When God Steps In

By | Personal Stories

When your world turns upside down, inside out, in one long day, where do you turn, how do you cope? I hope you’ll read my harrowing story. 

I love South Carolina’s Low Country, a culture unto itself, full of history, natural beauty and lore. I admire how the stately live oak trees display rhythm and mystery, charm and history as Spanish moss dances in the breeze. Yet when the high winds come, and they invariably do, the Fandangoing Spanish moss plummets. 

Four and a half years ago husband Alan and I bought a winter home here and never left. It was too hard to leave what I considered Paradise, even as the once dancing clumps of the live oaks now littered the earthy brown floor of a windy winter’s day

Our Low Country home is less than ten minutes from two historic downtown areas, Beaufort and Port Royal; and the speed limit is the only thing keeping us from getting either place in five. The gentle ebb and tide of the Beaufort River, an estuary of the Atlantic, flows a few feet behind our house. Salt water marshes deceive our eyes night and day as patches of high grasses extend from the shoreline and appear as a field of dreams. Then the saltwater rushes in and the swaying grasses disappear under a camouflage of water that sometimes mirrors the sky. I never tire of this daily evolution, nor of soaking in the richness of the soft sea breeze, the mystical ambience and beauty. Things were going well.

One of my favorite movies, “The Prince of Tides” was filmed in Beaufort, and Hollywood posters add to the ambience of restaurants displaying films that were shot here. The area is also home to one of two U.S. Marine boot camps, and low country folk love their Marines. Rumor has it that when Barbra Streisand shot “The Prince of Tides,” she called to complain about the noisy jets interrupting her movie and her sleep. She was told: “that’s the sound of freedom lady.” The Marine air station aids our military, inspires area traditions, and boosts local government financially. Babs, I’d say, had to invest in ear plugs. 

Alan and I also love our flyboys. In fact, there’s nothing here I don’t like. Even the No Seeum gnats that inundate the sometimes-sweltering summers don’t bother me after living with West Virginia mosquitoes. Low country living is not only more temperate, but more laid back than the wild and wonderful state of West Virginia we moved from, and which I also love. Things were going so well in our lovely new life. 

Until they weren’t. 

Until Alan visited his ophthalmologist, Dr. K, following cataract surgery in May 2023. 

I went along because Alan was acting older than his geriatric self. And after he told Dr. K the symptoms he was having after the surgery—headache, jaw ache, touch sensitive, teetering balance, low cognitive function, poor manual dexterity, and coldness (whew!)—her next two sentences turned our lives upside down. 

“These symptoms aren’t related to cataract surgery.” Her voice exuded a kindness and concern peculiar to most doctors. “I want you to go to the Emergency Room. Now.”

We looked at each other, wide eyed. “Now?”

“I’ll drive you if it’s a problem.” She had been perusing Alan’s chart but swiveled to face us.

When we’d arrived at her office, I’d asked the nurse if I could speak to Dr. K privately, to relay my concerns about Alan’s recent symptoms and behavior. Fortunately, Dr. K drew her own conclusions based on the symptoms he relayed, which he found annoying rather than serious. I was elated she was sending us to the ER.

“It’s not a problem,” Alan and I agreed, “we’ll head there now.”

Like the two towns we live between, most things here are within ten minutes of wherever we’re going, and like the topography’s beauty, it’s a blessing. The ER was a six-minute drive. I was grateful we were on our way. Alan didn’t say much.

Many tests and hours later, the ER physician, Dr. J, relayed that Alan had a subdural hematoma, a cranial bleed with blood pressing on his brain. “He needs to be treated at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).” He quickly added. “We can’t treat him here.”

Stunned by the diagnosis, we, along with Dr. J, tried to determine how and when this happened. Had he fallen? Did he bang his head? We just weren’t sure. I asked the doctor, “When should we go to MUSC?” 

“Right now. Tonight.” He was a nice man, but he had hard news. “They will likely do brain surgery as soon as he gets there.”

Tonight? Brain surgery! It was around 11 PM. 

 “We’ll be taking him by helicopter.” 

Alan and I held each other. Could our 44 years together be ending? It was more than I could process. Brain surgery! Plus, there was the lesser problem: I had never driven in Charleston, SC, and I have poor night vision. And I definitely couldn’t fly with him.

Predictably, however, for a low country summer night, a blustery wind kept the chopper grounded, and he was transported by ambulance. Still, I couldn’t ride with him, so our long-time friend Kelly drove me the hour or so to Charleston. I arrived about 2 AM, dragging my luggage behind me, indifferent to the briny mist of the seaside city air, scurrying through a maze of buildings and hallways, exhausted, anxious, scared, and expecting Alan to be in surgery. 

A couple of wrong turns and one building later, I found him in a room in the Emergency ward. He was lying on a bed, fully clothed, and half asleep. He sat up, happy to see me, explaining that a dozen or so medical personnel, including neurosurgeons, had met him, and had agreed the invasive and potentially life-threatening brain surgery the Emergency Doctor had explained to us, wasn’t necessary. The best news we could’ve gotten. We also spoke to Alan’s two children: Michael would be flying to Charleston, Cindy was driving. 

After a sleepless night—talking to and assessing fussy nurses, scavenging for food, pacing the halls when ejected from the room—Alan moved to the ICU around 9 AM. I met his team of doctors. 

MUSC is a teaching hospital, so the physicians were younger than I’m used to, but thorough and experienced. Alan’s primary doctor— older, more experienced, revered—would oversee everything they did. The doctors would drill into his skull, they explained in graphic terms, to allow excess blood to drain from his brain. But they couldn’t do that until the blood thinners he was taking for his heart were out of his system. And currently, getting the blood away from his brain was more important than his heart. 

Seriously, I thought, must we choose between his brain and his heart?

It was sobering. In less than twenty-four hours our lives were infused with the language of doctors and the smell of antiseptic, the necessity for needles and the reality of IVs. Not to mention ceaseless and less than pretty prayers. We went from the ophthalmologist’s office in the morning, to the Beaufort ER, and on to MUSC in the middle of the night. The road leading to Charleston, SC, usually carries tourists full of excitement and romance. That night it carried me and my heavy heart.

Could it get any worse? Of course it could!However, in this present hour, we felt fortunate Dr. K had sent us to the ER, fortunate extensive brain surgery wasn’t in Alan’s immediate future, fortunate for a proficient team of doctors, fortunate Michael and Cindy could be with us, fortunate Alan found the treatment almost painless, though he was awake the entire time. Yes, they took a manual drill and drilled into his skull! And he didn’t flinch, well, not after enduring a hefty lidocaine shot in his skull. Told the doctors, his kids, and me, “No big deal.” 

The verse whispering to my heart that frantic first night was, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Not exactly the verse I was hoping for, but it kept resonating. I felt God was saying, “Trust me,” and after decades of experiencing the power and the mercy of His holy touch, I could. 

Alan was in the hospital longer than we’d hoped. His two children and I had rooms at a nearby Hilton. We ate our share of cafeteria food, but one night we toasted Alan at a nearby Portuguese restaurant, a decadent experience given the circumstances. Charleston is historic and acclaimed, much larger than Beaufort and Port Royal, and known for 5-star restaurants and grandeur. This occasion, however, had been harrowing; there were just too many unknowns. 

Finally, after ten days, Alan was discharged with a caveat: a weekly brain scan. Michael and Cindy helped enormously with Alan’s hospital stay and now with the transition—med and hospital instructions, hotel check-out, home initiation. And let us not forget, driving. However, three weeks later he and I were back at MUSC for a two-night stay where they drilled his skull again because of renewed bleeding. 

Nine-months later, brain scans continue, just not as often. “The residual blood isn’t absorbing,” we’re told. I found the verse God gave me, “All things work together for good to those who love God,” was exactly the right verse. God knew our experience would take longer than we expected, wanted, or hoped for, but He desires us to live by faith and not by sight. He wants the invisible realm to be as real to us as what we see and feel and even hear from doctors. 

In the invisible or spiritual realm, we are immersed in the good our Creator intends—love joy, hope, and peace. Stepping into that supernatural place saturates our senses with an intimacy, an awareness that the God of the universe stands with us, and we can handle life’s surprises. Good and bad. 

How could Alan and I not trust Him? If you’ve read any of my posts you know He has guided us through tragedy and death. He has given us the perfect home for our old age in a location full of charm and history, beauty and wonderful folks. The first time we crossed one of several Low Country bridges, we both felt a sense of belonging. Now we see two of those bridges from our deck—one where Forrest Gump ran, and one where Nick Nolte whispered the final words in “The Prince of Tides.” 

We don’t know when this earthly journey will end, but meanwhile, Alan is back at work, fully functioning, asymptomatic. We both believe this story is positive, and that God is in control. And while I don’t like to say we’re old, well, we ARE old. However young or old doesn’t matter. Tomorrow is on every calendar, full of responsibility, pleasure, and expectancy, but it isn’t guaranteed. 

Yet, Christians should never fear death or the unknown; we are made in the image of God. Unique because we are part spirit, privileged to have God through Christ Jesus touch that part of us that connects us to Him in holy, precious moments. And one day our spirit will step from planet earth into life everlasting, into the arms of the One who made our earthly journey worthy and our eternal journey possible. Jesus.

Whether you’re forty or eighty, getting older has hassles for sure, but it also has pleasures. 

Regardless of circumstances, we must look for the positive. Develop that attitude of gratitude

Why? Because you will find what you seek. 

Seek what is good, what is encouraging, what is helpful, what is promised in the Word of God. Be grateful in all things. Most importantly, seek God. I mean, really, really seek Him. 

When His Holy breath becomes as vital to you as the moon to the tide, as the water to the marsh, as the Live Oak to the dancing Spanish moss, you will be immersed in an intimacy that will give you the peace and power only God through Jesus Christ can bring. He swathed Alan and me from the beginning of this saga, and he will walk with us until it ends. That’s the only thing we both know for sure. 

Life is a struggle. 

We are terminal. 

We all face these facts.

Jesus Christ knows your struggle. Knows your pain. He had it worse than you. Remember? He advocates for you with the Father. He understands your circumstances and he wants to help. If He has a job, this is it. Helping you. Me. All.

Allow Christ to step into your sadness and your joy, your tragedies and your glories. Let life’s pressure rest with the One who holds your hope and hears the cry of your heart. The One who will one day welcome you Home. Things may not turn out exactly how you want or hope, but as you put your trust in Christ, your perspective will slowly change. And I promise you, life will be kinder, happier, more peaceful, fuller . . .  and you will never, never, ever be the same.

What are God’s promises for those who seek Him?

Hebrews 11:6…Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever draws near to God must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who seek Him.

Matthew 6:33…But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.

Proverbs 8:17…I love those who love Me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

Jeremiah 29:14…Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to  you. You will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.

Psalm 9:10…And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

Matthew 7:7-8…Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Psalm 14:2…The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.

Psalm 119:2…Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart.

Lamentations 3:25…The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

2 Chronicles 7:14…If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Isaiah 55:6…Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.

God is a rewarder of those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6.

Have a favorite verse about seeking God? Post it below. 

14 Responses to " When God Steps In "

  1. Linda Jarrett says:

    Going to read this evening! I’m so excited for you dear friend. I’m thankful God is using you in sch a mighty way.

  2. Carene Scott says:

    Your home sounds beautiful and enchanting . Love the story, Karyn. So happy for you and Alan.

  3. Jane king says:

    As I have said before, you have the wonderful talent of writing! You can make the words, come to life. As I am reading, I can visualize every word!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Love you!

  4. Robert Taylor says:

    Karyn, after I transferred to Belfry, I lost contact with most of my former WJHS/WHS classmates. But as you may recall I attended the WHS 50-year reunion for our class of 1967. It was such an honor to see most everyone again. But I must say, I was so impressed in learning that you had become such a devout Christian. I read the story you posted of the medical emergency your husband had with his brain ailment. It was a very heartwarming story. The Lord has really blessed you with wonderful writing ability. And the fact you write to serve the Lord makes your writing even better. I love it that you serve the Lord in your writing. You are a wonderful young lady. May the Lord Bless and keep you. (You know? He already has.)

    • Thanks for all the kind remarks, Robert. Of course I remember you at the 50th. it’s a dream to see all of our old classmates. I wish we could do it once a year. You know, I don’t think I consider myself such a devout Christian, but thank you for that kind comparison. I mess things up to much sometimes. But I am a Jesus lover for sure. I thank God always for sending His Son to die for us. I think I am probably more grateful than devout! :)

  5. Karen Silkwood says:

    You have a great gift and we get the rewards. Your heartfelt stories are thought provoking. Thank you for each and every story you have shared.

  6. Patty says:

    Thank you for sharing the journey. God is the beginning and the end.

  7. Malinda Dexter Harp says:

    It is remarkable this story can be my story, even though I am dealing with being old and raising a 15 year old that seems out of control. It is even more remarkable that we shared a classroom for one year almost 62 years ago in the little town of Williamson, and while we never interacted then, here we are all these years later. Your story gives me great encouragement to keep trusting in Him for what seems unmanageable right now. God always keeps His promises. And I am standing on them as Christ my Saviour is always a winner.

  8. Malinda, I so agree with you! I am so intrigued that we all can continue keeping up with each other if only for a minute. It helps keep me grounded, though technology drives me bonkers sometimes. I’m so glad this story gave you encouragement, that is absolutely my intent. I’ve been through harrowing times, like most of us, but trusting and believing is what we have and who we are as Christians. I am sending you prayers regarding your young man,and pray for God to give you wisdom and patience as needed and give this child the courage to not follow the crowd and to believe what is right and true. I pray God to touch his soul. My most harrowing time I wrote about in a story “It’s None of your Business” on this blog. It may give you even more encouragement. Thinking of you, and Godspeed in your trials, Malinda!

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