Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Of Para-flus and Paracletes

The results are in: Dad's H1N1 test came back negative, but he tested positive for para influenza, which in most healthy people will run its course in 3 - 10 days.

But Dad has pulmonary fibrosis and struggles for breath now ...

Certain words fascinate me. For example, cleave means both to cling together and to slice apart.

Flammable and inflammable mean the same thing.

And para has a number of meanings and uses. Wikipedia gives a succinct summary of two definitions that seem contrary, that seem to be at odds with each other:

- a prefix widely used in various compound words (para-olympic, para-medic, para-gliding etc.) which can signify alternately: "alongside, altered, beyond, contrary," originating from the Greek preposition para that means: "beside, next to, near, from," and also, "against, contrary to," similar with Sanskrit para "beyond." 

Para influenza has made my Dad's heart race far too fast; has made his concentrator pump out oxygen levels at a rate of 4 litres rather than 2; has made him cough up vile green gunk; has forced him to sleep 18 hours a day; has zapped his strength; has almost curtailed even minimal movement. It is certainly against, certainly contrary to, what we want for him. It might even have altered the course we thought was charted for him.

But through it we have seen many people come alongside, beside, next to, and near him. Paracletes have encircled him with love and concern and practical guidance.

Wikipedia, again, describes paraclete as follows:

Paraclete comes from the Koine Greek word παράκλητος (paráklētos, that can signify "one who consoles or comforts, one who encourages or uplifts; hence refreshes, and/or one who intercedes on our behalf as an advocate in court"). The word for "Paraclete" is passive in form, and etymologically (originally) signified "called to one's side".

Let me give you just a few examples:

Dr Rimmer - his pulmonologist who, after assessing Dad and wanting to admit him, went and checked the realities of the bed situation in the hospital and reluctantly decided that he would receive better care and rest at Deb's home ("You're sensible," Dr R said to Deb!). From that time she has called frequently to check up on her patient, exhibiting the same level of care and compassion she has always given Dad over these years. Last night she called at 7:45 - what other doctor does that any more?! - and discussed with Deb the plan of care and action that she feels would be best for Dad in the short-, medium- and long-term.

What other doctor calls at 7:45 in the evening? Dr Husain, that's who - Dad's family doctor in Three Hills and someone whose family we have grown to love as an extension of our own. Deb apologetically called him at home, and he immediately phoned a late-night pharmacy in Calgary with a prescription to ease the excruciating cramps that Dad was experiencing from the Tamiflu. He called upon the recommendation of

Dr Naomi Chelli Gunti, the eldest of the Chelli kids, who called from the States to see how Uncle was doing. She listened while Deb went over the symptoms and as they were discussing treatment options, she said, "Deb, what about the drug that's used for the unbearable cramping caused by Crohn's disease?" Deb called Dr Husain, who agreed that this could work and called the Rx in. Dad has not suffered that terrible pain since.

Zeba Husain - Zeba, Dr Husain's wife, cares very deeply for Dad and on Saturday she called me just as I was closing the TH to head up and see Dad. "Karyn, I've made some khichdi [kitcheree] for Uncle Allan - will you take it to him?" I gladly agreed. When I got to Deb's house I said to her, "Zeba made khichdi for Dad ..." and she immediately took it, saying, "Dad asked for khichdi this morning!" Zeba, you were the direct answer to what he needed that night and I thank you for your sensitivity to the promptings you felt to make that ultimate comfort food for Dad.
Almost too weak to eat, Dad managed to swallow some of Zeba's khichdi

Flowers and flags - Peter and Mel Mal's girls came to the TH on Saturday: "We made a picture / a flag for your Dad!" He has them on his window sill ... And that same day Naomi and John, and Sue and Les, sent beautiful flower arrangements, reminding us of all the beauty to be appreciated in the ashes of the situation we were facing. Debby cleaned the TH for me so that I could get to Calgary. Don and Norma came over and got me back on my feet again on Sunday afternoon.

Dozens of you have called, left messages, sent cards, written words of encouragement for Dad and us - and he has read EVERY comment, asking about the people he doesn't know personally and asking God to bless them for their kindness.

There are five very special paracletes who have come alongside their Grandpa / Poppa / Bop whenever they can. Luke, Craig, Matthew, Elliot and Oliver - how he loves you boys! His spirits brighten measurably upon a visit from you guys. There is no doubt how much you love each other and him. 

And THOUSANDS of people are praying. You are all paracletes as you have come alongside Dad, bringing him before the throne of grace around the clock.

The most valuable Paraclete of all for Dad - for all those who have trusted in Christ - is God the Holy Spirit. This is how He is described in the gospel of John: counsellor, helper, encourager, advocate, comforter ... the one who makes free. As you all pray, Dad feels the presence of God and the power of all your prayers in a very real way.

I and my family - siblings, nephews, aunts and uncles - have derived much comfort and love from your outpourings of sympathy. But two special reassurances were given to me personally that have brought me peace regardless of whatever lies ahead.

The first was a comment left by Sumitra. Sumitra was in the group of men who met Dad as he disembarked off that ship 55 years ago in the port of Bombay. He and Dad studied together, prayed together, served together, preached together, ate together, laughed and cried together. He has always held a very special spot in my parents' hearts,

This dear man's comment read: "Dear Karyn, sorry to learn of your dear Dad's ill health. Be assured of my prayers for recovery of his health. I praise the Lord for Bro. Allan's input in my life. I remember welcoming him in Mumbai 55 years ago. God has made him blessing to many through his and yes through your Mum's simple life style and teaching because of which many are serving the Lord and I am one of them. Be encouraged, Dad will be well soon."

I could not help but think of the story recorded in the gospel of John chapter 4 about the nobleman whose son was dying. He sought Jesus out and begged Him to come to the house to heal his son. Jesus said only six words: "Go thy way; thy son liveth" (verse 50). And the child did. When I read Sumitra's last seven words, it was as if the Lord Jesus Christ himself spoke them to me. Those last seven words broke through my grief and despair.

And then Tuesday morning, Dad was too weak to read, so he asked me to read the morning passage from the Daily Light devotional that Mum read and recorded events of note in for years.

The captioned verse was this: As Your Days, So Shall Your Strength Be

My breath caught in my throat and I checked the date. You see, last year, on February 27, I boarded the plane a few days ahead of Dad, BA and Deb as I was flying on points and had to leave on that day. I had been worried about Dad's low energy levels and the long flight ahead. God brought this verse to my mind, and I have claimed it on behalf of Dad almost every day since then. "As many days as You want him on this earth, give him strength for each one," I ask. 

Yet for the past few days, since Thursday, I must confess to my shame that I had completely forgotten about it.

But my Paraclete gently reminded me that God is in control by sending the verse I had been praying for almost a year directly back to me right when I needed it most. Not only that, the entire reading is of encouragement and strength. Truly God's timing is impeccable ...

Sitting on the floor beside his bed:
"someone to watch over me"
There are two more paracletes I must mention. The first is our beloved Deb, who faithfully cared for Dad and continues to care for him. She it has been who sat up with him on those first critical nights, monitoring his pulse and O2 levels, giving medicine, holding the straw to his mouth so he could take a few sips of liquid, washing him, cooling his forehead and piling on hot water bottles and blankets as he shivered his way through his fever until it broke. She has had very little sleep in the last week, but she never once expressed even that she was tired.

As a matter of fact, at the conclusion of Dr Rimmer's most recent phone call, Dr R applauded Deb: "You managed very well the care of a patient who should have been admitted." Thank you, Deborah Joy, from all of us who love him and you.

The last paraclete is our beloved Dad himself. In an almost whisper he marvelled at the prayers offered up on his behalf from the people of God all over the world. "I am so blessed," he murmured. That Tuesday afternoon he finally felt able to pray aloud, asking God's blessing on our simple lunch. And after he thanked God for the food, these are the words he said next, the ellipses indicating where he had to pause for a breath:

We remember others ... just as sick ... weaker ... more needy ... without people to pray for them ... Hold them in your tender mercies ... Heal them ... Forgive them ... Restore them ... Comfort them ... Meet their needs ... today.


Monday, January 27, 2014

If a Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words ...

... here's 2000 words, with a full heart of gratitude:

Dad at the lab this morning ...

Dad, home at Deb's, this afternoon.

Bronwyn reported the words he was reading, from the gospel of John chapter 10:

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

He is still very weak, but he has turned a corner; and his pulmonologist called and the H1N1 test came back negative! They have to find out what is wrong, but for now we are so grateful for what is wonderful ...

OK, you get 3000 words - per Bronwyn, "Now that the patient is doing better, the cute little nurse can rest!"

On the floor, next to the couch he's lying on ...

THANK YOU, all who have prayed and continue to pray for him. When Dad's reading his Bible again, all's right with the world!

Power In The Blood

Just a brief post - this morning Dad has to go to the lab for blood work. He is having extreme pain in his right hip, which makes weight bearing difficult. Bronwyn and Deb are going to take him as Bronwyn's van will be easier for him to negotiate.

His wonderful doctor has ordered that the blood work be processed instantly and the results sent to her STAT.

There is knowledge in what is going on in his blood. And, as we have heard so often, knowledge is power. Therefore, there is power in the blood.

Which we, as children of God, already know. It was the shedding of Jesus' blood that has the power to give us all eternal life. And because of that life, even though Dad is so ill, so frail, we KNOW that the One who shed His blood for Dad that awful day is with him now, is watching as Dad gives some of his blood today. 

Make no mistake - God is in control of all of this; He, who knows the end from the beginning, loves Dad more than any of us do; and we are so thankful.

RtL just received a comment from the girl I have been waiting to hear from. This 16-year-old girl adores Dad as much as any of his grandchildren do, both Ironside and Chelli grandchildren:

Dear Aunty Karyn, All of the youth at Berean had a special time of prayer after the service yesterday for Grandpa. I continue to pray and hope for a speedy recovery. May God give all of your family His grace during this difficult situation. Psalm 91:1,11 "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." Give my love to Grandpa. 


Please pray for him today; please remember him.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Words To Rest By

I closed the TH at 4 pm today. I needed to see Dad.

He is very weak, frighteningly so. However, some wonderful things occurred to make his suffering a little easier, and I will tell you about them tomorrow morning; but suffice it to say for now that the prayers of literally thousands of people around the world were heard last night and he passed a relatively peaceful night - no real sleep but at least no debilitating pain.

It's about time for the awful side effects of the medicine to take their best shot at him again. For any of you up, please do pray ...

Before I say good night, I want to share the Psalm I was privileged to read to Dad this evening. He reads a few Psalms every night before he goes to bed, and this was where he is up to. He reads the King James Version, but I'm also including the English Standard Version for another beautiful reading:

Psalm 4

King James Version (KJV)
Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.
O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.
But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him.
Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.
There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.
Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4

English Standard Version (ESV)

Answer Me When I Call

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
    You have given me relief when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
    How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
    ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
    and put your trust in the Lord.
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
    Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
You have put more joy in my heart
    than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

As my voice faded into the stillness, Dad's voice, almost a whisper, said, "Read that last verse again."

And as he prepared to sleep, he commented, "What comfort can be derived from the Psalms! What a comfort to know we can simply rest in Him ..."

I, along with all of you I know, claim that last verse for him tonight. My family and I thank you for praying, thank you for caring about him. As one of Dad's favourite songs says, "I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God!"

Friday, January 24, 2014

Not Above What You Are Able To Bear

It was a very rough night for Dad; and Deb being the resident RN, the majority of the responsibility (she would say privilege) fell to her.

Dad has been prescribed Tamiflu and its side effects can be daunting for people who are healthy. For someone with pulmonary fibrosis the side effects can be staggering.

He managed to keep down some electrolyte-spiked beverages and a small bowl of thin oatmeal gruel this morning. He spoke a brief birthday greeting on the phone to his beloved Lloyd, friends for over 60 years now.

But then this afternoon, when I was in the grocery store getting ready for the weekend at the Tea House, I got an urgent text from Deb at 4:41:

Really bad cramps - please pray

And in the aisle that holds basmati rice and dosai mixes and coconut milk and mango juice I stopped and forwarded on her text to a few of you whose numbers I have in my phone. 

Immediately the responses came back:
  • Praying
  • We're on it
  • Praying
  • I will pray for him. I'm sorry to hear that
  • xoxo
Two of my Chelli sisters, Salome and Naomi, called me, and others of them called my Ironside sisters.

Then at 4:47 I heard from Deb again:

Seriously ... subsided within 5 mins of sending out a text for prayer! 
He's almost resting now

I got back to Deb's house as fast as I could and went up the stairs to see him.

He was ashen against the sheets, and utterly exhausted. In a very muted voice he said that the pain had been so intense he thought he couldn't bear it.

"But then God brought two thoughts to my mind," he said. The first was of Mum."

One night, at about 2 a.m., Mum's pain was so eviscerating that she groaned, "Dad, the pain is too much ..." 

"There was nothing I could do," he whispered to me with tears rolling down his face at the memory of that awful night.

The second thought that came to him were these words from the Bible, found in the apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 10 and verse 13:

There has no [testing] taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be [tested] above that you are able, but will with the [trial] also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.

"And I thought to myself, 'Just think how Christ suffered - He has felt every pain that we go through and far more!' " he exclaimed.

"And as I concluded that verse, the awful pain started to subside."

"God is able, honey," he said. "He might even want me to go to India - He is already providing ..."

I must have reacted adversely, because he hastened to assure me that he wouldn't go if he felt like this. "Dr Rimmer won't sign off on you," I interjected dryly. 

"Not only that, but I would have to gain a lot of strength. I feel so, so weak right now," he acknowledged.

We talked briefly about how many people are praying for him all over the world, how many people love him and are rooting for his recovery. And then I had to leave, to come back to the TH and unpack the groceries that this evening seem like sandpaper and sawdust to me.

I kissed him on his forehead, our family's traditional "blessing kiss" started by my grandmother or her mother or hers before that.

"I love you, Dad," I murmured as his eyes drifted shut again and he settled more deeply back into the pillows and covers.

Deb had to give him his second dose of Tamiflu later this evening. The worst of the effects should hit him between midnight and 1 a.m. Please remember this man, a treasure in so many of our lives, as once again his already frail, tired body has to battle the medicine that is supposed to help him.

Fifty-five Years Ago This Month

Today was the day Dad was scheduled to meet with his pulmonology specialist to get sign-off on his flight to India in March.

Dr Rimmer took one startled look at him and expressed her shock and concern. 

Then she started ordering tests.

Tonight Dad is resting and in Deb's home - there were no beds and none opening up at the hospital, so Dr Rimmer was unable to admit him and get him on an IV for dehydration and to break his fever.

However, he was quite ill earlier this evening, with nausea and an upset stomach. His oxygen machine is cranking along at level 3 (earlier he had had to have it up to level 4, so this is an improvement).

RtLers, this is a plea for prayer for my Dad tonight. Pray that he will have a good sleep. Pray that the nausea will stop and that the stomach pain will cease.

Fifty-five years ago this month Dad boarded an oil tanker converted to carry grain to India.

And even though he is in Canada, his heart remains in India, where he has spent most of his life. He loves India.

Pray that God, who knows the end from the beginning, will guide and direct His faithful servant, this "good friend to God," and will give him healing and grace.

We already called our friends at the Prairie Congregation in Three Hills and they immediately put it on their "prayer chain," which means that the people who have signed on to pray for the needs that are brought before them, immediately start to pray and pass it on to the next person in the chain to pray until all of those people are praying.

Very few minutes after we asked our friend Gaylene to get Dad onto the prayer chain, he started to feel less nausea and was able to sip a little peppermint tea.

"But he knoweth the way that I take," God's servant Job said from the depths of his suffering, "And when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job chapter 23 and verse 10).

Dad's own life verse holds him in good stead tonight: "Faithful is he that called you who also will do it" (I Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 24).

Dad is unable to take phone calls right now; but his life is - over and over - 
a testament to the power of prayer.

Please, pray ...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Calling 9-1-1 ...

Josephine, bless her, has an incompetent for a driver on some nights. Last night was one of those nights. I managed to run right into my very own snow drift on my very own driveway. And I actually managed to grind my front tires into the multi-layered snow and ice until she was not budging.

I called BA, that genius sister of mine who can figure out the logistics of pretty much everything. She dug snow out from under Josephine, pushed, pulled, put down that gravel stuff around the tires ... one hour later, and Jo hadn't budged. I crawled out the passenger side of the car (the driver's side was firmly entrenched in the snow bank) and BA helped me lug the groceries from the bottom of my driveway into the Tea House.

The next day Don, the man who rescues me from all sorts of peril, came to take a look. He enlisted Mike, who had brought his snow blower to the TH and blew clear my parking lot before starting on his shift. Together they whittled away the snow on the driver's side of Josephine, and dug around the tires some more. 


Rick, one of my kindly neighbours, joined the men with his shovel. The tires kept spinning. They needed another person to push, Don decreed. That would be me, I surmised.

While I put on my boots and coat, I asked the occupied tables in the TH if they would be patient with me as I was running outside to try to help push my car out of the icy rut it had ground itself into.

One table had four EMS professionals at it. They asked me what was going on; when I told them, they all jumped up as if they had just heard the first notes of the Hallelujah Chorus playing. "We'll push!" they volunteered and all trooped out of the back door at the TH.

Within 30 seconds or less - actually, JUST long enough for me to snap this picture - Josephine was free. No, no, they didn't want any thanks, they said; they were just happy they could be of service and that it all worked out.

However, Lisa, Mel-Mal, Ben and Erica - with Don tucked in between them! - you don't know what a re-charge you gave to my heart and to my day by your great kindness. 

Our paramedics are amazing. Three Hills is so blessed to have people of such calibre working and living among us.

But please, keep parking across the road when you come to the TH for your breaks ...


Friday, January 3, 2014

2014: Never Alone

It was upon us again, my most treasured tradition of the year: New Year's Eve with my family.

We met at the Tea House because it seems that we really do need a fire place for the occasion; we started with hors d'oeuvres and sparkling apple cider and frappuccinos; we played a few rounds of a game; and then, just after 11:30 pm, it was time.

The table by the fire place was cleared off and the tray containing the promises for the year was brought over.

We sang some songs from the cherished song book that BA had carefully typed out all those years ago. Dad read a few verses from the Bible. A few people said what they were thankful for about the year making its exit. Allan prayed. 

And then Dad  lit the candle in the centre of the tray upon which the promises he had typed out rested, and moved the whole plate to a table in the middle of the room.

Selection order this year was decreed to be youngest to oldest, so Matt went first.

 When it got to my turn, I silently committed the selection of my promise to God, asking for a verse that would show me how He would meet my needs, known and unknown, for the coming year. 

And I chose a green ribbon this year.

In the last few weeks of 2013 I had been contemplating my life, my work, my relationships, my future. I had asked for wisdom and guidance. I had asked for security and reassurance.

And the verse I chose met me at each of those question marks: He will be there, with me and for me; He will help me; I do not have to be afraid.

Even though I don't know what this year holds, I know Who holds the year, and that is enough.

It was confirmed for me the next night when we were joined by Bronwyn's family and they drew their promises. Then someone asked Allan to "sing like George Beverly Shea," and this is the song he sang (this version is not GBS, but still a sweet rendition):

Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know Who holds tomorrow
And I know Who holds my hand