Sometime in March I started to talk to Alif about his Birthday. I started by suggesting we have four or five families from church over for a barbecue. That was met with a resounding NO! Fine, I said, can we just have one family over for dinner? Still NO. He is not a person who likes attention, especially in groups, so his reaction wasn't surprising.
Well, he got his way. On April 21, 2011 he turned 37 and slept through the entire day. Then again, he did have lots of visitors that day, and my sister brought balloons and signs and we decorated his room. We also put cards all over the wall. Most were from children. Children of families where he'd done work ("thanks for making almost our whole house"), kids from Awana, of course from our own kids. I read him each one before putting it on the wall.
We talked to him as though he could fully hear us, because I truly believed (and still believe) that he could. It was so important to me to fill his mind with truth, hope, humor and love because I had no feedback - no way of knowing what he was thinking about and feeling. I think it helped to keep my spirits up too, especially the book I prayed over him numerous times a day.
I can't remember how it came about, but we knew on this day that Alif was having a CT scan of his brain. That evening around 6:00 Jan, Rabae and I went into the nurses' station in the ICU with Dr. H, our neurologist. He sat in a swivel chair and worked to get a computer screen to show the results of the scan. I stood nervously with my arms crossed, Jan's arm around my shoulders.
Finally the screen opened up and there I could see a brain. At first it just looked like any other brain, but then Dr. H started to scroll through different views and even my untrained eye could see that there were problems. Dr. H told us that when Alif's mitral valve had become infected, pieces of that infection - vegetation - had broken off, entered the bloodstream, and showered into his body - mostly into his brain, causing many, many strokes. One side of the brain showed a very large stroke. The other side showed a large bleed. There was damage to the brain stem. There was damage all over his brain.
I couldn't take in what any of this meant. I listened question-less to his descriptions, which he delivered matter-of-factly but with an obviously somber attitude. The gravity of the situation could not be missed. Jan spoke for me, asking questions that would help me to absorb what he was saying. I think I asked a question or made a comment to the effect of, "so? We can deal with deficits," to which Dr. H replied, "I do not believe he will be able to speak. Walk. Talk. Breathe. If he were my age, I would give him absolutely no chance at all. At his age, his chances are terrible."
His chances are terrible.
His chances are terrible.
Those words, combined with the images in my mind of the giant stroke(s) and bleeding, are burned in my mind forever. They bring tears to my eyes even now. It was genuinely the worst moment of my life. We had been fighting for my husband's life for five days. I'd been told two times already that he would likely not survive. This time felt much more final. He had been through so much, his body was so, so sick, so weak. And now his mind, too.
Jan, Rabae and I left the ICU and as we walked down the hallway the tears started flowing. The youth pastors from our church had just arrived, and as I made my way down the hall flanked by Jan and Rabae, the thought struck me that Cory and Mikey surely thought Alif hadn't made it.
The three of us went down the hall to a quiet waiting area. I let my chest and head fall and wept. I don't know how long I cried, but it was a long time. I was thinking of my kids - how would I tell my kids their Daddy would never be coming home? I thought of the special bond Alif has with Canaan and wondered if God gave them that because He knew they would only have four short years together. I begged God, "Please, please! I don't want this to be their testimony! I know you can do amazing things through this but it's not what I want for them, God! Please don't take their Daddy. Please!"
The youth pastors came in and prayed over us. I continued to cry.
That night I wrote in my journal, "devastating news about Alif's CT scan."