An ordinary day for me begins with a certain organized chaos. My boys are twelve and fourteen, athletic and smart, so someone will have a sporting event or practice of some kind, a project due. My husband is a pastor and he will likely have meeting or event of some kind, so we discuss who is getting which child to where. Meanwhile, coffee is being poured, showers are starting, dogs are fed, lunches are made, kids prepare for school. Matt and I get ready for work and it’s busy and crazy and good.
This is our everyday. Until one day it wasn’t.
On an ordinary morning in May, Matt sat in his chair, sipping his coffee while I got the boys up. Things were running like clockwork when Matt made a motion for me to turn around. I thought he was being flirty, like when I wear a new dress and he wants me to spin, but I was in pajamas and my hair was sticking up.
“Are you kidding?” I asked him.
He spoke, but his words didn’t sound like words at all. His speech was slurred and garbled. His mouth looked odd, as if it belonged on another person’s face.
“Are you kidding?” I asked again. I wished he was. I knew he wasn’t.
He made another motion with his hand, not for me to twirl, but that he wanted to write something down.
It’s amazing to me how many thoughts can go through a mind in a moment. I registered that my youngest son, Owen was bearing witness to this terrible event and I simultaneously wanted to shield him from it and to get him to help me stop it. I shouted for Owen to get a pen after I picked up a colored pencil that was completely devoid of lead.
Why do we never have pens when we need them? Getting a writing utensil seemed so vital. It was something I could control. What if this is the way he talks now? Stroke. The word throbbed through the moment.
With pen in hand, Matt wrote, “Dizzy.” He said, “Dizzy.” The spell was broken. He was back. He said, “Take me to the hospital.”
Here’s the thing; the entire event from when he made the first hand gesture to the word “dizzy” lasted approximately one minute. That minute is seared in slow motion on my mind. The rest of the day moved rapidly.
Aidan walked Matt to the car while Matt gave our wide-eyed sons instructions about getting on the school bus when it came and proceeding with the day as normal. The moment he was out of ear shot, I told the boys that they were to ignore everything their father had just said. Stay home. Watch TV. Keep your cell phones close.
Gracious, there was nothing normal left to salvage out of the day and it was only 6:30am.
On the way to the ER, my pastor husband who had faithfully visited the sick and hurting instructed me on the best route, the best place to park, and then said he was used to visiting others, not being a patient himself. Since that moment, it has felt like we have entered an alternate universe.
Matt’s been a runner since high school. When my brother called me about “the episode” (as we call it now) he said, “How has this happened to the healthiest member of the family?” The best answer I have at this point is, I don’t know.
He has been scanned, tested, prodded. He is currently wearing a 30-day heart monitor as the neurologist wants to take a closer look at his heart. So far, though, everything looks good.
We have questions. Was it a stroke? A seizure? Apparently it could’ve been a migraine without the headache. And we worry that it might happen again.
When I worry, I think of leaving the ER that day. Several church members were in the hospital lobby and because we were living in that alternate universe, I thought they must’ve been there to visit someone else. It took me a moment to realize they were there to see us. One woman prayed with us. Another said she came because she could sit with me if I needed her. Another said, “Of course we would be here for Matt, he would be here for any of us.”
Living in our alternate universe has made our ordinary lives seem so much sweeter. We have drawn closer together as a family and have seen our boys act with the maturity of young men in doing more around the house with little complaining to make life easier on their father.
The small stuff seems a lot smaller. We’ve learned to let people minister to us now and then. In each of these moments, even in the longest moment of all, God was near.
Melanie Storie is an ordained minister, pastor’s wife and mother of two who lives in Shelby, North Carolina and works as a tutor in a local elementary school. She enjoys writing and has high hopes of publishing her first novel about an Appalachian woman who can “talk the fire out.”