It was mid-November when I received the frantic call from my former step daughter, “Daddy had a heart attack and he’s in ICU,” she said panicked. “You need to come to the hospital right away.”
Her father and I had been divorced for nearly 7 years. But we have a son together and had already walked through the years of divorce and custody related animosity to finally reach a point of mutual respect and co-parenting.
When I arrived at the hospital, I got a clearer picture of his health situation. My ex-husband had been sick for several weeks with some kind of flu virus, running a fever spiking to at least 105 degrees. No one knew exactly what it was because he had been too stubborn to go to the doctor.
A buddy of his had stopped by his home to check on him the evening before and discovered him in bed, unresponsive. The friend began CPR and called 911. The EMT’s were able to resuscitate him and transport him to the hospital where he was admitted to ICU. He was on life support, in a medically-induced coma. The nurses gave me a very grim prognosis. They had no way of knowing how long his brain had been without oxygen before the friend discovered him. So if he pulled through, he could be a vegetable for the remainder of his life. Moreover, they had no idea what his original illness was because they couldn’t ask him what symptoms he’d been experiencing. What they did know was that whatever infection had made him ill had gone systemic. It was attacking his blood and because of years of unhealthy choices and alcoholism, his liver and kidneys were not filtering the infection on their own.
I left our 8 year old son in the waiting room with his extended family so I could assess the situation for myself. I entered the room where the father of my son laid in a coma with tubes going in and out of his body, connected to machines that were breathing for him, feeding him, and medicating him. His mother stood at the foot of his bed in shock, tears streaming down her face. She kept touching his feet, hoping for a miracle as she helplessly watched machines breathe for her son. After a few moments, she said I needed some time alone with him and left me there with my ex-husband.
In those moments, I held his hand and spoke to him as though he was napping and could hear me just fine. I made amends for the years of hurt between us. I apologized for my part in the failure of our marriage. I knew this may be the last time I would get to speak my heart to him.
At that moment I felt an urgency in my heart to pray for him. He had never really believed in God and at times even poked fun at my faith, calling me a “Bible Thumper.” But I knew if ever there was a moment he needed Jesus, it was now. I spoke to him and said, “I know you can hear me and even though you can’t respond with words, I know your spirit can agree…” Then I prayed the prayer of salvation and told him that if he confessed with his mouth and believed with his heart, he’d be saved. “The Bible says that even the rocks will cry out to praise God. So I know you can, too…”
Then he nodded.
He slowly nodded his comatose head right off the pillow!
I held his hand and wept tears of joy. That was the confirmation I needed to be assured that he had accepted Christ as his Savior. Through my tears, I reminisced with him about our son. I reminded him of the day our baby boy was born; and all the proud moments we shared as parents to our son.
Then I released him. I told him that if his body just couldn’t fight, that we would be okay. I would raise our son in a way that would make him proud. I would keep alive the happy memories for our boy. I assured him that we would see him in heaven one day if he chose to leave.
But if he wanted to stay on this planet, he better fight and fight hard. I let him know that being an invalid just to appease everyone else’s request for him to hang on would be unacceptable. That’s not what he would’ve wanted either. It would be a complete recovery or none at all.
That may seem like an extreme ultimatum to make to a man in a coma. But I knew my ex-husband. In fact, I recall several conversations he and I had about his wishes should a situation like this arise. But he didn’t have a will. He was young. He thought he had all the time in the world.
I chose not to let my son see his father in this state. If this was his end, I didn’t want our boy’s last memory of his dad to be clouded by tubes, machines and helplessness.
I went home that night and told my son the beautiful story of how his daddy accepted Jesus into his heart. He was glad, but of course still saddened by the situation. He was confused. We all were. Why was this happening? Why his daddy? Why couldn’t he see him at the hospital?
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1