I have a friend named Simon.
I remember the day his family arrived here for the first time, Simon struggling to breathe and weak from the anesthesia of his first esophageal surgery. I remember the fear in his mother’s eyes as she left him here with his grandmother and me for middle of the night feedings through his new feeding tube and daily tracheotomy changes. They needed a place to stay that was near the hospital, just in case.
I remember when his surgeon first showed me all of his scans and my staff and I realized that we were looking at a miracle – a real, true miracle. How does a child live for ten years with out any ability to swallow food? I remember the certainty I felt that God wouldn’t have brought him this far unless He had an unbelievable plan.
I remember all the times I bumped into his grandmother coming out of her room to prepare food in the middle of the night as I got up to check on Betty. We nursed our patients and we swore when the power went out and we couldn’t use the blender to puree his food, and sometimes we just stared at each other through too-sleepy eyes. We whispered of God’s grace and we whispered of our sorrows. We reminded each other of the call to of God to longsuffering. I remember the way they held me when they learned that Betty had gone home to Jesus.
I remember all the things that went wrong. The moments of panic and the consistent, pleading prayers over Simon’s young, fragile life. His mom came to live with us when it got to be too much for his grandmother. We both learned to do things that we never imagined we could. We watched and prayed through eleven failed surgeries. Eleven. I remember the weight of our exhaustion that just settled down over my home and my heart. Would he ever get well? Ever?
I remember the day I realized with full clarity that Simon just Couldn’t get better in Uganda. We had the best surgeons and equipment our country could offer and it just wasn’t working. I remember his squeal as he took off on his very first airplane and his mother’s wide eyes as we entered the Atlanta airport over 30 hours later.
I remember the great delight I knew in watching my biological family welcome in members of our Ugandan family and the love that Simon and Anna felt everywhere we went. I remember how surreal it was to be back here in Uganda and know that they were safe and sound at the homes of my parents and closest friends in Nashville.
I remember the email that said that Simon’s surgeries were over and had been successful. Attached were confirmation numbers of his plane ticket home. I remember the elated, disbelieving faces of our dedicated staff when I shared the news. I remember my children counting down the days until they got here – our friends, now family members. And I remember her tears of gratitude on my shoulder as we embraced for the first time in months back where it all started, “God saved my son’s life.”
It is 20 months later. It feels like eternity.
And today they drove away smiling and laughing, arms excitedly waving out of van windows, as my children chased and waved just as hard. I stood in the driveway and let tears of joy well up in my eyes. They are well. They are well. Simon can swallow food just as well as any other eleven year old. He can play soccer with the best of them. Tomorrow, he’ll go back to third grade. Anna will be able to go back to work after completely surrendering all her dreams to take care of her son. They will wash dishes and do homework and laugh and sing and pray in their own little home just like so many other happy, healthy families. And we will stay here and do the same.
I stood in their room long after they left and ran my fingers of the words of Hebrews that I painted on the wall, mostly as a reminder to myself, “He who promised is faithful.” I can hardly believe His faithfulness to us, the fullness of all His promises unfolding right here before my eyes. I breathe deep relief. I allow myself to remember just how crazy hard it all was, just how long it has been, just how tired I have felt, and just how faithful he has been to each of us through all of it.
People ask me how we do it – all these people living, and sometimes dying, in our home. Most days I shake me head, I don’t know. Lots of days it’s just down right hard. Some days it is more than exhausting. But today I remember. We hold out for the happy ending. Because where Jesus is, the happy ending is possible. It doesn’t always come, and that doesn’t mean He is not present, but still, it is possible. Redemption is coming. And we don’t always get to glimpse His redemption here and now, but sometimes we do.
Today I remember. There isn’t always a happy ending… but sometimes, there is.
And He who promised is faithful.