You’ve heard of a pastor or priest claiming he was called by God to serve in the ministry. I’ve had strong pulls to do this or that, but I wouldn’t ever call it a calling. But a few weeks ago, when I heard the sadness in my friend’s voice as she told me about her incredible medical woes, I definitely heard a whisper in my ear. “Go to her,” it said. “She needs someone desperately, and that someone should be you.” Deborah had had cancer in her left leg, a hip replacement in both legs, another surgery on her left leg, and then a dramatic fall due to a sudden breaking of her left femur. Three surgeries later, she found herself in rehab in St. Petersberg, facing the next 12 weeks in a wheelchair at home, when she was alone, with limited help from her family, no friends nearby, and oh yes, total blindness. The blindness she had dealt with all her life, quite admirably. She is a well known and respected writer, speaker, and teacher, in addition to being an active advocate for people with all disabilities. After five weeks, with another seven to go in a wheelchair, with the occasional use of a walker to aid in hopping on one foot to get to places where the wheelchair wouldn’t fit, the doctors agreed to let her go home, only if she had help. When she knew that I was on my way, she assured the doctors that her friend was coming to be with her, and they were satisfied. She did not mention, however, that her friend was also totally blind. Had they known, they surely would have said no way. But Deborah and I have been friends for over 30 years, and we had every confidence that we could manage on our own. So I bought a plane ticket, left Dora with my wonderful friend Eve, was met at the airport, was given a brief orientation to my room and to her condo, and rolled up my sleeves. My first duty was to pull off the compression stockings that Deborah was required to wear. That was a cinch, compared to the next morning’s battle with them as I struggled to pull them on. They went to the middle of her thigh, and they, being compression stockings, were very tight and unbelievably complicated to put on properly. She couldn’t help with this process, because she wasn’t allowed to bend over, but once I got them up over her knees, she could finish the job. The first day, I got it done with a minimum of sweat, and I joyfully thought I had found a new calling in life, but as the week went on, I had a little more trouble, and it was frustrating for us both. I was busy all day, but it wasn’t all picking up dropped objects, reaching glasses from a high cupboard, preparing, serving, and cleaning up after meals, assisting with laundry, fetching the ice pack, or struggling with attaching the leg support on her wheelchair. We had hours of pure pleasure sitting out on her lanai, listening to the fountain in a pond nearby, and talking about things that matter. There were no outtings, no shopping, swimming in the pool, or walks around the pond. But I was unexpectedly content to stay in the house or the lanai.
Over the span of the week, Deborah became stronger and more confident in doing for herself. At the beginning of the week, she was happy to let me go get her coffee, but by the end of the week, she said she’d get it herself. Gradually, she was regaining her independence, even in a wheelchair. People say I’m amazing, but they ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Imagine a totally blind woman wheeling around her condo with her left leg sticking out, ready to be caught on a corner and then correcting her direction and continuing on her way.
Each night, after helping her get ready for bed, I would check the locks on the door, refill the water in the Keurig, write in my journal, thank God for helping us get through the day and whisper a good night to my dear Dora who was so far away. The picture shown here is Dora looking up at Eve, saying, “Isn’t it time to play ball again?” I missed her terribly, but I felt useful, and that felt good.