It's been five days since I stepped out of the black hole of beds and beeping monitors and I still can't get the smell of sanitized plastic out of my hair. It's slathered on thick and I'm afraid that "repeat if necessary" on the shampoo bottle is full of bullshit & false promises. The post-ICU hangover is hell on my body and it's been over a week since I've slept uninterrupted by nightmares and what day is it again? I've seen the sun rise and set a few times now and I'm finally learning to tell the difference between the two.
I'm convinced that God bends the time-space continuum when you step into Intensive Care for the first time. Doctors and nurses buzz by and somehow the screens around the room know how you feel and they show you, with their spiked peaks and valleys of uncontrollable emotion. You swear they're monitoring the patient in the bed hooked up to the tubes and pumps, but those peaks and valleys... they beep at you constantly, reminding you of your own instability.
Moving. Everyone seems to be moving somewhere, doing something, but all you can do is stand there and stare, damming back the faucet behind your eyelids and jamming your heart back down your throat and into its rightful place in your chest. I felt myself go sheet-white a few times and tried to remind myself "don't lock your knees."
You blink for the first time and you look at the clock. Six hours have passed and the nurses are changing shifts. Didn't you just walk in? The same kid is in the same damn bed and the tubes are still there and your dad is still crying.
All the hand sanitizer in the world can't keep you from the despair and desperation.
Somehow, I find a sturdy canvas tarp and rope it down over my heart & keep it from bursting and bubbling over. I become a machine, or maybe something made of stone. Anything without visible emotion. My husband is hundreds of miles away and I need something to keep me upright.
I quickly realize I need to be that person for myself, because God, wherever He is, doesn't feel close enough to lean on in that moment.
So, I shut down.
The hard part about shutting down is starting back up again.
Five days later and the suppression of emotion has exhausted me physically. I'm home now, in Salt Lake City, where I can sleep late between the sheets of my own bed and leisurely drink coffee while my pen scratches notes in my journal... where I'm safe to remove the tarp from my heart and really let it out while Ryan rests in his own room out of ICU and slowly lets his body & mind heal, too.
I posted this photo on Facebook the other day, with the caption below.
From Point A to Point B in seven days. Try to tell me there is no God, I'll show you this picture every time.
I look at that picture over and over again. It's tattooed on my mind and the words tumble through my tired heart. I know - like I know my own skin - that I witnessed a miracle in the healing of my brother. I know that the God I believe in - the God I claim as true - saved Ryan's life and I will shout it from the rooftops with every chance I get.
But I question the depth of my faith over a glass of red wine tonight. If that picture had a different outcome, would I still proclaim God's mercy and goodness? Would I still believe there is a God and He is good?
These questions claw their way out from underneath the tarp and this is part of my starting back up - being reminded of my own fragility and shallow faith.
I spent five and half days at the bedside of my brother when he was in ICU and I barely prayed... I had the chaplain do it for me a few times because I just couldn't make out the words... and I let the prayers of hundreds of others buoy me to the surface so I wouldn't sink into irretrievable darkness. I didn't crack open my Bible once, even though in easier times, I would claim out loud that His Word sustains me.
I'm running my finger along the edge of the wine glass... I'm hard on myself and I know it. Ryan is healing, on the mend, and God is still God, and my insecurity or lack of faith doesn't change the Truth.
So tonight, I'm going to crack open the Bible and scratch out prayers on a few journal pages and remind myself that God was, is, and always will be.
In or out of the ICU.