“Do you want to be well?”
In my mind today I am thinking about my daily readings from yesterday. There was a man who had been crippled for 38 years. He is just lying there waiting for someone to help him get into the waters. 38 years. When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be well he did not wait for the answer. He told him to pick up the mat and walk. He did.
I can totally relate to the man lying around for 38 years. I have been wheelchair bound since 2015. As I write this blog, I am waiting to get a shower. I can’t get up and do it myself. If it were feasible I would have a shower every single day. In order for me to do that I would have to have some type of time travel device. In order to bathe a quadriplegic it takes about 2 hours to do everything. Although I cannot walk and carry my mat, I improvise. Students the mat can be any type of limitation that you have.
I was asked to give a speech last Sunday at our little parish. It definitely was a “mat” situation. I did not want to do it but God kept pushing me to pick up my “mat.”
My heart has been very heavy lately. The last thing I wanted to do was to talk about my journey of faith. As I watched, sang and listened to our special guest artist, Sarah Hart, God nudged me. She was talking about her mother and the legacy of love that mother’s provide. I had already decided to do a 3 point speech about the elephant in the room[me in the scoot with ALS], my/our purpose, and seeking to see Jesus in our lives. Just before leaving to go to make this speech, I got a call from my daughter. She had just been through a traumatic experience. Most of you know my daughter and know that she is a music major as well as an education major. She has 20 hours this semester. She had 22 hours last semester. My girl has been very busy and exhausted. She is a junior in college. She had text me earlier in the week about a competition in voice that she was going to be auditioning at the University of Memphis. She was super pumped and super excited and super prepared! She thought she had made it to the next level. She kept asking them where her evaluation was. She and a choir friend went together. She did not make the cut. Her friend did. On top of that they could not find her scores. The scores would help her deal with her failure. She had called me Sunday right before I left to give the speech to tell me about this traumatic experience. I listened and let her cry. It hurts so much to hear your children cry. She started tearing herself down as I was listening to her. I simply asked her, Who do you need to worry about impressing in this life? Where do you get most of your joy from singing? I also asked her if she had someone there to hug her? She told me that she did. I told her I was so thankful that God put some arms there to hug her but to lean into the phone and feel my hug. She laughed and said I have some things to do and I am so glad that I talked to you. After we got off the phone I had about 15 minutes till time to be at the church.
The speech did explain the key points but God put something else on my heart. I can’t quite remember everything that I shared. I also shared part of the book that I began after being in the hospital last year on this same week in 2021. A lot of people told me I did a fabulous job but I felt like a fabulous flop. The other presenter told me about the wonderful job I did. I told her jokingly that next year whenever I get this book published we would do it again! She agreed, so watch out next March!
I’m going to end this blog with a little of what I shared. Prayers that I get my homework[my book Resurrection published]done students. Yes pray for me; it’s homework!
by Sarah Alley
I am going to tell you the story of how God used my broken body one Holy Week during March and April of 2021.
God has (and does!) speak to me as I have been going down this bumpy road with my health. I have a motor neuron disease that takes pieces of my muscle each day I am alive. It destroys my motor neurons so my brain cannot speak to them.
All this has led to so many wonderful miracles because of my weakness.
When I was first diagnosed and knew what the path I was on would be – a body so atrophied – I was very angry with God. I had a sweet friend that told me to stop being bitter and to stop being angry.
“Just because you are having to teach children while using a cane, that should not matter. You should tell God why you’re angry and talk with him.”
She told me to go to my closet and have it out with God.
One thing she told me before she left my classroom that day was, “You need to think about the things you can still do, Sarah. You have to let go of the things you cannot do. I know you’ve always been a runner and an athlete, but you are so much more. When you get home, you tell God how you feel.”
When she left my room, I’m not going to say that I wasn’t angry at her. Part of me grumbled, ‘What does she know? She can still walk. She can still get out there and play with her students and her children. She is really blessed because she can still wipe her own butt!”
That’s how I judge things these days. If you can wipe your own butt, you are so very blessed. (As a teacher, I often bird walk – so that was a little bird walk.)
That day, when I got home I did go to my closet.
I sat in the wheelchair that I was using part-time, because I was fighting so hard to keep myself from being abnormal.
I wanted to be normal for my students.
In those moments in the closet, I told God I was so angry.
“God, why me? I have such a fruitful job. I’m bringing so many children to You that are broken. I help them to learn to love You, God, but I cannot teach if I cannot walk and be there. God, You know these children. These children are the rowdy children that You have blessed me with, and I have to be physically strong. These are my favorite children, the children that people throw away. God, help me to still be there for them longer.”
I sat there. And cried.
And then, I heard God in my mind.
“My sweet girl, you are so much more than your physical body.”
I had peace.
So, the next day, I did what my friend told me to do.
I embraced all the things I could still do. And those things blessed my road as a teacher.
I am very good with technology. I was still able to teach through technology until my 21st year, and then my body began to give out. I was not able to breathe properly. My diaphragm was dying.
While teaching one day, I passed out.
When I woke up, one of my students, Jari, said, “Ms. Alley, we think you have narcolepsy.”
I knew something was terribly wrong.
That evening, I was rushed to the hospital in Jackson, Tennessee.
My husband got me up. He tried to help me get ready and I was so sick I had a bowel movement all over my body. He had to help me get in the shower, clean me off, put me in the truck, and rush me to the hospital.
The whole time he was driving, my blood pressure and my oxygen levels were fading away. My husband kept putting the oximeter on me to check me.
“Please stay with me, Sarah. Please stay with me.”
I made him go by his work to fax some important papers to my wonderful physical therapist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
He said, “Sarah, we don’t have time for this.”
I said, “You need to do this, because I need a chair so I’m still able to teach.”
He stopped and faxed the papers. And then we were on our way to Jackson County Hospital.
When we got there, I was rushed back. I was fading fast.
They put me on a ventilator, but my body was so tired. I was dying from carbon monoxide poisoning.
I was unconscious for two days. I remember a nurse coming in and saying, “If you will not wear this mask, you will die. Your body is full of poison.”
I let them place the mask on me.
After lots of prayers and petitions at my bedside, I went on a magical trip.
My body felt so light and I was tingly all over. It was like I was in some type of other world. I was riding in a red convertible Cadillac with my son. I think I dreamed of this car, or was given this car during this dream because of the movie Thelma and Louise. My leg was draped over the side. My son Ian was driving the Cadillac.
The thing that was odd or very strange, was that we were flying through the clouds. We were circling the Earth and then God talked to me.
My son said, “Mother, if you need to go home, it’s okay. Jesus will take you. You can go home, but you know you have to fight if you want to stay.”
I was so tired and exhausted. My body was wanting to fly home to heaven.
We were driving through the clouds and God said to me, “If you want to come home, let me touch your toe as you come by me. You will know when I will be by you. I will ask you 3 times.”
My son and I were having a great vacation in the clouds. We were floating along.
Then he looked at me and said, “Mama, we’re coming up to God.”
God asked, “Do you want to come home?”
At the last minute, I pulled my foot away so we still were in flight. We ventured in the car and we looked and saw so many odd people, so many odd creatures, so many other inexplicable things. It was unreal and I could not quite figure out where these creatures came from; it was a world I have never seen before.
My son touched my arm and he said, “God is up ahead. What are you going to do?”
So I began to think about that wonderful rest and that wonderful glory. But, at the last minute, I looked at my son and I pulled my foot back.
We rolled on again and we landed in a city that was so broken. It was like a Sodom and Gomorrah. It was evil. Animals were dead everywhere; things were horrible. It was like an apocalyptic scene. There was pollution everywhere. The earth was charred and gas emissions and smoke belched from deep chasms. There was no life. The stench was overcoming. My heart squeezed in my chest.
We began to move forward again, leaving the broken world behind,.
My son said, “Mother, God is up ahead. Are you wanting to go home?”
I just sat there in silence.
We came upon the brightness of God. I waited to the exact last minute possible – even up to the nanosecond – then I pulled my foot back. I woke up and was so happy to see all of my children and family around my bed. They had been praying for me to come home to Earth and I did.
Let’s fast forward about seven years to March 2021. It was a Tuesday.
My sweet mother-in-law had such a hard time during the pandemic. She almost lost her husband. She almost lost her own life. And she still had so many children she watched over. She came to have a break. She has so many burdens.
Tuesdays were our days to get together and to write cards of encouragement to parishioners. We write little notes of love to others in our little town to let them know we love them and we’re thankful for them. This day, we had decided to work our Bible Club questions in with our visit.
After she fed me lunch, we went into the living room and she got comfortable. She got her writing pad and we were going to begin our study on John chapter 1.
My nurse came by to access my port, so I could begin my infusions. The medicine helps to get the toxins out of my blood so my motor neurons can stay healthy longer. After my port was assessed and my nurse had left, I began to feel very strange.
I was tingly all over again like I had been before. I felt my body become lighter. There was a buzz feeling, like I was leaving it. I was so cold. My son wrapped me in three blankets and put a space heater under me. My teeth were chattering so hard it was hurting my teeth.
My son looked at me and he asked, “Mother are you dying?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t feel right. Will you call my nurse back?”
We called her and she came right away. She checked everything she could.
She said, “Ms. Sarah, Everything looks good. I don’t know what’s going on.”
I had a little reprieve during her stay to check me over and my chills abated. My jaws quit clacking. She had no sooner left my side and I began another vicious attack of tingling, my ears were hot, my jaw was chattering so hard.
My son looked at me and asked, again, “Mom are you dying?”
I said, “Get your grandmother’s oximeter please.”
He placed the oximeter on my hands and my heart rate was 40. Then, my heart rate was racing to 130. Then, down to 40. It was up and down. Up and down. I was so scared because I knew I was going to die in front of my family.
I told him, “Please call 911.”
A little comic relief here:
He said, “How do I call?”
I said, slowly, “Call 9-1-1. Just push 9-1-1.”
I was talking with the emergency team, and I said, “I just don’t feel right. I’m hurting. I’ve got all these symptoms. I don’t know what’s wrong with my body, but I don’t feel right. Something’s going on.”
They started asking a lot of questions.
I said, “Look, please send someone.”
She said, “Honey, we are sending them. But please stay on the phone with me, so you can stay conscious.”
So in walks the ambulance team.
I’m sitting there, and the EMT says, “Sarah Anderson, What are you doing?”
The EMT was a long-time friend whom I had gone to school with. I played basketball and he was a good baseball player. He was also a very handsome guy and I had heard through the grapevine, he was a player of ladies, too. (That’s a little more comic relief.)
As they’re putting me on the stretcher, and they’re getting me out the door, my sweet daughter is saying my last rights over me. She prayed over me and said, “Mother, repeat after me: Rebuke the Devil, confess your sins.”
I was trying to say all my last rights but I couldn’t focus.
My brain was fuzzy and I was leaving my body again.
As he was rolling up the driveway, I saw a man. This man looked just like my husband’s brother. We call him Daddy Mite. He was grabbing my arm and telling me, “I’m Praying for you.”
Each time he would tell me he was praying, I would tell him to not pray for me, but pray for his mother. We did this about three times. Then, the ambulance door was shut.
Keith got me into the ambulance and when we were in there, he said, “Sarah, I think you are in septic shock.”
I was bewildered.
I said, “I don’t know what that is, I’m just hurting.”
He said, “Honey, if your heart stops, do you want me to bring you back? “
I instantly began to cry.
I watched the sunset in the west as we headed east toward the hospital. I saw the glory of God in the clouds and in the glow of the setting sun. It was my favorite time of day, when God speaks so loudly.
I said to Keith, “I want to go home to God, but my family is not ready for me to leave them.”
He said, “Don’t say anything else, Sarah. I understand and I will take care of you.”
He began to wire his information to the hospital and when I got there, they rushed me back.
They confirmed I had septic shock.
My body was full of e coli. It was in my blood. They thought it could have been from my port activation since it had been 6 months since it had been activated. It could also have been my kidneys, which were having such a hard time dealing with the bacteria in my body.
Two weeks prior, I had been taken off of every antibiotic to allow my body to rest from them.
My doctor said, “Do not get on antibiotics anymore, unless you are urinating blood or you’re hurting so bad that you can’t stand it.”
So, while I’m going through all this in my mind, and, I’m thinking, “Did that have something to do with the sepsis?” I think when the Devil is after you, he throws everything at you to keep you from staying here to do God’s work.
My priest was the first one in the emergency room, before my family. He gave me my last rights. He prayed over me. As I was lying there, I felt the vomit come up in my throat. I was trying to tell my emergency nurse I was going to aspirate.
Father Patrick said, “She’s got ALS. She needs to be tilted up.”
He tilted me just in time, but then I pulled a Linda Blair.
I threw up all over my sweet priest.
I said, “I’m so sorry for going Linda Blair on you, Father Patrick.”
He continued to pray over me, and I continued to lift others up that I knew are hurting. I knew I might not be here to help them get to Him.
So we prayed.
He prayed and I prayed for so many of our parishioners.
I prayed for the people in my life. I was just thankful that God had given me extra time.
Father Patrick said, “Who do you want to see first?”