Two months ago we received a call from my niece in Thomaston, Georgia. My nephew wanted me to call him for an update on my brother who was in ICU, following an emergency surgery to remove his gallbladder. After a second surgery to stop my brother’s hemorrhaging the surgeon told my nephew, “One of his systems is shutting down (they did not know which one, and could not go back in for a third surgery because of the risk with his heart); we will do all we can to make him comfortable.” Jerry and I drove down that afternoon prepared for the worst. My brother stayed in ICU for three weeks, during which time his kidneys and liver failed, blood circulation was limited to his feet and legs, he suffered a mild heart attack, was given a form of morphine for pain, and antibiotics for infection. The second week of his stay at Upson Medical we drove down, again prepared for a funeral. After being moved from ICU to a private room for a few days he was moved to Roosevelt Rehabilitation Center in Warm Springs.
My nephew had told me about my brother’s toes turning black—gangrene was the result of a lack of circulation. Their family doctor told us that it was possible that with dry gangrene my brother’s toes would simply dry up and fall off. My nephew and I both thought that this was ridiculous. We had never heard of such a thing. And I never wanted to see those toes—I had seen enough skin tissue turn black before Jerry had his leg amputated five years ago.
We visited my brother the day after he was moved to Warm Springs. He was slumped in a wheel chair—the first time I had seen him out of bed. His feet were bandaged, but his black toes were exposed. Though I was standing in front of him and he was looking straight at me he still did not see me. The shot the nurse had just given him for pain was so that they could get him back to bed and give him a bath; and since he still could not get in and out of bed on his own he had to moved with a sling and a lift. I stayed for a while, but the nurse’s guess that he would be awake after his bath was wrong. He was “out of it;” and even though they only gave him a weaker pain reliever the next day he still did not know that I was there.
Days later my nephew related to me that he had watched the nurses turn his dad in the bed. It was easy to hear the sadness in his voice when he said, “Aunt Fran, he’s an invalid.” We have both come to realize that invalids can still live a productive life with the help of those who are stronger than they are. We have very distinctly seen our prayers answered. We did not pray for him to live except according to God’s will. He would have been merciful to take him to Himself because of his former health problems.
My brother was moved to Providence Nursing Home in Thomaston on his 80th birthday, August 8, where he is still dependent on the nurses and a sling; but he is talking, feeding himself, going through rehab and watching his toes gradually shrinking. Thursday when I visited him I thought again that I could avoid them; but no, I had to adjust his boots for him. The nurses there have never seen such a “ridiculous” thing. This thing of which many people have never heard has turned into a work of God’s grace for many to see. When I visited him this week my brother related to me that “the Lord has kept me here; He must have something else for me to do.”
From the time of Adam’s disobedience God’s records show the whole human race as “INVALID.” We all became invalids after the Fall. We are of no use to ourselves or anyone else; least of all to God. We can’t even turn ourselves. “Dead in trespasses and sins” we are unable to even see, think, or speak anything that makes sense. If my brother could “will” it he would be on his feet, walking. His toes are already in the grave. But for the mercy and grace of God his whole life would have been snuffed out. We have enough evidence—according to the records—that he was at the point of death more than once.
All this has reminded me several times of the sufficient grace — the powerful grace — of our Father, His Son, and His Holy Spirit to do the impossible, the thing that we cannot do. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot give ourselves “Life.” We cannot even think of what that means, except by the working of His grace to effectually, and effectively reveal our invalid condition, regenerate a new heart within us for a valid faith and repentance—by His own goodness turning us to Himself through the authority of His Word and the power of His Holy Spirit.
Our family would not choose to go through these episodes again. I recall saying to my nephew when my brother got through the first week, “God has something to teach us here.” My brother is not out of the woods yet, but the Lord has given us much of his valid grace to go on for a long time; and a greater desire to experience this grace for the rest of our lives—for His glory and our joy.