Monday, January 12, 2015

What My Parents Taught Me from Their Hospital Beds

My Parents -- Beautiful, Strong and Healthy
When I was young, I expected to learn things from my parents. Etiquette, social skills, spiritual lessons even. In my teens, during my college years and even throughout my twenties, I still expected my parents to teach me much about life. 

However, in my middle-age, I thought my parents' school of life had finally shut its doors. I knew they still had a lot of wisdom that I'd continue to glean from, but I didn't expect their thoughts, their words to impact me on any deep level.

How wrong I was...

I just spent four weeks in Maryland with my parents, watching both of them age before my eyes. I traveled there on Sunday, December 14, after hearing that my Mom had become so sick, she'd been transferred to ICU. Her body had gone into septic shock, and her organs were failing, one-by-one.

I boarded a plane a few hours later, praying that I could see my Mom alive one more time. Praying that I could tell her how much I love her. Praying that I could say goodbye.

God was so sweet to me. Each of my planes was one-third empty, affording me the solitude I needed to think and pray and weep. 

During my travels I kept texting my sisters to make sure my Mom was hanging on. I kept praying that she would.

And she did.

I remember feeling grateful that she'd made it long enough for me to see her alive one more time. That I'd been able to hold her hand. Rub her hair. Kiss her forehead. Tell her I loved her. Sit side-by-side with my Dad and my sisters, staring at her motionless body - unaware, sedated, breathing with the help of a ventilator. 

I was grateful for those short, precious moments that turned into hours... The hours that turned into days.

Then I got greedy. 

I started praying that my Mom's health would improve. That she would speak again. That she would eventually breathe on her own. That she would rise from that million-dollar, state-of-the-art hospital bed. 

It was days before Christmas, and I found myself praying for a Christmas miracle. And slowly, but surely, I began witnessing miracles - one-by-one.

The first miracle was my Mom's lab results improved. At this point she had a specialist for every organ. Each one told us the same story. "Her kidneys look better..." "Her pancreas is improving..." "Her liver is almost normal again..." Etc. etc. Watching my mother, we couldn't tell she was improving. Her kidneys were better, but they still weren't working. She'd begun having dialysis three times a week. 

It was hard to believe the doctors' reports, but what choice did we have?

One of her nurses said, "She's taking baby steps towards improvement." Baby steps. Not much, but at least they were in the right direction. I kept hoping, even with the setbacks she experienced. 

After my mother had been in ICU for a week, we experienced another setback. My father, who'd been with me at the hospital all day and evening, who'd been so strong -- even as he cried tears of worry for my mother -- had to be rushed to the hospital after a terrible fall. He'd become dehydrated and exhausted after a bout of stomach flu and had passed out at home.

I couldn't believe it. Exactly a week before, I'd rushed to be with my mother in ICU. Now my Daddy was being rushed to the hospital. He had to have emergency surgery to remove four spurs on his spine - an unknown degenerative condition that was exasperated by his fall. 

It was three days before Christmas, and life was twisting and turning beyond belief.

The next three weeks were full of visits to two different hospitals, doctors' reports, blood tests, medical procedures and surgeries. And lots and lots of meals in hospital cafeterias.

They were also full of laughter, funny stories and visits from family and friends. They were full of hope. And love. And lots and lots of prayers. 

One day I'll share a lot more...

For now, I want to share a few things I've learned from my parents during this dark, difficult season. These lessons will take several days to share... I don't even know how many days I'll need. I guess I'll play it by ear.

For now, I'll start with lesson #1 - honoring your parents. This is no new lesson. It's even written in the Ten Commandments. "Honor thy father and thy mother..." 

I grew up in a generation that focused a lot on family dysfunction and the imperfections of our childhoods. We entered adulthood determined to "right the wrongs" that we'd experienced. We would love our children better. We would be healthier, holier and more together. 

And then life happened. We realized we get it wrong too. We feed our children organic fruit, but they still prefer M&M's and those God-forsaken gummy worms. We nurture our children, talk with them eyeball-to-eyeball, and some of them still struggle with loneliness and depression. We teach them to not only attend church and Sunday school, but to begin a relationship with Jesus... but they're still prone to wander and stray. 

As my husband Anthony says so often, "We're all jacked up." We often joke about starting a "counseling fund" for our kids -- a stash that they can tap into for the counseling they'll need to work through all the ways we've messed them up.

Humility goes a long way towards appreciating the parents God gave you. We all screw it up sometimes. I am eternally grateful for the many ways my parents got it right.

So with this series of blog posts, I want to honor Carl and Merlene Adair, my precious, loving parents. They got so much right. They've taught me so much. And this past month I've learned enough lessons from them to fill ten books. But I'll narrow those lessons down to a week's worth of blog posts.

I hope you'll join me for each one.

Until then... if your parents are still with us, tell them you love and admire them. Tell them you're grateful for all they got right. Tell them there's no way you'd be the person you are without them.

And most of all... thank the Lord for them.


  1. What a beautiful post. Loved reading it!

    1. Thank you so much Mrs. Pedersen! Blessings to you!

  2. Wonderful Carla, you are so gifted. I thank God for you.

    1. Thank you for reading Deep Waters and for your very kind words, Lisa. I thank God for you as well.

  3. What a wonderful post. Walking through multiple brain tumors with my father, I know that "greediness" that you speak of. For ultimate, immediate, miraculous healings. Yet God has a better plan. We just have to trust in Him. And be thankful for each day and memory we have been blessed with... and like Pastor A says- we are all jacked up :)

    1. Thank you Miriam! You are right - we must trust our Heavenly Father with our earthly parents. He loves them more than we possibly could. Blessings to you, Friend.

  4. Carla, I do not spend a lot of time on FB these days. You really touched my heart with your blog. I assisted my mom with caring for my dad as he journeyed through dementia, a resurgence of cancer, and kidney failure prior to his death. It was not easy, but as I reflect back I am grateful for those precious moments I was granted to serve and grow in my walk with our Lord. During the time of my dad's illness and death I became really ill. As I battled many stressors my health declined. I continue to struggle daily with exacerbations of Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, Osteoarthritis, Chronic Myofascial Pain, etc. My mom has been living with us for almost 2 years now. She has dementia and numerous other ailments. Our existence once again is extremely stressful. As I type I am cognitively impaired, very foggy, feeling pain, and I am experiencing debilitating fatigue. A friend who knows about all we are enduring wrote me a lengthy letter of encouragement. She included a dvd series and a cd series. The dvd's are entitled Suffering And The Sovereignty Of God by R.C. Sproul Jr. The set of cd's is by Dr. Charles Stanley. We have been watching the dvd's, and what a tremendous blessing they have been. Please know that we are praying for you and we care. Please find comfort in knowing that as you go through this time of mourning He is with you. R.C. Sproul shared these words as I listened this morning. "Whatever we go through Jesus goes through because He is with us. He suffers with us. He holds us in His hands weeping with us because He feels our sorrow. We go together with God through the valley of the shadow of death." I was saddened to hear of the loss of your dad. We will continually pray for all of you and especially your mom.

    1. Sis. Pat Robinson, thank you so much for sharing your story. I've heard so many others speak of caring for aging parents and how difficult a season it can be. Your reminder that God is with me through the loss of my Dad and my Mom's illness is very timely. And He is with you through your illness, pain and struggles as well. Many blessings to you, and hang in there Sis.