I drove to north Mississippi and back yesterday. It was a first for me since our move but it wasn't for pleasure. I was worried and anxious and didn't notice the scenery at all as I urgently tried to get to loved ones in the critical care unit in Tupelo.
Coming back I had a bit more peace. The drive home less pressing. I had time to admire the scenery along my way. After ten years in the western desert I am still amazed at the density of foliage, at the rich greens that vary in at least a hundred shades in Mississippi. I almost had to pull off the road when I glanced at the thick trees on the side of the road just as the sun broke from behind a cloud and pierced the forest with the most picturesque beam of light.
I pointed and yelled for my kids to see. And then I took a deep breath. A deep sigh. It was exactly what I needed.
Butch Simmons is not technically my relative. His sister was camp director of the summer camp that employed me during my college summers. Miss Trish Simmons has mentored me, prayed for me, and maybe even disciplined me a time or two. In the more than 25 years she has known me, she has rallied prayer warriors for my family from sea to sea! She has prayed for needs in my life before I even knew I had them and she has shared her precious family.
When the triplets were born she was working in Hawaii and built us a beautiful family of prayer warriors there. But when she came back to the states, she lived in Clinton and because we lived in various areas around the country, when we came to Mississippi with our trio we camped out at my mom's house in northeast Mississippi. So Miss Trish found a solution, we would meet at her brother's house in our beloved Starkville.
This perfect meeting place introduced us to Butch, his wife Susan, their daughter Hannah, her husband Wade.....it didn't take long before we would visit Butch, Susan, Hannah and Wade even if Miss Trish couldn't come. Or if they were anywhere near us for work, the kids and I loaded up and went to them.
Susans's job with Mississippi State athletics meant Butch and Susan traveled for Bowl games -- and of course so do we -- so we always spent those trips together as well.
Maybe it was because my daddy had died just a few years before we met; maybe it was because Butch resembled my dad in stature and spirit; maybe it was because he and Susan and their family expressed love for my trio and Wade and I as we navigated the early days of diagnosis -- whatever the reason, the Simmons family became family. My children adore them and depend on their prayer cover, their wisdom, and even Mrs. Susan's ability to always have Bully show up when we come to her office! Hannah had her first child a few months before our Little Red was born and they behave like cousins. We have wholly and completely adopted these loved ones.
But this week, our beloved Pa Butch is fighting for his life. What he assured us was a simple hernia surgery has resulted in removal of part of his stomach, part of his esophagus and left him fighting a huge fight in the critical care unit. And necessitated our urgent drive north yesterday.
The CCU has this red phone. I am not a fan of this phone or the way the desk staff has to come over the loudspeaker to call families to the phone. The red phone is used for medical staff to speak to the families. Oh how our hearts jumped every time the Simmons family was paged.
My sweet friend Hannah had confided that she desperately needed a piece of good news. One call that said they had won a victory, a battle, a skirmish even. We had visited Pa Butch right after lunch because they needed to start dialysis and he could not have visitors during that three hours. When the call came over the intercom a dozen of us jumped out of our skin. As Susan, Josh (the dear brother who like us lives far away and our visits have never coincided...) and Hannah huddled at the receiver, dear Hannah raised an arm in what looked like a victory salute. Then just to clarify, she raised it again with a huge thumbs up.
She got her victory. Butch had tolerated dialysis well. There were some issues and there is a battle still to be waged but the little hill was conquered and for that we rejoice!
When the sun broke through the forest yesterday, it was a perfect visual reminder: God is always with us in this fight for Butch's life but the thumbs up from Hannah as she listened to the doctor was perfectly timed for everyone to keep storming heaven's gates with our prayers for this wonderful man. Likewise, the sun never left us today. It went behind a cloud but then, oh then, dear ones, it pierced the darkness in the most vivid and beautiful way!!
This has been a hard week -- between Benjamin's hospitalization (he is doing great now!) and Butch, we are weary and exhausted. But thankfully we serve a sovereign God who knows all of our tomorrows and gives us the strength to take each day.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." Psalm 91:4 (NIV)
We certainly appreciate your prayers for this dear dear man!