Archive for the ‘Glory Story 003’ Category


January 1, 2010

My 1st wife Iris came to the end of her life in a way that almost seemed pre-planned on her part, or pre-packaged by the Lord to fit her specifically. She had been a business administration major in college, and died three hours before 1998 ended, ideal for a tax-oriented person!

She was in a wheelchair from the time she was 2 until she died at age 50, but was able to have 2 children, an active life as a church, school and Girl Scout volunteer, and even as a politician on the county school board for 4 years. But the last 3½ weeks of her life were spent in the hospital, the same hospital (though a newer building) she had been born in, St. Francis in Greenville, SC.

She had been paralyzed from her waist down at 22 months after her spine being fractured by being hit by a delivery truck backing up as she sat on the curb of her home near Easley High School. The accident only fractured her spine, but in 1950, medical people didn’t know to immobilize. Consequently, when the doctor tried to get her to walk, her spine snapped. She spent the summer lying in an un-air-conditioned hospital, and understandably developed a distrust of most things medical and an intense desire to be in control of her life, particularly her body and how it was handled.

Early on in our marriage, maybe 4 years in, while pregnant with our daughter, she fractured her hip while getting into the tub. Since she had no feeling in her extremities, she was able to ignore it, or at least keep it to herself. She told no one, and took care of it herself, but over the decades, with various stresses and life going on, she developed a severe pressure sore and infection, which caught up with her that final December.

She had been feeling cold for months—a result of infection and severe anemia—and when she finally went to a doctor in November, he immediately gave her 3 pints of blood, and her energy and clarity of mind improved drastically. We had a glorious Thanksgiving, fixing about a 30-course meal for our daughter, her husband, and our granddaughter, along with another couple who had 2 autistic children.

By December 6 she was cold again, and very ill, so on Monday, December 7, I took her to the hospital, and they admitted her. She was almost totally out of it. Monday night about 11 pm, I got a call from a male nurse asking to put a pick-line in her neck to allow more direct and larger quantities of antibiotics. He began to insist that she would have to have her right leg removed.

This is when my “Mt. Moriah” experience began, when I felt like Abraham trudging up that mountain dutifully to sacrifice Isaac. I knew Iris’s wishes not to have medically invasive procedures, to have control of her body, and I began to argue intensely with this nurse. I immediately began to make plans to go to the patient advocacy people at St. Francis 1st thing Tuesday, and I did. I insisted that Iris had the right to decide for herself, and that if she couldn’t, that nothing be done without her consent. I asked if she could be released under Hospice care and be allowed to go home to die on her own. They agreed, but she had to be released by the doctor who had admitted her, and that couldn’t happen until late afternoon, as he had other duties to attend to.

From mid-morning till he arrived, I sat by her bed, weeping, praying, but determined to see this through. My own wish was to have her alive in whatever condition, but I knew her heart to have control of her destiny, even to the point of being allowed to die. She was still very much out of it when the doctor came in, and he agreed to allow her to go home, agreeing that she met the conditions of Hospice care (certain death within 6 months under existing conditions). In the course of the conversation I asked if she could have pain medication, as I didn’t want her suffering. Somehow, she heard that and roused enough to decide that, if she were going to be in pain, she would prefer to be in the hospital for someone to attend to her. The weight I’d been carrying immediately lifted.

I can’t remember whether she decided at that point to have her leg removed, but that happened shortly. She had 4 operations related to that, and 3 more related to other complications that developed, and died a few hours after the last one. We were able to celebrate our 25th anniversary on the 23rd, and Christmas with both children, their spouses, and our granddaughter, though in the hospital. Up until the 26th, the day of the beginning of the complications, we had every expectation that she would recover and come home, though looking back, I remember at least 2 times she said to me, “I’m not out of the woods yet…”

The glory part of this story? That I didn’t have to bear the burden of deciding for her against my own wishes. That I was able to complete 25 years of marriage, with a bonus week and a day. That I was able to experience, perhaps, some of Abraham’s feelings in having to sacrifice what you hold dearest. Most of all, that I was carried through one of the hardest experiences of my life, and came out feeling a peace that passes understanding.