I met Ron when I was 20 and continued to endure the painful cornea treatments. We married a year later, postponing my return to education yet again. By our 19th year of marriage, I’d borne three children, had two cornea transplants, and earned my BA in education. The last feat was accomplished only because my husband went to my college classes for the first two weeks and recorded the lectures since I was recovering from my second transplant. For better or worse, right?
I was happily teaching at a small Christian school and I thought I had found my mission field. I’d even started working on a graduate degree. But my usually cheerful husband, Ron, began to have problems with depression and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. That began a round of mental hospitals–very foreign places to be–and led to a long stay in Friends Hospital in Philadelphia the summer of 1999. We’d been studying the Prayer of Jabez in Sunday School, so I counted on God to enlarge my territory (I Chronicles 4:10). I was led to a Quaker school in West Chester with the offer of a salary that would support my family.
It had been a long road, but Ron was recovering from his battle with depression when on his way home from work on March 1, 2000, his car was broadsided by a truck driver running a red light. The damage to Ron was immense: his chest was crushed, his lung was punctured, his liver was damaged, his spleen was ruptured, and his left arm was almost severed. He also suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Ron was in the hospital at Crozer-Chester Medical Center for 10 months and there were many times during those ten months that I wondered if I would have the strength to go on. There is a long corridor at Crozer between the parking pavilion and the hospital. Every afternoon after school, I would lean against the wall and feel as if I could just melt into a puddle. I would pray for the strength to just make it to my husband’s room. I would recite Isaiah 41:10 and ask God to uphold me. I’d feel a surge of energy that kept me moving ahead. The hospital became my new mission field. Ron’s room was always decorated with cards from my students and as much cheer as the kids and I would provide, even a small Christmas tree. Again and again, plans for Ron to come home were thwarted by another emergency surgery or a mysterious infection.
I feared he might never come home.
But he did. We were even able to celebrate our 25th anniversary by renewing our vows in a beautiful service. Ron tried to return to work, but his energy was depleted and physical problems still existed. He developed chronic regional pain syndrome, which spiraled him back into depression. Over the next 20 years, Ron was hospitalized 46 times for both physical and mental problems and had 36 major surgeries as we tried to repair the damage done by a careless driver.
No matter what hospital Ron was in, we found a way to witness to others. My daughter and I would bring our knitting projects to wait out the many surgeries, and always someone would come over to talk to us and we could share our belief in Jesus. During one long stay at Eagleville, a doctor asked me this question: How have you continued to stay with your husband through all of this? And I told him, “I made a vow to both Ron and God. I do not take it lightly.” The doctor told me, “You must serve a big God.”
Yes. I do. And He is good. All the time.
Even when the worst happens.