“Hey girl, are you better?” It was Margy telephoning on her lunch break.
“Not really.” Annie yearned for something more positive to tell her former neighbor, but truth was truth. In spite of the passing weeks, her condition had changed little.
“Have you been to a doctor, yet?” Annie thought she detected a hint of frustration in Margy’s tone, but hoped her words reflected real concern rather than judging.
“No, we’re still waiting. Richard’s company stipulates a sixty-day waiting period before he’s eligible for health insurance.” At a sudden stab of pain, Annie’s dark eyes grew even darker. She tried shifting her pillow but it didn’t help much.
“You know, a lady at my office injured her neck recently: she had surgery and was back to work in a couple weeks.” To Annie it sounded almost as if Margy thought she needed only to try a little harder and she would be fine. “Aren’t you covered at St. Paul’s?”
“No, they’re a small church with an equally small budget; and I’m only a part-time secretary. Pastor Joseph, bless his heart, wanted to dig into his discretionary fund, but I knew it would cause a problem later with insurance.”
“Your boss sounds like a really caring person. If I had missed as much work as you, mine would probably fire me.”
Margy rang off and Annie felt the call of nature. That was good news and bad. It was going to hurt like everything to maneuver out of bed, but at least it offered a tiny distraction from the long, lonely hours, just lying there.
Richard was up and gone by five in the morning and didn’t return until seven at night. Then he had dinner to organize, two birds to feed, laundry, and sometimes bills to pay. Because of her groaning and moaning all night, weeks ago her husband had moved into the guest room. Often his light burned until midnight and Annie knew he was reading one of his detective novels. She longed for him to come in and talk to her but he seemed to want to escape more than communicate.
Before work he dutifully hard-boiled two eggs and brought them to her in a bowl, set out fruit for her lunch, and in a flash it seemed he was pulling out of the driveway. On weekends he often worked in the yard, except on Sunday mornings when he attended church. Riding in the car was just too painful so again Annie was left alone. Once or twice he went out to lunch after services with a group, leaving her with self-pity galore.
It hurt that friends from church seldom came to visit; even Margy had been to see her only once. A few called and cards came often in the mail, but Annie desperately needed personal contact. Annie’s home had become her prison and she sometimes sensed a high wall divided her from the rest of humanity. She thought maybe God had erected the wall.
“We’re still praying for you,” was all their own pastor had to say on the rare occasion when he telephoned.
When insurance finally kicked in to pay for surgery, only Pastor Joseph and Richard came to see Annie in the hospital and this left her feeling more isolated than ever. Once she was back home the pain, if anything, was worse, but she had been told to expect healing pain.
One night the throbbing became almost unbearable: Richard was on the road at the time. By daybreak she knew she was in crisis. About midmorning she heard a knock, but was unable to rise from bed.
A man’s voice called from the door, “It’s Pastor Joseph and Renee.” Annie did not remember telephoning the parsonage. The pastor couple scooped Annie up and wary of jostling her, carefully slid her into the backseat of the car. They drove her to the emergency room and sat with her until Richard arrived.
Tests revealed Annie would need spinal fusion. She felt both relief and fear: relief there was remedy, fear because of the risk involved. After her second surgery, until she could return home, Pastor Joseph and Renee nursed her at the parsonage. Church members brought meals, Renee helped her with her showers, and once the choir gathered round her bed and sang her favorite hymns to her.
Though prayer is spiritual in nature, when Pastor Joseph prayed for Annie, kneeling beside her bed, she felt the effect bodily, as if she had received a blood transfusion.
Today Annie feels she owes a debt of gratitude she can never repay. Pastor Joseph, Renee, and the church she had formerly served as their secretary, demonstrated for her what the true love of Christ means in the worst crises of life. Proving their faith by their works, they planted her on the solid road to healing: emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
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