The night before the appointment in early February, Jeremy, the kids, and I brought a salad to Morgan and Joel’s house for a Superbowl party. We milled around, sometimes reclining on their yellow couch, sometimes filling plates with food at their long table and sitting on the benches along the length of their table. We talked, ate guacamole and chips, glanced at commercials, and drenched salad in homemade dressing as their kids and ours run up and down the stairs in wild delight, chasing each other and building towers and playing hide-and-seek.
While I chopped cucumber to finish assembling the salad, crammed into an alcove in the kitchen, Joel filled cups with water.
He asked me, “So, how is your eye? How are you feeling?”
I nodded. A pastor and elder at our church, Joel and his wife Morgan had become dear friends of ours almost as soon as we moved to Denver two years ago – he had sent me a psalm via text when he’d first heard that the doctor had pronounced a negative judgment on my right eye.
“Well, I feel scared. But I’m ready to find out all I can about my eye and start whatever treatment I can,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, nodding. “What can you see exactly?” he asked.
“So, my peripheral vision is perfect,” I said, motioning in a circle on the edges of my eye ball. “But then I have this grey spot in the center of my vision wherever I focus – it just never clears up,” I continued, pointing to the very center of my eye.
Joel nodded, thoughtful. “Well, we’re praying for you, Liz,” he said. “And let us know if there’s any way we can help.”
“Will do,” I said, smiling.
Just before the halftime show, Morgan looked in on the kids playing in the basement. When she returned, she found me sitting across from the television in a rocking chair:
“Zeke threw up,” she said.
“Oh my gosh,” I said. “Jeremy, Zeke threw up.”
“What?” he said, frowning.
“I’m going to go check on him,” I said, charging downstairs. I sped past the table, into the kitchen, and down the stairs, each creaking as I descended.
“Zeke?” I said as I rounded the bend. The basement stretched before me: it looked like a long hallway with bedrooms and a bathroom branching off from it and a washing machine, dryer, some cabinets and a sink to my right along the wall. And there, at the end of the hallway, was a puddle of chunky orange liquid. I could smell it immediately.
“Ew,” I said, walking toward it. Zeke played at the edge of the mess, and just as Jeremy thundered down the stairs, I picked up him and handed him to Jeremy.
“I’ll handle this,” I said, motioning to the vomit, if you take care of him.
“Deal,” Jeremy said, and he turned and carried Zeke up the stairs.
I walked back toward the end of the hallway. “Mom, Zeke threw up!” my daughter yelled from the other end of the mess.
“I see that, hon. Thank you,” I said, glancing around for anything to mop up the mess as Morgan descended the staircase.
“Let me clean up,” I said to her, “It’s the least I can do.”
She smiled, “It’s not your fault, Liz. It’s okay.”
I grimaced and palmed a roll of paper towels off the counter, near the washing machine. I walked toward the mess and bent, ripping off a square and letting the throw-up soak into the towel. Morgan ignored me and kneeled to help me clean. After ten minutes of scrubbing, balling up the paper towels into a trash can and then disinfecting the linoleum floor with vinegar water, we stunk.
We both rose and scrubbed our hands in the sink beside the washing machine.
I said, “Thank you, Morgan. I’m so sorry. I hope your kids don’t get this, whatever it is.”
She smiled at me. “It’s really okay,” she said.
“Thanks, friend,” I said, and I squeezed her shoulder. Morgan turned and trudged up the stairs, as I shot a text to my friend Kiley who had volunteered to watch the kids during my appointment the next morning – I figured she deserved to hear about the recent developments and to opt out of her volunteer role, if she so desired.
Just then I hear, “Gross!” from upstairs.
“Uh oh,” I said to Morgan, as I took the stairs two at a time.
“Jeremy?” I said.
“He’s in the bathroom,” Joel said, “With Zeke.”
“Oh no,” I said. “Jeremy can’t handle throw-up – it makes him nauseated.”
Joel shrugged. I walked over to the bathroom in the hallway and knocked on the door.
“Jeremy?” I said.
“Zeke threw up on me,” he said through the door. “In my lap. Twice. It’s everywhere.”
Joel walked up to me and handed me one of his t-shirts and a pair of workout pants. “Joel has some clothes for you, if you want them,” I said.
Jeremy opened the door a crack and reached his arm through, grabbing the clothes. Then I heard the bathtub running.
I walked back in the living room and sat in a chair.
“Isn’t your appointment tomorrow?” Joel asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Hopefully this clears up?” he said.
I sighed, trying to ignore my heart thumping wildly in my chest, trying to suppress the warmth behind my eyes, trying not to ask the one question that occurred to me: what are we going to do?
To be continued…
This post is part of my “Through A Mirror Dimly” series about a health issue I’ve been experiencing. I started telling this story during the season of Lent as a way to make sense of the ways that my own suffering teaches me about the suffering of Jesus Christ.
I also invite you to engage with your own suffering through this series: how does your personal pain illuminate the suffering of Jesus for you? And what can your pain teach you about the life of faith?
I’d love to hear your thoughts – comment away!