Filled with Anxiety, but Blessed in Many Ways
UNEXPECTED sickness, accident or “natural” disaster. How quickly these things can change your whole life, even as the Bible says: “You do not know what your life will be tomorrow”! (Jas. 4:14) But if one of these drastic changes occurs, how will you respond? Let me share with you what occurred to our family.
My husband David was born in Saskatoon, Canada, back in 1919. As a young man he became a baptized witness of Jehovah and soon entered the full-time preaching work. David was privileged to attend the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead and became a missionary in Singapore. Later he came here to Australia, where we met.
After we married in 1950, my husband was a traveling minister, and we visited congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses together. But in March 1954 our son Shannon was born. That meant change. David became an overseer in a local congregation. My son and I always benefited from his loving headship as a husband, father and overseer. When Shannon began attending school, David encouraged me to return to the full-time preaching work. Afterward, when he completed his schooling, Shannon joined me, bringing us all much happiness.
Back in Canada, David’s mother was by now over eighty and in failing health. So in May 1972 David traveled to Canada for a visit. There events took place that completely changed our lives. My husband was suddenly taken ill. Within forty-eight hours he was totally paralyzed. His life was saved by an emergency operation in which a tube was put in his trachea, or windpipe, so a respirator machine could help him breathe. What a shock it was for Shannon and me to receive a cable about David’s condition! Still, we gained strength from knowing that Jehovah God was mindful of our anxiety and would help us.
On our arriving in Canada, David’s family took us right to the hospital. It was distressing to see him so ill. The only movement he had was blinking. But he knew us and the relief in his eyes made us thankful to be there. We were together as a family and prayed for God’s support to face and endure the future.
The next six months were difficult ones that tested us both physically and mentally. For weeks David was in intensive care. We could not see him until 1:30 each afternoon, for his mornings were taken up with tests. It seems that his illness was due to some type of virus infection similar to polio. Shannon and I spent the mornings in the public preaching work, but were able to be with David all afternoon and evening. That added to his peace of mind. Try to imagine what it would be like to be strong and healthy one day, and so totally stricken the next, not able to do a thing except think.
David was mentally alert, but unable to talk. So Shannon printed the alphabet on cards, and when we touched the right letter David would blink. We patiently put the letters together to form words. After some weeks he gradually regained the use of his facial muscles and could form words with his lips. We learned to lip-read, but often we had to laugh at our mistakes. David’s sense of humor helped him through many rough spots.
We knew that if we could keep him spiritually strong and happy, he would be able to endure this dreadful affliction. Hence, we planned a daily study program. It included Bible material from the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses and articles from The Watchtower and Awake! David later told us that it was by using the provisions from Jehovah that he was able to remain calm in spirit. Also, the many letters we received from our spiritual brothers in Australia and Canada were a source of great comfort and encouragement.
He made some progress, but the respirator hindered his talking and eating. And the doctors thought it unlikely that he would ever walk again. In November we flew David back to Australia, accompanied by his excellent Canadian specialist.
Through marvelous therapy at the hospitals, David, in time, regained the use of the fingers of his right hand. Thus he could operate a special electric wheelchair. And he learned to type with his hand suspended over an electric typewriter. How touched I was to receive from him a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a little typewritten note expressing his appreciation for our care!
Each afternoon he was taken to the gymnasium to have his limbs exercised. This was good and very necessary, but the best mental therapy was David’s talking to others about Jehovah and the blessings His kingdom will bring. He had some wonderful experiences and even started some Bible studies. His faith was an example to all with whom he came in contact, and a credit to Jehovah.
This was not an easy time for any of us. Our whole life was changed. Shannon and I would spend the early part of the day in our public preaching, and be with David as soon as his therapy was over. We would feed him and do our reading together. Finally, he was allowed to come home on Saturdays, making that the happiest day of our week. As many of the family members as possible came to visit, and we held our regular family Watchtower study. Looking back over those months, even though they were filled with anxiety, we were blessed in many ways and had so much for which to be thankful. We had the care and kindness of the hospital staff and the love expressed by our family and spiritual brothers and sisters. We are grateful for the many happy hours we were able to spend with David each day. He was still our loving family head.
What a test this was for David, though! He had always been so strong and healthy. Yet he continued to serve Jehovah, reminding himself that many other Christians had suffered more. Then, on August 30, 1973, fifteen months after becoming paralyzed, our dear David fell asleep in death, just four hours after my mother died. That certainly was a sad day, for death truly is one of our greatest enemies. However, no one can take from us the joy of knowing that David had kept his integrity to God down to death. He lived his life faithfully as a servant of Jehovah, and because of the coming resurrection he will sleep for just a little while. We are thankful to Jehovah for giving him the strength to endure his illness and to use it as a means of giving a witness to many persons who had never before spoken with any of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Shannon and I learned many valuable things from this time of trial. We learned the need to show love and compassion to those who are sick, for it is so important for them mentally and spiritually. We learned how much we need our loved ones. And we came to appreciate more deeply the privilege and power of prayer.
I hope that in some way as you read this it will help you to endure when personal difficulties occur, whether you are the patient bearing physical pain and mental anguish, or one of the close family members who must endure the anxiety and strain of seeing a loved one suffer.—Contributed.