Essays on Faith: It’s all in God’s hands

Every so often, things happen that we don’t understand. Although we try, sometimes we never find the answers.

A few years ago, my husband started having terrible back pain. For about a month, there was no relief. He’d had back problems off and on for years, but the pain usually went away after a week or two and lots of rest.

This time it didn’t.

He finally saw a doctor who gave him a prescription for pain medication and ordered an MRI. The very next day after the procedure was done, the doctor phoned and asked Mr. H. to come to his office to discuss the results. I went with him.

While we waited in the exam room, we wondered what could be so important. It makes you slightly nervous when the doctor himself phones and asks you to come in that very day.

When he walked in, he stopped in front of Mr. H. and said, “How do you feel?”

Mr. H. replied, “Not too bad.”

The doctor looked at him skeptically and said, “According to your MRI, you should be paralyzed from the waist down.”

Then he went to his computer, pulled up a picture of Mr. H.’s spine and explained to us that every disc — not one or two — but every disc in his back was compressed.

No wonder he’d been having so much pain.

I was not surprised. Many years ago, another doctor admitted him to the hospital and put him in traction. After countless tests, the doctor came to the conclusion that he might possibly end up in a wheelchair someday. I pushed that thought to the back of my mind and Mr. H. never acknowledged it.

But now, his doctor wanted to set him up with a neurosurgeon to see if surgery was necessary. In the meantime, he was to continue taking the prescription he’d given him. Mr. H. cooperated and, although it took several weeks, we finally met with the neurosurgeon.

After he’d studied Mr. H’s records, he said surgery was not necessary at this time, but added that if he were to start having pain that wouldn’t stop again, he should come back so he could reevaluate his condition. He suggested that Mr. H. walk with a cane to lessen his chances of falling.

We left feeling good about his condition. The pain pills had helped the pain a great deal and we weren’t looking at surgery in the near future. Maybe never! And the doctor didn’t even mention a wheelchair.

It was a wonderful day.

At my insistence, Mr. H. bought a cane, but used it only occasionally. No matter how much I complained about him doing too much, he never stopped doing most of the things he’d always done, although he was a little more cautious. When I objected excessively, he insisted, “I’m not an invalid, and I’m never going to be an invalid!” He refused to accept anything negative.

I wonder ... If everyone were blessed with the kind of determination Mr. H. has, would there be fewer serious illnesses? Are many of them merely accepted without question after tests show unfavorable results?

I had an uncle who, in his 40s, was told that he had a brain tumor. He agreed to the recommended surgery, but afterward, the doctor sadly informed him that it was impossible to “get it all.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “There’s nothing more we can do. The tumor will continue to grow. I’ll give you five years.”

A spirited young man, my uncle replied, “You don’t give me anything! I’ll live as long as God allows. You have absolutely nothing to do with it!”

The doctor shrugged, shook my uncle’s hand and wished him well.

My uncle lived twenty-five years! He and his wife traveled extensively, and welcomed grandchildren, and even one great-grandchild, into the world before he died. He enjoyed life more than ever after a doctor “gave” him only five years to live.

As for my husband, he continued to work for several more years until retirement. His back is even worse now. Doctors say it’s inoperable. Although in constant pain, he still rejects any possibility of invalidism.

I recently told a neighbor that my husband can’t do much around the house. Smiling, he said, “He tries, though, doesn’t he?” Apparently, Mr. H.’s determination is obvious to everyone.

These are two special cases. Numerous times, doctors and tests are right on target and people must battle life-threatening illnesses. Some lose. Some gain a little more time if they’re lucky.

But why do some, like my uncle and Mr. H. seem to win by refusing to accept bad news from doctors?

The answer is clear. My uncle was right. It’s all in God’s hands!

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro.

Essays on Faith may be submitted to gazette@wvgazettemail.com.

Find more Essays on Faith at www.wvgazettemail.com/life/religion.

Funerals for Thursday, November 21, 2019

Bias, Kenneth - 7 p.m., Evans Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Chapmanville.

Carrow, Mildred - 1 p.m., Marmet Memorial Gardens, Marmet.

Coleman, Aaron - 1 p.m., Cooke Funeral Home Chapel, Cedar Grove.

Fore, George - 7 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Midkiff, Cleo - 2 p.m., Bartlett-Nichols Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Outman, Roxine -  2 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Shamblin, Cathy - 7 p.m., Christ Community Church, Scott Depot.