Well, when I started thinking about the lessons I've been learning, I'm incredibly blessed. Though parts of this journey aren't what I would have asked for, I have been able to see God's Hand through the journey.
Right before Labor Day weekend last year, my dad had to go the hospital. He ended up with a "textbook presentation of Sciatica". It was quite painful for him and we didn't think we were going to be able to make it to the family reunion in Illinois. Daddy was determined to get there, so off we went - two vehicles, 4 adults and 3 children. We made frequent stops so Daddy could move his leg and stretch some. Now, my daddy has one of the highest pain tolerances I have ever seen. So I knew that if he was hurting, it was pretty severe. My son and my nephew were so good with their grandpa - pushing his wheelchair to the bathrooms, carrying the walker, making sure he was o.k. We made it to the reunion, only to find out that my uncle Ricky was admitted to the hospital once again. Daddy wouldn't be able to see him after all. I can still see the sad look on his face when he found out. It broke my heart.
Well, the day of the reunion was beautiful and clear. I had asked Matthew to bring all of his Nerf guns. I thought it would be cool to see all the Riddle guys in a mock battle. It was truly a highlight of the event. They were all laughing and having such fun. One of my cousins posted it in a video, but I don't have the link. I'll have to add it later. Chrissy and I took turns pushing Daddy's wheelchair up to the bathrooms during the whole day. When it was time for lunch, Daddy was asked to pray for the food. While he prayed, he broke down, crying. I should have known then that something wasn't right. It was a bit out of character for my daddy. It was a good day.
Before we left, one uncle commented to me that Chrissy and I took such good care of daddy and mom. I couldn't imagine doing anything else. My parents have done so much for me, how could I do anything less than return whatever favor I could.
The journey home was not how we had planned. Daddy fell at the hotel that night. Mom ended up calling the ambulance the next morning. It was definitely a challenge. My sister and mom went with my dad while I tried to keep the kids busy. After breakfast, I had to tell the kids that grandpa had to make a trip to the hospital. We hung out at the hotel, the kids went swimming and eventually Daddy left the hospital. The drive home was not the easiest. The doctors thought Daddy had bruised several stomach muscles when he fell (on his walker). They gave him some pain medicine and he was eager to get on the road and get home.
The drive home felt like a forever trip. When we got to mom and daddy's house, Daddy ended up having to go back to the hospital. After several hours of waiting with mom and daddy (I had taken my kids to our house, with Rand), they had run several tests, but daddy was still having trouble breathing and was in a great deal of pain. A doctor came in and turned our world upside down. Daddy had a perforated ulcer and needed emergency surgery immediately. The doctor wasn't even sure daddy would survive the surgery. I am thankful that I had decided to stay with mom at the e.r.
I truly don't know what I would have done if the Lord had not been my strength, my strong tower. I prayed with dad and mom, and then again with the doctor. Then, began the waiting game. The surgery took a bit longer than they anticipated, but it was successful. Daddy was kept in ICU after the surgery. Despite the medicine to keep him in a comatose state (because he was on a ventilator), he could open his eyes and respond to our questions.
He was in the ICU from September 5 until September 19. He was in that comatose state the entire time. So many people would ask about him, stopped by to pray with him, cared for my mom, prayed for her and for the whole family. In my heart, I knew that my daddy would be able to walk again; that whatever was going on, the Lord would use it for his glory, would allow my daddy to walk. Daddy had lost a lot, if not most of the feeling in his feet and legs. Several doctors said it was diabetic neuropathy, but I couldn't understand how that could be when his A1C was better than most regular people. On Sept 18, I had stopped by to see daddy before church that evening. When I came in the room, I was checking his feet (which had problems with edema). I was goofing around, tickling his feet and he reacted - it almost seemed like he was laughing. Mom was talking to him, asking if he could feel it. I was so very encouraged. God was working in his body. The next day, the doctors planned to do a tracheotomy - daddy had been on the ventilator for two weeks and they felt it was necessary.
That surgery happened on Monday afternoon. Of course, it took longer that they thought. At visiting hours, they let us in to see him, but told us that he hadn't been cleaned up completely. We could see the blood on the bandages and his neck. Mom was panicked to say the least. I knew that it would look better once they had time to get him situated. Chrissy and I went to band practice that night and stopped by on the way home.
Seeing daddy that night was a complete difference. He was peaceful, looked so much younger and, if you knew my daddy, he was trying to talk (his hands were strapped down, but he was trying to gesture.) We stayed for a little while and went home. Later that night, we got a call from the hospital to return. Daddy was not doing well. My sister and I got there before my mom (we live closer). Waiting seemed like forever. Shortly after mom and John arrived, we were given the news that Daddy had died. They had done all that they could, but were not able to bring him back. They thought it might have been a blood clot to his lungs. We didn't ask for an autopsy.
I had called the brothers and sisters. Then, I had to go home and tell my kids. I think that was the hardest thing I had to do. I know that God has a plan through it all. I may not understand it, I may not like it, but I trust that He works all things together for my good. The most difficult question was from my little girl. She said, "I thought you said God would heal grandpa, that he would be ok." My response, the only one that came to mind, dropped into my heart by God, was "God did heal grandpa, He kept His word. It just wasn't in the way we thought He would work. Grandpa is healed, he has a perfect body and is not in any pain." I still feel that way, even almost a year later. God keeps His promises, my daddy does walk, without pain or a walker. He's just walking in a different place.
So, as one year has almost passed, I still believe in God's faithfulness, I believe He keeps his promises and I have watched and witnessed His amazing grace and mercy. I know that my daddy is reunited with his mom and dad and a few brothers and sisters, including my uncle that was so sick. Uncle Ricky and his family watched daddy's funeral via Skype and he assured my aunt (his sister) that he and God were on speaking terms before he died in January. I know that during the last few years of his life, he was able to connect with his younger siblings (there's a large age range in his family of 9 siblings). I know that his grandchildren brought him incredible happiness and he was proud of his children (who all happen to be certified teachers. Daddy thought education was important). I need to remind myself of that some days, when I miss my daddy. Thankfully, I am fortunate enough to have a Heavenly father who loves me even more than my daddy.
I know that I have a hope in Jesus and that I will see daddy again. Until that day, I need to be sure to spread the news that Jesus loves you so very much.