Audra and I went through a pretty normal morning routine with Lily, Clara, and Theo—got dressed, had breakfast, brushed teeth, and loaded up in the minivan. The five of us drove down to Rady Children’s Hospital to get a visit with all the kids. Eva really loves to see her little brother and sister, but it’s hard to bring them down much because two-year-old twins don’t exactly like to sit still anywhere, let alone in a hospital room. Nevertheless, they did quite well this visit. They were excited to see Eva and said so by calling out her name excitedly. Eva got her “kiss kiss” and hug from each one before they became distracted with the Play-Doh that Eva was working with. Theo and Clara actually lasted a whole 30 minutes before we had to pack them up and go. I took the two of them back to Fallbrook while Audra, Lily, and Grandma Davis spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon with Eva.
Grandma Davis reported that Eva had received her first blood transfusion overnight. Apparently during the transfusion, which lasts four hours, Eva had to use the restroom. As she sat on the potty she looked up at her IV pole and saw the big bag of blood and asked, “Are they taking blood out of me?” Grandma responded, “No, they’re putting blood into you.” Eva replied, “Is that good or bad?” Grandma answered, “It’s good.” Eva accepted the news with a casual, “OK” and then went back to bed.
Audra spent time today working especially hard with Eva to coach her through her constipation. We’re happy to report that Eva has made good progress with that uncomfortable side effect. Suffice it to say things are working much better now. I’m thankful for how patiently Audra coaches Eva in difficult times.
Eva opened more gifts. We have a back-log of gifts and bring a couple of them down each day to the hospital. She and Lily watched Netflix, colored, crafted, and took time to connect as sisters while Audra studied the home care manual. We are trying to take Eva home at the earliest available date, which is Monday, November 21. There are certain criteria that Eva must pass to be discharged, and her overall condition so far meets the requirements. She can take her pills, she has no fever, and she’s managing side effects very well. There are also certain criteria that parents must pass for Eva to be discharged. The nurses test us on our knowledge of the home care protocols that we will need to know to provide safe and attentive care to Eva in our home. For example, any temperature of 101º or higher is a fever and thus an emergency. Our main job is to monitor for signs of infection and react accordingly. I’m happy to report that Audra passed her test in the afternoon. Now I just have to take mine on Sunday and the parent side of things will be clear for a discharge.
Grandma Davis brought Lily back home to Fallbrook in mid-afternoon. I ran some errands and prepped to head back down to the hospital for just a few hours so I could have supper with Eva and Audra (who was going to spend the night). Eva had been requesting sandwiches from our favorite sandwich shop in Fallbrook, Dominicks, so I grabbed some for her and the rest of the family. I brought the sandwiches home for Lily, Clara, and Theo and grabbed a few necessities for the hospital room and got on the road to Rady Children’s Hospital. 45 minutes later I parked at the hospital and realized I had left the sandwiches at home. I was so frustrated because Eva was expecting the sandwiches and was really looking forward to them—and the big deli pickle she loves so much. I felt awful and apologized profusely. She graciously smiled and said, “It’s OK.”
We ate something else instead and had a nice little time together. She took her pills and then bathed in the shower. She likes to take the hand-held shower head and spray me in the face with it. Her mood continues to fluctuate during the showers, but this time I got two face-sprays, which means she was having a fun time. She has requested that I bring a swimming suit so she can spray me even more, and I’m happy to oblige.
By about 7:30pm Eva asked to go to bed. She hadn’t napped that day because of all the time spent with family, so her request wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Pastor Aaron Boehm, the San Diego Circuit pastor, stopped by at 8pm to visit with me individually and then Audra and me together. We appreciated the chance to talk and hear further comfort from the Scripture we hold so dear. After the devotion I drove back home to Fallbrook while Audra spent the night with Eva.
Before I left Audra told me a little story about Eva’s day. Every couple days a woman comes by and helps the children to move their limbs, stretch their muscles, and take deep breaths. The woman coached Eva to closer her eyes and flap her wings like a butterfly. Eva happily flapped. Next the woman said, “Now imagine you can fly anywhere you want, where would you fly?” Eva answered simply, “Home.”
One of the hymns in our Lutheran hymnal is, “I’m But a Stranger Here.” It goes like this:
I’m but a stranger here, / Heaven is my home;
Earth is a desert drear; / Heaven is my home:
Danger and sorrow stand / Round me on every hand;
Heaven is my fatherland, / Heaven is my home.
Eva clearly recognizes that the hospital is not her home. It’s a place she needs to be, but it’s not where she lives. The walls protect, but they are foreign. The food sustains, but it’s not homemade. The toys are hers, but the setting is not. We all want to go home, because it’s a better place.
I must admit that I don’t often think of my true home as the one Jesus has promised. As I get into the routines and rituals of life, it becomes easy to think of this place as our true home. The truth is that routines and rituals, house and home are good gifts of God, but they are meant to direct our hearts to a greater home he has promised to give us. Eva’s illness has made us long to be home in Fallbrook, but more than that, is has driven us to the hope of our greater home.
During the 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead to seal his victory over death he appeared to many eyewitnesses so that all generations would have the historical assurance that God himself became flesh and undid the curse of sin and death. But then Jesus ascended visibly to sit in power and authority in the heavenly realms, from where he now rules and guides the world toward its promised conclusion: when he returns to make a new heaven and a new earth, and restores our dead bodies to life everlasting.
We are strangers here, yes, and we look forward to going home one day. But the home in which we will live forever won’t seem so strange. Each of these moments of embodied joy we taste today is a partial glimpse of our heavenly home. Heaven won’t just be a place where spirits float in the sky, it will be a place with gardens and a swing set, a warm fireplace and a place to eat. The people will have twinkling blue eyes and freckles on their noses, toothy grins and shoulders to hug.
This morning felt like some of the darkness of the last week had passed. We’re ready to go home.