Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Close Call = A Wake Up Call

We had planned a three-part adventure that would take place over ten days. Part 1 was a First Baptist Church of Fitzgerald work project on the campus of Morningstar Children and Family Services near Brunswick; that went well and according to plan. Part 2 was participation in the 2014 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta; that also went well and according to plan. Part 3 was a brief vacation at Legacy Lodge at Lake Lanier Islands which is located about an hour north of Atlanta; that went not so well and not quite according to plan. And so there came an unplanned and unwelcomed Part 4.

Last Saturday morning as we were leaving Atlanta to head toward Lake Lanier, Debra started having chills. She took some over-the-counter medication and tried to tough it out. We took it easy; we lay beside the pool, ate some good food that she couldn’t taste, and had dinner on Sunday with some good friends. We were scheduled to check out on Tuesday but on Monday morning she said that she’d like to go home so we checked out early and headed for Fitzgerald.

Debra went to bed Monday night, woke up around 8:00 on Tuesday morning, took some more medicine, and slept until noon. I figured and hoped that she was sleeping off whatever was ailing her; she had said the day before that she felt like if she could sleep for twenty four hours she’d feel better. I was in the study when I heard her in the kitchen; I went to see how she was feeling.

She was standing at the kitchen counter cutting up a peach; she said something about being hungry. Suddenly her hands drooped and her knees gave way; I cradled her down to the floor. “Debra!” I said, but she said nothing in reply. I checked to make sure she was breathing as I tried to remember what I had learned in that CPR course that I took seven or eight years ago. Thankfully, she was breathing. After twenty or thirty seconds she opened her eyes and looked at me. “I love you,” I said, and she said, “I love you, too.” Then she said, “What happened?” “You passed out. I’m calling 911.” She looked at me suspiciously. “If you don’t need to go to the hospital it won’t cost anything,” I said. “OK,” she said.

When the EMTs arrived, they got her off the floor (I had been afraid to move her) and put her in a chair. Her vital signs were good but her hands were numb and her speech was slow. The EMTs speculated that she may have passed out because of her fever but, they said, they really couldn’t tell why she fainted. When they asked her whether she wanted to go to the hospital or call her doctor, she naturally said she’d call the doctor. They turned to go back to the ambulance; as soon as they left the kitchen Debra went rigid and her eyes rolled back in her head. “Wait!” I called. “I don’t think I can get her to the doctor. Please take her to the hospital.” So they picked her up and took her out the ambulance. Our neighbor Sharon came over at that moment to see if she could help. Debra wasn’t able to talk.

I tried to get myself together to go to the hospital. One of the EMTs came back in and said, “Because this now looks neurological, she’s going to be transported by helicopter to either Albany or Macon so a neurologist can check her out.” “I’d much prefer Macon,” I said. “We’ll see what we can do,” they said. “May I ride with her?” I asked. “No,” they said. “Will the helicopter land at the hospital?” I asked. “No, at the airport. We’ll call you as soon as we know where she’s going.” And they drove off.

She had not unpacked from our previous trip so I threw a few more items in her bag, trying hard to think of what she’d want: undergarments, her favorite hair brush, the hair dryer, her telephone, her IPad, the chargers for the telephone and IPad, her toiletry bag (which she thankfully had also not unpacked). I grabbed my toiletry bag and packed a few clothes; I packed my computer, my IPad, and some books. I went outside to see the dogs and to give them some fresh water. I wondered what else I should do. There were dirty dishes in the sink. I didn’t want her to come home to a sink full of dirty dishes so I washed them. I started to make the bed when I said to myself, “You have to stop. Go now.” While I had been doing all of those things I had been imploring and lamenting, cursing and praying, trusting and doubting, hoping and begging.

Finally I left. As I made the two hour drive to Macon, I continued to intercede and to complain between the many telephone calls that I needed to make to family members and friends. People needed to know; people needed to pray.

I had been through such an experience several times before and my mind quickly went back over all of them.

There was the time in 1975 when the hospital called to say that my cancer-riddled mother had taken a turn for the worse. I hoped hard that she would live. Two days later she was dead.

There was the time in 1979 when a co-worker of my father called to say that he had suffered a heart attack and that I needed to get to the hospital as quickly as I could. I assumed that he would die. Three days later he did.

There was the time in 2007 when our twenty-year-old daughter called us in Augusta from Rome, Georgia to say that one of her legs was swollen and that she going to the emergency room. After driving four hours to get there, we walked in just as the doctor was explaining to her that she had a massive clot and that the treatment, which had a good chance to be successful, ran the risk of causing a piece of the clot to break off and go to her lung, heart, or brain, an event which could be catastrophic. I prayed so hard that she would be all right. After six days of hospitalization, three of them in ICU, she was, and she has managed her Warfarin regimen well ever since.

This time I found myself pouring it all out to God. I found myself telling God that if my Good Wife died (I tried not to consider the possibility but it was there and I refused to suppress my thoughts about it, having learned the hard way that such suppression is not a good thing; besides, she is in her fifties just like my parents were when they died—she’s exactly the age my father was when he died), we—God and I—were going to have some problems in our relationship. I doubt that God was either surprised or particularly troubled to hear me say that.

I thought about some of the hopes and dreams and plans for the next phase of our life together that Debra and I had been sharing and discussing lately and I wondered what I would do if she died or if she became incapacitated; I thought about how her mother had suffered a series of strokes during the last twenty years of her life, each one taking more and more of her away until finally a final one took all that was left. I decided quickly that I would carry on with the direction about which we had been talking but realized how sad I would be if she were unable to be a fully participating partner in our future.

Having dealt with the morbid possibilities (I went through all of those possibilities in about five minutes), I started to think about what I—what we—needed to learn from what was happening. I began to assume and to believe that everything was going to be, in one way or another, all right. I began to recommit myself to the future that God has for us, regardless of what happens to complicate or to redirect our lives.

I realized that thirty-six years with her was a greater gift than I could have ever hoped for; I realized that if she was suddenly half the person she used to be she would still be twice the person that the next best person I know is.

I began to ponder the unspeakably tremendous value of every nanosecond of life and of life together.

At the hospital they examined Debra’s brain via a CT scan, an MRI, and an EEG. There was no sign of a stroke or a tumor.

They did a lumbar puncture so they could test her spinal fluid; there was no sign of meningitis.

So the scariest possibilities that they had mentioned were ruled out.

The diagnosis was a severe infection; they had begun giving her high doses of intravenous antibiotics almost as soon as she arrived at the hospital in case she did have meningitis and they continued IV antibiotics throughout her two days in the hospital.

Debra is home now; she is tired and weak and on oral antibiotics and other medications. She is letting me take care of her which I am so glad to do; I’m usually the needy one. She is still irritated that they took her to Macon in a helicopter. I had high hopes for her recovery when I learned that she had told the EMTs, “I have a wedding to pay for this fall; I can’t afford to ride on a helicopter!”

And so she appears to be ok; we appear to be ok.

I hope she is ready for what’s going to happen when she is fully recovered.

Every nanosecond is a gift.

The future is now …

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Declaration of Independennce

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ten Questions Arising from the Hobby Lobby Decision

1. How can the ruling be described as “narrow” when 90% of American corporations are closely held and over 50% of working Americans are employed by such companies?

2. Given that the decision revolved around the abortion issue (since Hobby Lobby’s owners said they did not, for religious reasons, want to pay for devices or medicines that could act in a way that could be perceived as abortifacient), is there any significance to the fact that the five Justices voting in the majority are all Roman Catholic while of those in the minority three are Jewish and one is Roman Catholic?

3. Is there any significance to the fact that all three female Justices were on the minority side while all five Justices on the majority side are men?

4. Will Christians who are applauding the decision as a victory for religious freedom also applaud future Supreme Court decisions, should they come, that exempt business owners of other faiths from the obligation to obey a law because they object on religious grounds?

5. Should the religious convictions of business owners trump the religious convictions (or non-religious convictions) of their employees? Or vice-versa?

6. How should we evaluate Hobby Lobby’s argument that to provide certain types of birth control would cause them to violate their Christian convictions when it has been established that they (a) do business with Chinese firms whose workers labor in conditions barely above those of a slave, (b) have significant holdings through their retirement plans in firms that manufacture the very items for which they don’t want their insurance to pay, and (c) until just before they filed the suit that ended up before the Supreme Court their insurance was paying for such medicines?

7. What is to prevent other Christians who own businesses from seeking exemption from other legal obligations based on the precedent set in this decision and based on clear teachings of Jesus (who said nothing directly about birth control)? For example, what if some Christian business owners, based on Jesus’ teachings such as “Blessed are the peacemakers” and “Turn the other cheek” ask not to pay that part of their taxes that goes toward military spending?
8. Does this decision that seems to come down on the side of the free exercise of religion go too far toward the establishment of religion or at least of a particular religious perspective? Will the religious convictions of business owners of other faiths be accorded the same status as those of Christian business owners? And if not, has not the Supreme Court taken a large step toward government establishment of the Christian religion?

9. Would not a boycott of Hobby Lobby, for which some people are calling in light of this decision, likely hurt the same employees that those calling for a boycott see themselves as supporting?

10. Does the Supreme Court’s willingness to allow the religious beliefs of (at least) Christian business owners to be a factor in the implementation of public health policy lend support to a move away from employment-based health insurance and even a move toward a single-payer system?