Lea underwent her eighth surgery today, and tolerated it quite well. The surgeons removed a little dead tissue from her pancreas again today, and found some “sludge” in her abdomen cavity. They will be taking her to the operating room again Friday so they can get a better look at things, and irrigate her to eliminate any debris that hasn’t drained off through her abdominal drain.

Dr. Mah told me and Lea’s brother Jim, who drove out from Indiana to see her, that although she isn’t out of the woods, and that the odds of recovery are still not in her favor, he remains very optimistic that she will continue making good progress. He said that she is obviously a fighter, and that she continues to improve. Her kidneys started producing more urine last night, and she is up to about 65% of normal urine production for an adult. Hopefully the kidneys will now begin to return to normal.

Dr. Mah also stated that they would probably do the tracheotomy Friday while they have her in the operating room. This procedure is expected to make it easier to wean her from the ventilator machine and let her lungs take over breathing for her again. If she can get her lungs and kidneys working again, that’s two major systems that have a major impact on her ability to recover from this illness. Please lift her up in prayer in coming weeks.

I received a heart-warming story of faith and trust in God from one of the folks who have asked to receive Lea’s updates. This person, mind you, has not even met Lea, but heard of her through a child relative. The note received from this person spoke of the awe and love the youngster has for Lea, and that the devotion of the child to Lea was the source of some envy. But, observing Lea’s battle against this terrible illness has helped this person see the strength and courage Lea possesses, and the wide-ranging impact she has had on other’s lives over the years.

This led to telling of her personal heart-warming story I refer to above, and has given me the courage to write about a recent incident that occurred to me a few weeks prior to our vacation (which we are still trying to return from). I want to share this with you, because I still have not been able to put it into perspective, and probably won’t be able to complete that process until Lea’s situation has been resolved, and we can look back on it at some point in the future.

Around the middle of May this year I was building a number of wooden replacement storm windows, to have them ready when the housepainter arrived later that summer. I had kissed Lea goodnight as she headed to bed on the second floor, and went to the basement to paint one of the storm windows I had finished. As I began painting the window I was enjoying a few minutes of quiet reflection on the planned upcoming repairs to the house. After several minutes I completed the first side of the window and flipped it over to paint the back.

As I started applying the paint, I heard Lea call softly from the top of the basement stairs in the kitchen, “Larry.” I was a little surprised she wasn’t already asleep, and asked, “What?” She didn’t reply. Sometimes when she was looking for me she wouldn’t realize that I was in the basement, and would go on into the rest of the house looking for me. I often heard her footsteps passing on the wooden floor overhead.

This was noticeably strange tonight, however, because there were no lights on the ground floor. I had turned them off when I went to the basement, and had left the basement door open, which would spill light out into the dark kitchen. How could she have gone by without seeing the basement light on? “Larry,” she called softly. “I’m in the basement, hon,” I replied a little louder than before. Again, no reply.

I wondered if I should go find her, but hesitated, so I could finish painting. I was almost done. “Larry,” she called softly again. I put my paint brush down, a little alarmed, that she didn’t answer. I hurried up the stairs, and made the ninety degree turn to the kitchen landing, when I saw her standing in the door opening in a simple white nightgown.

“What is it, honey?” I asked. “I died,” she replied softly, almost as though surprised. “What!?” I said, thinking I must have misunderstood her. “I died,” she repeated, as she started to vanish. As she was fading from view, I noticed her feet. She was floating above the floor, her dangling feet wore blue satin ballerina shoes with straps tied up around her ankles!

She faded into the darkness and was gone before I had a chance to organize my thoughts, but I had an urge to run upstairs quickly to see if she was indeed gone. I needed to tell her one more time that I love her. As I hurried into our bedroom, she was laying on her side toward the center of the bed. I reached out to place my hand on her arm, while praying silently that she was still warm. As I touched her, she turned slowly to me, and asked, What’s wrong?” I was so choked up, all I could get out, was, “I just wanted to tell you that I love you.”

I stood there for several minutes, tears welling up in my eyes, unable to make myself leave her side. She asked, “What’s the matter?” I said, “I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. Just know that I love you, and get some rest. Good night, honey.”. “Good night,” she replied, and rolled back over onto her side.

How foolish I felt. Did I really see what I thought I had? It’s not like me to have those kind of experiences. What could be the meaning of it? I thought a lot about the incident, and shared it with Lea and other family members over the next couple of days. Although puzzled by it, I didn’t put a lot of importance on it, until later that same week I had another similar incident.

On this night, a couple of nights later, Lea had gone on to bed while I finished up some things downstairs, then watched television for a while. As I went upstairs to go to bed myself, I walked down the dimly lit hallway to our bedroom, which was lighted by a bedside table lamp on my side of the bed. As I entered the doorway of the bedroom I saw Lea laying on the bed, on her back, with her hands folded on her chest . . . and for an instant I saw her laying in a casket.

The sight nearly brought me to my knees. I was really shaken. I didn’t bother Lea, but lay down beside her on my side of the bed, and wept silently at the thought of her death, sobs shaking the bed. I spent most of that night trying to figure out what these visions meant, and spent a lot of time in prayer asking for guidance. When I awoke the next morning, I knew the answer.

I already knew from other experiences with the death of family members how totally final death is. There is no second chance to tell someone the things you wish you had told them. There is no “do over.” If you haven’t said it, or shown it before they die, it’s just too late. And, you have to live with the guilt. I knew that I was being told to spend more quality time with Lea. To make sure that all those things that needed to be said between us were covered. I really saw, for the first time, how horribly I would miss her if I no longer had her at my side. That thought really haunted me.

As Lea and I discussed the visions later that day, I told her, “I think the Lord is telling me that I need to be nicer to you.” She said, “Or maybe he’s telling ME that I need to be nicer to YOU!” We had many warm, friend-to-friend conversations over the next few weeks, and I felt closer to her than ever, although I wouldn’t have thought it possible. We had a grand time on our vacation, sharing a lot of new experiences in a culture we had not experienced before.

She really enjoyed learning about the lobstering community in Maine, and photographing activities of the lobstermen that would become studies for later watercolor paintings. We watched the boats working their lobster traps in the harbors on the Northeast coast, and then bringing their day’s catch to the co-op for sorting and shipment to markets all over the world. It was great fun to select the lobsters for that evenings dinner, and preparing dinner was a group activity we all enjoyed. I’ve included a photo of her sketching near the lobster co-op in Corea, Maine the week before she became ill.

On the first day of travel back home we had planned to drive seven hours south and stay overnight in Connecticut. It was toward evening of this first day of driving that Joe started having chest pains while driving on I-91 just south of Hartford. Since I am a cardiac rehabilitation patient myself, and had nitroglycerin in my pocket, I was able to start him on emergency treatment right away.

Meanwhile, I started driving south, with Joe in the passenger seat, dissolving a nitro table under his tongue, and Lea, in the back, got on the cell phone and called 911. Reaching the State Police, she was able to arrange for an ambulance to meet us at an exit ahead of us. Long story made a little shorter, Joe was admitted to the hospital, and Lea and I went a few miles from the hospital to the hotel we had reserved for the night.

It was the next morning she got up feeling woozy. She was having a hot sweat, and just felt a little out of sorts. After her shower, however, she thought she felt a little better, so we headed to the hospital to pick up Pat, who had been there all night with Joe, so she could go back to the motel for a shower. Lea stayed in the truck while I went for Pat, and when we got back to the truck, Lea was experiencing extreme abdominal pain . . . so much that I took her immediately to the Emergency Room.

Over the next several hours, while she was being given blood tests, cat scans, ultrasounds, and other tests, she continued to get worse and worse, requiring more and more drugs to stifle her excruciating pain. I kept seeing her slip farther and farther from consciousness, until I could no longer get her to respond to me. All I could think of was how she had faded away from me in the vision I had just a few weeks before, and how I had realized how much I would miss her. And, now, I feared, the Lord was taking her away from me!

This struggle Lea is fighting demonstrates to me that she wants to return to me, her family, and her friends. I pray for her constantly. I ask the Lord to forgive me if I am being selfish in asking him to let me have her a while longer. And, as I get your emails and your eGreetings, I become aware of how much she has meant to so many others, and how much she means to folks she hasn’t even met yet. I hope she hasn’t finished serving His purpose yet, and that He will use her to touch your life and bring you closer to where you should be . . . in His service.

As for me; I am going to be right here with her. I am going to be here for her every day as we go through this ordeal, through the rehabilitation, and through the rest of our lives together. For, you see, I now KNOW what it would be like to no longer be able to talk to her, to have her squeeze my hand; or to laugh and flash that gorgeous smile. I love her so much! I miss her so!