So much has happened in the past month to destroy us, our marriage, and our faith. Through it all, God prevails.
It started with a hurricane. Thankfully, hurricane Irene shot further north at the last second, so its real destructive force missed us, but was now aimed directly at where my dad lives, in Virginia Beach, VA.
He called me on Friday needing somewhere to evacuate to. Our place was perfect, being safely far enough and geographically close enough to his place. The only problem was that my wife wasn’t feeling well and her ailments seemed to be related to the pregnancy.
The plan was for dad to leave Virginia Beach on Saturday morning at around 6:00am, and arrive at our home around 9:30-10:00am. I’d be at work until 2:00pm. That’s not what happened.
Mrs. linville woke me up at around 2:20am in extreme pain. She was bleeding heavily. I called my Aunt Sandy who had been through a miscarriage. She also just so happened to be married to a doctor, and the man who had delivered five of their six children at home, my Uncle Tim.
They comforted us well, provided us with things to expect, and assured us that, based on my wife’s symptoms, there was presently no need to go to the hospital. I was relieved to hear that for Mrs. linville’s sake, as well as for the sake of our finances because we have no health insurance. The morning crept on. Mrs. linville struggled through the pain. I emailed my boss telling him that I would not be coming into work that day.
More than anything else I did, staying home to simply be near my wife did more for her than the strongest of pain pills. I can grasp that now, but at the time I wanted something tangible to fix. Something objective to deal with. So I did research on my bride’s symptoms, which kept me busy enough to satisfy my growing sense of helplessness as my wife suffered before my eyes.
Her pain came in waves. She was so exhausted that during the down times she would pass out asleep. I held her hand and prayed. A part of me felt that this simple task benefited her in no way; that praying for her was more about making me feel better. Amazingly, God had prepared me for just such a moment. Only 2 days ago I had participated in a men’s Bible Study that specifically dealt with whether or not our prayers actually affect change. I learned in preparing for this study and during this study that the Bible speaks very plainly about how our prayers certainly do affect change in the world (Matthew 6:10), in the lives of others (John 17:9), and in our own hearts (Philippians 4:6-7).
Recalling these words of Scripture was like being filled with living light. The hope that accompanied them was so needed and delightful. I may be helpless, but God is ever helpful and able to intervene (Ephesians 3:20).
So my prayers continued on earnestly. The morning finally blew in, Mrs. linville seemed to be in amiable spirits, and my dad arrived. We enjoyed the McDonalds breakfast he brought us and then the power went out. Somewhat surprised, we looked out our 15ft windows to see nothing but a windy day. Why had we lost power? There were obviously innumerable reasons, but my frustration robbed me of such helpful logic.
It was nice having Dad safe with us, even though his chosen refuge now proved somewhat lacking. The Smith(s) joined us with some snacks and games shortly after the black out. We played Apples to Apples, my wife answered the phone (many called to check on her) until it died, and everyone enjoyed the deep leisurely conversation that stems from having nothing but conversation to pass the time. Initially, it was wonderful. Eventually, it was not. If electricity were a drug, then we were addicts, and our addiction led us to abandon our place for another.
As the night approached our powerless palace, we called up the Hilliard(s). Always ready to serve, they unhesitatingly welcomed us over. The Smith(s) and the linville(s) (including my dad), headed over for a fun night of food and fellowship. Claire made a delicious meal for everyone and we all had a splendid time playing Dicecapades. By 11:30pm the air outside had cooled down, we bid farewell to our hospitable Hilliard(s) and headed home.
The night passed restlessly. The windows had remained opened all day, even while it rained; and as the sun set, the temperature dropped, and the wind blew, I awoke with yet another frustration. I could barely swallow. My throat was sore and swollen. Yippee.
Thankfully, no one else had suffered likewise. At least, not as far as I could tell. My Dad had been unable to sleep, so he packed up and headed home very early that morning. When he arrived, everything about his place was fine, even the power. The eye of the hurricane went directly over his condo, and he had power. I’m not bitter.
We skipped church since my bride was still experiencing some relatively serious pain and I was now sick. Unable to really prepare any food, we rested around the apartment until our hunger moved us. Craving breakfast food, we visited the new Waffle House in Wake Forest for lunch. Delicious.
Not wanting to return to our uncooled dwelling during the hottest part of the day, we ventured forth to public places with AC, namely, the Triangle Town Center Mall. We tried to walk around, but that proved to be unhelpful for my wife. So, we sat around, got some Dairy Queen chocolate dipped cones, watched people, laughed, and headed home.
We host one of the many small groups that make up Treasuring Christ Church. Even if we don’t make it to church, we always try to keep our home available as a meeting place. Thus, we headed home to get everything ready for the evening. It was only after we had cleaned up that we remembered that everyone was meeting at Joyner Park. We were okay with that. It’s always nice having a clean home, especially when no one is feeling well.
Checking the cooler that was preserving our perishables, we realized that we needed to find a working refrigerator fast. The Hilliard(s) were happy to oblige, and, before I hung up, I remembered to inquire for the Smith(s) as well. After speaking with the Smith(s) I called the Hilliard(s) back to inform them of Ross’s desire to prepare them dinner with some chicken he needed to cook. The Hilliard(s) were delighted and we all headed over…again.
Desiring to increase my cooking skills, I helped Ross prepare the chicken. I’d never before taken a whole chicken apart and took this opportunity to let loose my inner butcher. It was fun, albeit messy. Ross took over once the dirty work was done and seasoned away, creating an incredible gastronomical masterpiece out of some rather poorly butchered poultry. The final result was scrumptious.
Hunger temporarily assuaged, the Smith(s) took to studying and everyone else took to watching Tim Burton’s movie: Corpse Bride. I’d already seen it and consequentially spaced out through it, thinking about whether to take the Hilliard(s) up on their offer to stay the night, or deal with another muggy night at home. If my wife was suffering, she hid it flawlessly; so I was planning on going to work the next day and knew it would be more convenient to do so from my own dwelling. But, I also knew that I’d get a better night’s sleep in the Hilliard(s) artificial atmosphere. Twas a pickle.
Fortunately for me, the pickle was eaten, for shortly after Corpse Bride, our power returned. Yay! Getting ready for work would be so much easier now! So, with a final farewell from our hilarious Hilliard(s), we returned to our wonderfully wired homes. Everything seemed to indicate that this ordeal was over, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
At first, Mrs. linville sounded as though she were far, far away, down a long tunnel. Something about her voice was wrong. Danger! My tired exhausted mind dropped a huge dose of adrenaline into my system. My hearing sharpened. I jerked upright, taking in a huge breath. Reaching out to find her in the darkness, it felt like my hand passed right through her since I had aimed in the direction of her voice. Then I realized I had reached over her, seeing now that she was doubled over on the bed.
Danger! My heart was racing. I began to ask her if she was okay when I was suddenly interrupted by a heart shattering sob. She rocked back and forth weeping. I put my hand on her back to let her know I was awake and there for her. The next sob was worse, deeper, almost guttural, and much louder. It hit me that she’d been holding back to keep from waking me. My darling wife, suffering in the darkness in unimaginable pain, was still putting herself last.
I fought my own tears back. Controlled my voice. Spoke with assurance. I let her know that everything would be okay. I held her. But something was different. Saturday mornings episode seemed to be painful, but this seemed to be excruciating. Cold sweat covered her body. Tremors passed through her frequently. Her cries were like those of someone dying. My heart stopped. Was my bride going to die?
She seemed in a trance and I needed her to communicate with me. She spoke in short broken sentences, but she confirmed my initial thoughts immediately: that this was different from before. There was so much blood! It didn’t take long to see that she needed to go to the emergency room. The Cooper(s) lovingly agreed to sit in our place while baby linville slept (and to feed him once he awoke), so off we went.
My wife had delivered baby linville at Rex Hospital and her OB/GYN office was there, so that’s where we ended up. By this point it was 2:00am. Telling the attendant at the check in desk, a total stranger, that my wife was bleeding profusely and was probably having a miscarriage was harder than I thought. Saying those words hurt my heart. Everything became concrete, cold, and undeniable in hearing it. I had to accept this. I was not dreaming in a nightmare. I was living in one.
The nurse behind the desk assured me that she’d take care of my bride and that I should go park the car. When I returned my wife had been moved behind the ER doors and into a hallway. When the nurse buzzed the doors to open, I gasped. my wife’s head was completely back, eyes closed, lips pale blue, and beneath her wheelchair was a pool of blood. I’d only been four minutes! As calmly as I could I screamed, “Why is she still sitting here!?” The nurse came around to quiet me and assure me she’d be helped as soon as possible, but when she saw my wife, she quickly turned, muttering a surprised, “oh-my-gosh,” and hit a button. My wife was in a room in seconds.
What I didn’t realize was that “hitting the button” had a down side: you get the sleepy nurse who was just about to go home. It was good that Mrs. linville was finally on a bed and hooked up, but this nurse was so sleepy that she had to get two pairs of gloves three times (she kept dropping them). Furthermore, she seemed more put off by all the blood than I did, making Mrs. linville change twice before she realized, “oh, this girls just gonna keep making these gowns bloody.” When she knocked an entire tray of supplies over, I began to get a little frustrated.
Nevertheless, she was relieved shortly by someone on the other end of the spectrum, Julie (RN), who did a wonderful job taking care of my wife and getting her prepared for the doctor. Dr. Segal was also excellent: very forthright with us about what was happening to my wife, what it meant, and what our options were in proceeding. He gave us his professional opinion, but didn’t pressure us to do anything. In the end, we can look back and know that our decision was our decision.
As Mrs. linville was taken away for an ultrasound, my own emotional pain set in. “Still a family of three,” kept running through my mind, usually followed by a deafening ‘why!?’ despite my deeply rooted knowledge of God’s sovereignty. I’m amazed I didn’t pass out standing right there. I was sick, mind-numbingly exhausted, and spiritually spent. In short, my flesh had free reign over my soul, and by my sinful heart I was beaten down with every horrible thought imaginable. “You didn’t pay attention.” “You missed the signs.” “You could’ve prevented this.” “You’re stupid.” “You’re the worst husband ever.” “You failed your wife.” “You killed this baby.” “You’re such an idiot.” etc.
Well, I’m quite familiar with self abasement. Growing up believing that God only loved me when I did good things, I became oh so ever aware of my innumerable faults and endured years of self depreciating thoughts. As I studied the Bible and learned that I cannot be saved by good deeds but only by Christ, I was liberated from such thinking. I continue to battle these thoughts, but I have the grace of God to overcome them as I walk in the power of the blood of Jesus Christ. At 2:30am, however, I wasn’t walking in His power. I was trying to sprint in my own, but I was falling. I mentally folded and I couldn’t pray or recall Scripture. I just couldn’t fighting back, and that lead to a much more horrific train of thought.
“It’s her fault.” That was the next thing I thought. It entered my mind and it felt as though the lights dimmed and the temperature (which was already freezing) dropped. Inexplicably, despite my complete exhaustion, I found the energy to get angry. Anger towards her and towards God, filled me. But how could I be angry!? How, knowing my precious wife’s fight for life raged on in the next room!? How could I feel anything but worry and desperation for her life?! The answer was clear, for it hung over me. It was painful, dark, and demonic. I wanted to scream. I wanted to connect my fist with something. I wanted it to hurt. Any pain would be better than the pain I presently felt, consuming me from within.
But I was too weak to even stand, let alone pick a fight with an inanimate object. I could barely hold in a deep breath, let alone scream. A migraine pounded away at my brain, a sore throat burned inside my neck, and my raging emotions were trapped within my breaking evil heart. No matter how great the emotions became, I couldn’t release them. My beloved wife was being ripped from me by anger, and I found myself being inexplicably tempted to be mad her. What!? Impossible!
My sweetheart, my bride, the woman I love more than my own life, was enduring unimaginable physical, emotional, and spiritual anguish! How could this temptation be!? What was its source!? I proclaim to all the world that I love my wife wholeheartedly and cannot even imagine being angry toward her! But there the temptation lurked! Darkness overshadowed me and I was powerless before it.
Then God stepped in.
Please forgive my crude comparison, but this is the best way that I can describe what happened next:
I was sitting in this cold room, still as a statue, but with this chaotic angry temptation whirling inside me, when something that felt like a rolling pin rolled over my mind. The words I had been thinking to form these emotions disappeared. I couldn’t think in words. All I had were images and feelings. No words. My wife’s face was before me. The anger in me wanted her. My wife’s face turned apologetic, sad, tearful. The anger changed into pure grief, but the chaotic angry temptation held on.
Please note: I am describing existentially metaphysical concepts of feeling that are never as substantial as the conveyance of such into written form makes them. What I’ve written is but the brightest facet of said feelings and is by no means meant to perfectly or entirely depict what was felt. One thing must be clear: thanks to God’s intervention, I never hated my wife in this.
The migraine pounded, my throat burned, my body ached. I was so very tired. I could still feel the temptation: that I was about to think that hatred towards my innocent wife when it happened again!
My mind was touched and felt like it was being rolled over. I couldn’t think in words and this time all thoughts of my wife disappeared along with my ability to “see” images in my mind. Instantly, I was alone in a cold room, my mind silent and dark, with this incredible anger churning inside me. I wept. The pain had to go somewhere, so it came out my eyes in tears. But crying didn’t assuage the anger and it made my head feel like it was going to explode and restricted my sore throat even more.
“This is God’s fault” came the thought, but not in words, just in unspoken, unvisualized concepts. My evil heart was blaming God. Like attempting to hurt a brick wall with ones bare hands, I was trying to beat on Him. The futile effort made me even angrier, to the point of almost screaming out my indictments against the Almighty. The breath to do so filled my lungs, but fell short by the most amazing thing yet.
Another rolling pin. Another touch to my mind. But this one was different. When it hit me I gasped; both hands flew up to my head. For a moment I couldn’t tell if I was experiencing incredible pain or incredible relief. As my anger inexplicably faded, as the migraine disappeared, as the sore throat vanished, the relief was obvious; but this was a secondary thing.
I didn’t notice these physical reliefs until later. What I noticed first was God’s overwhelming love. It filled me and pushed everything else away. I was loved! In the midst of this anguish, I was not alone! The emotional and spiritual relief was far more satisfying than anything else. Images of my wonderful loving wife filled my mind, untainted by the rage that oppressed me only moments before. I loved her with God right there, and prayed that she too would have this peace that cascaded over me.
Words of thanksgiving and praises to God flowed through my thoughts. It was while praying and thanking God, and thinking of things to thank Him for, that I realized my physical relief. I sat in that cold room, warmed by God’s presence and care, fully aware that I had done nothing to deserve this, in fact, I had done everything to deserve the opposite. So I sat and waited for Mrs. linville in the bliss of my heavenly Father’s mercy.
The ultra sound confirmed what we already knew: that little Linville was with Jesus. Dr. Segal explained to us my wife’s unique situation, which was that her body wouldn’t pass the tissue naturally due to the uterine septum. He therefore advised us that the best course of action was for my wife to get a D and C (dilation and curettage). They left us to talk it over. After considering the pros and cons, we decided that the safest thing for my wife was to get everything cleared out now.
As they moved Mrs. linville to surgery, I followed closely behind, offering words of comfort. With a final kiss, they took her away from me again. The difference in how I felt this time compared to how I felt when they had taken her for the ultrasound was incredible. This time I was filled with the peace that passes all understanding, for my heart and mind were being guarded in Christ Jesus. In the surgery waiting room I prayed for my wife until I passed out asleep. The next thing I saw was Dr. Segal. Like a caring father he gently woke me up and patiently waited while I got my bearings. He then explained to me that everything had gone perfectly and that we had made the right choice to go with the D & C. That was comforting. Shortly thereafter I was taken to see my wife in the post-op recovery room.
When the nurse pulled back the dividing curtain, there sat the love of my life, my wonderful wife: the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She would’ve described herself as showcasing the “just hit by a train” look, but nothing could change my mind. My wife was alive and giving me the most welcoming smile and she was absolutely beautiful. Hugging her gently took a tremendous effort. I just wanted to hold her.
It was all downhill from there. A nurse sent me for the car and we made it home alright. It had been the longest eight hours of my life, but it was over, and, in the midst of it, God had richly lavished His blessings over me, and He wasn’t finished.
Later we learned that Rex Hospital has a benevolence fund for the uninsured and that Mrs. linville’s pregnancy medicaid might also cover the expenses retroactively. Furthermore, we received so much love and support from Treasuring Christ Church that my wife was able to truly rest and heal and grieve (as was I).
I know it’s not over. The loss is ours forever, but we do not bear it alone; we bear it in God, who is love.
So, we are the linvilles, and we are in Love with loss.