They looked so grown up, walking toward me down that airport corridor.
It felt like they had been gone for an eternity, these teenagers of mine. But they were back, and I could breathe again.
My son looked so tall and strong. He lifted me off the ground when he hugged me, then immediately went into big brother mode, taking charge of both his ands sister's luggage. I could see the change in him, and it almost, almost, made the two weeks of wishing I could be there to protect them both worth it.
My daughter looked pale, like she had when she left, but her eyes were calm. Whatever the Lord had done in her heart...I could see it on her face.
Jet lag and laundry and speaking engagements and more jet lag took their tole. We spent a week settling back into life. They told me stories, passed out gifts they had brought back, and submitted themselves to extra cuddles and kisses, a quick lice check, and a return to the routine of their days.
An appointment with Faith's doctor was on the calendar, and he had many questions.
He had not been happy with how dismissive the emergency room was, and quickly ordered a battery of tests and blood work, which he told us they SHOULD HAVE DONE before discharging her.
So...we trekked to the blood lab and she left several vials for examination. Then we put a heart echo on the schedule, since she had been having irregular palpitations for quite some time. "Let's see what the blood work shows, and rule out any damage to her heart. Then we will make our next-step plans," Doctor E. said.
We hadn't been home but a couple hours when we got a call. One of the numbers on her blood work was quite elevated, indicating a possible blood clot. We needed to go, right away, to the outpatient imaging center (where she had already had her brain scan before the trip) to have an image of her lungs taken.
So...we went, of course. And we sat in the waiting room, and I felt numb. I don't understand medical jargon, and as I said before, I am the opposite of an alarmist. I kept telling myself they were probably just being cautious. Ruling things out, as the doctor had said.
They took her back for the scan, then returned her to the waiting room with instructions to wait while they checked for anything emergent. After what seemed like forever, the nurse called us back again, and said "There isn't anything actively life threatening on her scan. You can go home. Your doctor will call you with all the results."
Back home we went. I dropped her off, chatted with the boys for a few minutes, and then headed to pick up milk and bread and coffee and toilet paper from the store.
My phone rang as I pushed the buggy down an aisle.
"The image of her lungs shows she has recently had a pulmonary embolism. It is surrounded by blood vessels, so clearly her body is already working to dissolve it, which is why her symptoms have lessened some and she's able to stand up without getting as dizzy. This is what was causing all of her symptoms before she left. It was an active clot at that time, certainly."
Have you ever felt like you received news that your brain simply refused to allow to sink all the way in? Like...'If I allow the reality of what was just said to permeate my mind...It might actually split my brain in half.'
That is how I felt for about 30 seconds. Standing in the middle of the store, I could see the blackness at the edges of my vision, as my heart raced and my stomach churned. I felt certain I was about to throw up.
I think I said something mature and calm like "Well at least we know what is wrong now. The unknown is so much worse. Now we can treat the problem."
But that isn't how I felt. At all.
MY GOD, she got on a plane with a blood clot in her lung. She traveled for 15+ hours, to the other side of the world where medical help was limited and far away.
I put my hands on my knees and took deep breaths for several long moments. Then I called my husband and relayed the findings.
We were both mostly silent as the 'what could have happened' shook us to our cores. We felt...terrified in retrospect, and so overwhelmed with gratitude that she had come home to us.
The weeks that followed were filled with shots, and blood draws, and appointments, and lab work, as we figured out the answer to the big question: WHY a healthy 17-year-old had a blood clot in the first place.
Its a long story, and not relevant, really. Its a gene mutation that makes her blood more likely to clot. Simple as that.
It does NOT feel simple to me, as I play it back in my head. Yes, its an easy thing to monitor and adjust for. She can simply take a blood thinner whenever she is in a situation that puts her at higher risk for a clot (like long flights, or pregnancy, or surgeries). Fine. All of that is fine.
Except she could have DIED on that plane. The clot could've traveled to her brain or her heart...Why hadn't we seen it? Why were her symptoms so obscure? She didn't have any of the major symptoms of a pulmonary embolism. Only all the minor ones. WHY hadn't the ER doctors done that blood work? HOW could I have let her GO? Why didn't the Lord tell me not to let her go? I begged Him for a clear answer...and all along He simply asked us to trust Him with our child...So we did. But THIS was what we were trusting Him with?
It felt like too much. Almost like we had been tricked. The Lord had not taken her. He had returned her to us. But...like a reel in my mind was the reminder, "Sometimes He doesn't. Sometimes He takes them. Sometimes that is His plan. What if that had been His plan? Why, Lord? What are you trying to teach me? I don't think I'll survive learning this lesson."
As I sat, thinking and praying, talking to the Lord through all my feelings, I remember having this picture flash in my mind.
I could see that stupid blood clot in her lung, surrounded by blood vessels. It made her hand numb and her foot tingle and her heart race and her eyes jump strangely. I could see it, looming like a bullet.
And then, I saw a hand, big and strong and nail-scarred, reaching out. I saw that hand open up and close around the clot in an iron fist.
"I am the sustainer of life."
"I am her protector."
"I am trustworthy."
"I am strong."
"I am mighty to save."
"I am close beside the brokenhearted."
"I am a miracle worker."
"I am with you when the miracle is different than you think it should be."
"I am always working for your good."
"I am never surprised by things that surprise you."
"I AM THE SUSTAINER OF LIFE."
As I shared the picture the Lord had given me with a friend who had been on the trip as well, she stopped me after the description of the fist holding the clot.
"Did Faith tell you I said that on the trip?"
I blinked. "No. What did you say?"
"I felt like the Lord told me to tell her that He was holding whatever was wrong with her in His hand, and she could trust Him to take care of it."
And I cried again.
All that the Lord is teaching us is still in process. It's only been a few months. She's still on blood thinners to make absolutely sure the clot is dissolved. She has to have her blood checked once every other week. She has to monitor how much vitamin K she eats so as not to counteract the thinners.
But...the Lord Jesus reached His hand into her chest and held that clot in His grip. It did not take her life.
He sustained her very breath.
I wonder how many times He does that for us, and for those we love, without us even thinking to acknowledge Him for it? This was a big, obvious miracle. I sometimes sit and watch her breathing and thank Him for each rise and fall of her chest.
But...do we thank Him before we see that BIG display? Do we recognize Him as the only One truly sovereign over life, death, and all that is between? Do we praise Him when the crisis turns out differently? When the one He sustains is the one left behind? Is that not still a miracle?
It was for me, when my sister died. It was a miracle that He sustained me. I found His presence to be life itself.
I questioned His sovereignty, and my faith was shaken...but He was with me then. And He was with me when I didn't know exactly HOW BIG this thing was He was asking me to trust Him in.
I'm glad we didn't find out what was wrong with her before she went. We never would've let her go. And then...whatever things the Lord had prepared for her to do there and learn there...all that her brother learned there because he had the added load of caring for her...all of it would've been missed.
I'm convinced the Lord intentionally didn't make it clear. Because He was offering us an invitation to know Him in a new way. A way I will never cease to see every time she takes a deep breath.
Only He is the sustainer of life. Only He is sovereign.