....well...GREAT.

Woot Woot, as Hannah and Lauren say! Hannah gets her teeth tomorrow. Now, lets all pray they fit ok. How I wish she still had her own precious teeth. But that option is not available to us, so I'm thankful for the new set.

Hannah was tutored in English today by the excellent Mrs. A. Miss Rejoice loves English. Isn't it a cause for a hurray, that 5 weeks ago the girl was intubated with a subdural hemorrhage, and today she's beginning to read The Odyssey? Woot Woot is right!

I had another house full of helpers today. The movers extraordinaire, the computer expert, the folks finishing my bedroom. Now when you visit, and I hope you do, you will think you have taken a left and wound up in a lodge in the Adirondacks. Not too many details, as Smitty is reading this blog and I want him to have his WOW moment. But needless to say, well, needless to say. (That's rare for me as I find very little needless to say. That is my problem. And my passion).

Time for a cookie, tea and then that wonderful new bed! Thank you for the prayers for Stephen's left leg. I appreciate the way you have stuck with me through this whole thing. I'm sticking to you like glue. Please pray for my dear sister-in-law Bettianne. In the midst of all this, and starting a new business, she just lost her dad. Thank God "weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning". We've got a mighty big God. Mighty good, too.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Monday, December 14, 2009

Update 12/14/09 Day 36

Dear friends,

Here's a sobering thought: Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." James 4:13-15

I certainly am not trying to greet you with a downer tonite, and I am definitely not preaching at you. This verse is for ME. I read this and can truly say I know the reality of it. I can tell you with certainty that a catastrophic car accident was not written in my planner for November 8, 2009. Since we don't know what will happen tomorrow, how much more essential that we live today with passion and purpose? Between the lines of making breakfast and going to bed, there are people who desperately need someone to care about them. I see them at Sunnyview, I saw them at Albany Med, and some of them live with us. They are EVERYWHERE. It's always "the Lord's will" to care about people. How remarkably you all have demonstrated that to me.

My home was like air traffic control today. Judy the Good on the phone, coordinating this, that and the other. Creative Cathy Rose painting the most beautiful bears and trees ever. Arlene the Terrific wrapping and baking cookies so my house would smell good. Other merry souls like Sally the Sweet and Fab Phyllis stopping in to help. Later, Dear Doreen played Mad Gab with Miss Rejoice while I visited Superman at Sunnyview. Can you stand it? And other names I did not mention are busy in the background, pushing the Smith family wagon up the mountain. I wish we could go downhill, and feel the wind in our faces. Maybe someday. Sigh.

Hannah is tackling her homework as I knew she would. Once an over achiever, always an over achiever. Catching up wasn't on her agenda either, but she is diligent, and doing the next right thing one day at a time. Dr. Hesham (trauma doc) was delighted when he saw her today. He told Miss Rejoice that he was sorry he had to "leave you for a little while to tend to your father". Tend he did.
Save his life would be the more accurate description.

Stephen was very tired tonite. He is really fighting to get strong enough to come home. Today he may have overdone it. His left leg was very swollen, and the skin graft looked kind of inflamed. The wound specialist will take a look at it tomorrow, but I am a little worried about that blasted left leg again. This was not on the calendar. There seem to be new humps when you get over old humps. Such is life. Sigh.

In the midst of it all, horror of horrors, Hannah can't find her phone charger. I must go now, because the sky is falling. Oh, she just found it. Life goes on. Sigh.

Listen, I wish I could make a cup of hot chocolate for every one of you who has slogged through this blog with me all along. Some nights I just can't write well. But I will continue to do so, regardless. Every day is a world of its own. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Only the Great One.

By the way, I had 6 bottles of Drano in the cellar.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Update 12/13/09 5 weeks since crash

Dear friends,

Don't be looking for any deep, meaningful thoughts in this post.

It was a school night, and I had to go to Walmart to get Drano for the bathroom sink. Joseph and David were at various points in their stalling routines, Hannah was working on mountains of geometry, and Donna the Loyal was here, tending to my finances. You do not want to be in Walmart at 10:15pm on a Sunday night. There are 2 cashiers, 3 crying babies, and lines from here to Schenectady. Why I couldn't let the sink stay clogged is a mystery to me. After a half hour in line and not many thoughts I'm very proud of (yes, even after something so terrible as a car accident I found I can still get annoyed by Walmart), I was able to extract myself from the store. Only to find they locked the door I came in, so I now have to walk around to the other door then through the parking lot. At home, Donna tells me how David, who I had assigned to floss his teeth, probably spent about the same amount of time doing so as I spent in line at Walmart. He was seemingly uninspired to floss and brush. Donna very gently approached him and asked him how he was doing. The young offspring explained he was flossing as he was told. She told him to "floss with conviction, and get it done". Yet another sentence not typically heard, but perfect to the core.

So it's quarter to twelve, and I'm committed to this blog so here I sit. Everyone is now safely ensconced in bed, and I am trying not to think about the many phone calls I have to make tomorrow. There are many details when you have 2 family members in a car wreck: medical appointments, educational appointments, legal issues, insurance issues, changing your house around for non ambulatory people issues, etc... But there's nothing I can do about any of it tonite. I'm quite sure HE who keeps the spheres in their orbits can control the Universe while I sleep. "Give no thought for the morrow, for the morrow will give thought to the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil therein." (Gotta love that King James for some verses!)

Can you believe all we've been through together these last 5 weeks? People almost died, then they could have gotten infections, then they could have lost limbs, then they might "never fully come back", then they started getting better, then they put one foot on their mountain, then another, and so it goes. Why in the world I got annoyed at Walmart is beyond me. Just the old human side of us, forgetting the miracles that are right before our eyes. I'm sorry, dearest Father in heaven! Bless those precious souls at Walmart!

I was thinking as I drove to Sunnyview today (a dangerous pastime, I know), that the sadness I feel about not having a "normal" Christmas is being experienced hundreds, thousands of times over and much more acutely by the dear folks with family members deployed overseas. They can't make a 40 minute drive to see their loved one. And there is danger ever present. Let's remember to pray for them, and if you are inclined there is a great way to practically support these brave folks. Steve and I did this last year, and it was a joy. You can find out more at www.adoptaplatoon.org.

Stephen and Hannah are alive and moving forward 5 weeks later. I may listen to Elvis singing "Blue Christmas" (no one sings it like him), and feel a little bit, well, blue. But for sure I am so incredibly happy and blessed that they are with us, and there resides within me a rock solid joy that wins out over the blues hands down. I wish I were an angel in Bethlehem, rocking the skies with "Glory to God in the Highest". Even that wouldn't adequately do.

I am thrilled to carry on with friends like all of you. I feel a little like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, when the great Samwise Gamgee says in effect "I may not be able to carry your burden, Frodo, but I can carry you." And he puts his friend over his shoulder and hauls him up the mountain to his destination. I've always loved that scene. Now I get to live it. Guess which part you play?

With great affection and gratitude on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Update 12/12/09 Day 34

Dear Friends,

Well, you've heard from the man himself. My favorite Hercules went to the computer at Sunnyview to send his love and greetings. Hopefully soon he'll be able to do that from his own house while he waits out the months ahead until his right side can weight bear. Today he hopped 30 feet. He slide-boarded himself off the wheelchair, and read half of a baseball book given to him by Big Brother Bill. This is all very good. In the land of calamity, there's light down the tunnel. And in it.

I simply must thank those Feathers' and Mighty Matt for the wonderful help with getting a bed. I so couldn't deal with searching, picking, sorting; all the stuff you usually have to do when you are shopping for a large furniture item. They made it so easy for me and so affordable, and I can't possibly say thank you enough. Stephen will rest his broken bones on a comfy bed, and I will rest my tired psyche on that same mattress.... Meanwhile, work on the downstairs room continues with Fab Phyllis dressing windows, Marvelous Mary Beth making pillow coverings and Creative Cathy Rose set to paint bears and pine cones on Monday. The big boys will move my dressers and other furniture and I'll be in tip top shape for a homecoming. That room is just one of the outward expressions of the radical love that surrounds me. I know all of you that are coming to my aid are dealing with your own problems, and that you have health issues, family issues, financial issues, etc..., but you still come. I love you for it.

I still haven't got the blue candles in the windows, and the tree isn't completely decorated, but Christmas has come to the Smith house. Jesus lives here with us, despite our foul ups, mess ups, and mix ups. We are ordinary people, with an extraordinary Savior. In the past 35 days He has come through like the all time, undisputed, undefeated champion of love that He is. You are the living proof of that truth.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Stephen's Update 12/12/09

Hello from the trenches! This is Stephen, just wanting to say hello and thank everyone for the incredible outpouring of support that my whole family has been receiving since the accident happened. Prayers, meals, yard work, child care, hugs - it's been beautiful to see the way people have come together and stood with my precious family. I've been trying to work hard so that I can be home with them soon, but it's blessed me beyond words to see all that's happened since that night I was nearly called home. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for all your prayers, your kind thoughts and your incredibly helpful actions. As my wife has said (in her wonderfully written posts), so much has been done for us and given to us that we could never pay it back, so we will attempt to pay it forward. We love you all!
Stephen

Friday, December 11, 2009

Update 12/11/09 Day 33

Dear friends,

Tonite I am wiped out. Way over tired. Sister Laurie got me shopping today (great success!), the marvelous policemen came to go over the accident report (wow, that was a BAD accident), and we took a trip to Sunnyview as a family to eat pizza and watch Christmas specials with Stephen (see photo). My brother and Steve's were in attendance, and I know he was delighted having all of us there for a little Christmas spirit. I got a tad misty during the Claymation Christmas when "Joy to the World" came on. Isaac Watt wrote that song at age 15! My favorite verse is "He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove, the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love, and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders of His love!" Looking at the accident report, and finding out that Hannah was in a tiny "pocket" in the car, almost a space where the whole car collapsed around her keeping her from being completely smashed up, makes the words of that song more meaningful than they have ever been. I stand amazed once again.

Tomorrow Judy the Good takes me bed shopping. Our 21 year old mattress will not cut it for the six million dollar man. (Who remembers that show)? Remember the slogan. "A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Smith will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster." Thanks to WAY cool Richard and Melissa for the fabulous sweatshirt!

Lisa the Strong and Jodi the Caring finished painting the bedroom for our move downstairs. To say it looks mighty great is an understatement. Joanne the Dear came and helped too, and even left me some darling black bears (not real ones!) for the new Adirondack room. Every time I step in that room I'll be reminded of the loving kindness lavished on me by all of you, each in your own way. That room will be a refuge from insurance company papers (I've gotten many), and the hard work of therapy (the man is pushing himself and will have to keep doing so for many months), and the daily trials you and I face in the course of living on a broken planet.

The dishwasher is humming, my dental floss is calling, and I'm thinking about "the wonder of it all". Funny how you can be so earthbound, with a growling stomach or the need to sleep or washing the pizza grease off your hands, and at the same time so aware of how this world is not our home. We were meant for another place, where love always rules the day, and there are no hurt feelings or hurt bodies or wounded souls. Jesus came to earth and experienced all our earthy stuff, so he could buy us back for God. That's what Christmas is all about, that place where heaven invaded earth so earth could invade heaven. Incredible. I'll never understand it all, but I embrace the mercy with all my heart.

I love you like crazy, my friends. Every one of you is so much more than flesh and blood. Be encouraged to know "He raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David..."
Luke 1:69.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cosette, the world's best cat

Cosette, (AKA Cozy), the world's best cat. She has experienced a bit of trauma too from spending too much time home alone. Slightly emotionally disturbed, but still fabulous!

Update 12/10/09 Day 32

Dear friends,

I forgot to mention this from yesterday. It was quite the sight, and just another vignette from the movie version of this wild ride. I asked Joseph if he would snow blow the driveway. He said he kind of remembered what to do, so he gave it a whirl. Well, things weren't going so well, when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but Mark C., delivering a meal from the Our Savior's family, wearing his nice suit and coat and hardly dressed for snow blowing. But snow blow he did. He instructed Joseph in the finer points, but he himself did the "hard part". Thank you brother Mark! It seems God keeps sending me people at just the right time, but apparently they don't get the memo about dress code!

Stephen hopped 28 feet today. Then, I watched him do his pivot and stand and the very difficult strengthening exercises required to help him recover. As my friend Jackie would say, good gravy! I didn't realize until I witnessed it how much work this is for Steve. It's like a full time job to go through all the daily therapies. He really is beat at the end of the day, but no less determined to do it better tomorrow. I am in awe of the way God put the human body and soul together. They heal, they strengthen and they grow in endurance through exercise. You've got to work the thing, whether it's a muscle or your faith, if you want it to get strong. The raw material is a gift, but you've got to move it. How many times I haven't! That's where His grace and mercy are are like the physical therapists; encouraging, stretching, engaging us to go further. OK, enough with the analogies...

Hannah is playing the piano right now, making up her own beautiful tune. Music is so therapeutic for some people, especially creative ones like her. I could cry just listening to the longing in the melody she is playing. I can't help but believe too, that music is medicine for the brain. It certainly is for the spirit.

Tomorrow we plan to buy pizza and visit Steve in the evening, and watch a couple of Christmas specials with him. I can't wait to see Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck and the great Sydney Greenstreet. That one may have to wait since it's a little long for a hospital room viewing. We'll probably stick with The Claymation Christmas (a family favorite) and The Year Without a Santa Claus, (that's the one with Heat Miser and Cold Miser). It would be more comfy in our own living room, but we'll all be together and I can sit in the Mets chair. Hannah can bring her lap quilt made by the kind Mrs. W., and perhaps we could smuggle in Cosette for the added coziness factor...(only kidding Sunnyview friends!)

So tonight, with great joy in my heart for my living, breathing kin, and astonishment over the stunning work of God through these past 32 days, and with endless thanksgiving for each one of you, I leave you with a Christmas quote by a most important fellow:

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more..." ~Dr. Seuss

It certainly does, Mr. Grinch.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Update 12/9/09 Day 31

Dear friends,

Proverbs 4:10 puts it this way: "If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" Thank you for all the friendly visits to see Stephen in the hospital. Tonite the faithful Jim kept Steve up to date on the business of the day. Mark the Lion Hearted, Brian the Thoughtful and Gary the Profound made his day as an entourage of encouragement. Brian the Thoughtful actually called the Mets corporate offices, told them of Stephen's challenge, and asked what they might be able to do for him. Well, he got a Mets hat, tee shirt, K-Rod bobble head, mini model of Citi Field, a David Wright bag, and the icing on the cake: a baseball signed by David Wright himself. I am so grateful for all of you who have shlepped up to Sunnyview in the uncharted territory of Schenectady to bring some cheer to my husband's rather restricted life. Your name may not be on this list, but you know who you are, and so does the Great One. You have been those Proverbs friends who have helped their friend get up. And there's more getting up to do. Literally.

Today the man hopped with his contraption for 10 feet. Then he hopped another 13! Let's hear it for the boy! In OT, the therapist littered the floor with laundry, and made Steve wheel himself with his 1 good arm and steer with his left leg to pick up all the clothes. He did it. It was exhausting, but it got done. When he comes home I'll be glad to give him all the laundry therapy he wants....

Hannah is lined up to see the neuro psychologist tomorrow at Sunnyview. They will continue to evaluate her progress as we travel through time. It's so hard on her not being in school. She is very frustrated and understandably impatient. The doctors are all looking to protect her, but it's hard to see that when you're 14. Some things I simply can't share here, but I ask for lots of prayer for Hannah right now. And me. And our relationship.

Meanwhile, Cosette, the world's best cat, has gone mad. She was so attention starved while we were in the hospital that I think she flipped her feline lid. She is all over us all the time. I try to type at the computer, she's practically laying on the keyboard. I sit at the table, she's up on it (a new and unacceptable habit). And while I'm sleeping on the couch (so the bedroom can be prepared for the darling husband) she's taking up half my space. I love my lap cat, but this is a bit ridiculous! Hannah wants to get a kitten. I think now is not the time...NOT the time. I'll try to post a photo of the great Cosette, as soon as I can get someone to show me how. I guess Cozy got a little traumatized too during this whole thing. Still, to be a cat and sleep most of the day....

I put the manger scene up today. It's so peaceful, with the white lights around it. But think about it, was it really all that peaceful in real life? Unmarried pregnant girl (a punishable offense in those days), young man trying to explain the unexplainable, exhausted from travelling, getting a place to stay by the skin of their teeth, in a crowded, backwoods town, giving birth in a place fit for animals, no earthly help, no running water, no hospital. Sounds like stress to me. Jesus came to a world that was a mess. He came to forgive the sins of broken fallen people like me. I am so incredibly grateful He wasn't looking for good people, but for lost people. "The people living in darkness have seen a great light..." He entered into my mess these past 31 days, and has been faithful through it all.

Time to restore the brain cells with one of Pastor Greg's favorite pastimes: SLEEP! I'm jonesin' for 8 hours. If I get 6 I'll be ok. One of these days I'm going for a whole afternoon of nothing but slumber. Thank you all for everything. I know you love me, and I hope you feel it coming right back at you.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann