Hershey allowed one person per 24 hour time frame. Since I went Tuesday, Aug 25, no one else could go in until the 26th. If I went in again on the 26th at any point, then I was the 1 for that day. And honestly, I was pretty fussy about who went. Not because of germs. Germs were the least of our concerns. I just felt that Dad needed quality time and uplifting spirits for as many hours as one could sit with him. If I was going to give up a day with my Dad, and you were going to drive an hour to see him, and an hour home, you better have made it worth your while and stayed for a good bit of that day. Patients need tender care. Time, touch, and encouragement to heal. It was very important to me that he got that and I felt responsible for his overall well-being. I was very upset after we had an unnamed individual who drove that hour up one day, stayed for 15 minutes and left. 15 MINUTES. The lid came off my jar in the pressure canner and all my liquid siphoned out on the phone to her.
You do not ever go visit someone in the middle of a lockdown, who just had a 19 hour, full torso open, heart grafting kind of surgery and stay for only 15 minutes!!! I had to wait an entire day to go see him, since she “used” that day. Man. I am not an angry person, but that just about wrecked me.
SO, Just call me Bossy from here on out…. I scheduled his visitors on days I couldn’t possibly go and I was strict! If you couldn’t commit to at least 2 hours of time spent, I just didn’t want people to bother. I found friends to help with the girls and I would go. I planned my whole week around who could go when and, got babysitting for the days I needed to go. Some weeks I was there 5/7 days. I don’t regret any bit of it. With the silly one person limit, it felt like the best decision at that time for him. When I think back on it, a lot of my days consisted of the stress about scheduling. It wasn’t necessarily his recovery, although challenging, it was me going to Hershey and having help at home or making sure everyone that was going to go, had an entire day – basically – to commit to going, taking him homecooked food or pie … haha …. and sitting to talk. Or not to talk. To watch Fox News. To, harass him about staying motivated to talk a walk and eat. I could just sit here and weep remembering how much pain he was in. It was awful. . .I have many days I wish I could return to those awful moments, relive them. Give another ‘squeeze’. Say, see you tomorrow just once more. I always gave my best.
The days were long. As one infection led to another and there were complications with his recovery, “going to Hershey” became very routine for me. I am so thankful for the many meals we were blessed by, gift cards for pizza and gas. I’m not sure how we paid for all the gas but God’s gifts were very abundant during this season. Don from Binkley and Hurst filled my van with produce one afternoon to can… many different friends kept the children for us…. They were very resilient during this time. God wasn’t any closer than he is right now, although, I do believe that he sends extra blessings our way when we are in a major crisis. His grace and mercy was and is new everyday.
There were lots of God moments in the (almost) 6 weeks Dad was at Hershey. There was also family drama, tears, headaches, revelations, bonding moments and laughter. The 39 days felt like an eternity.
I find myself having to constantly rip off my rearview mirror. I know that God’s plan is far greater than any of my earthly comprehension. Perspective has shifted, now… Mhm. Now I say it! We want to go back and relive the season that felt like an eternity. Thankfully, God’s grace is sufficient.
I want to share a story about a lady named Bev M. I met her at Hershey and it was a divine encounter. One day, I stupidly decided that If I wear Lydia on my body, as a sleeping and nursing infant, the desk will not blink twice and I will just march up to my Dads room for my visit that day. He would’ve been elated to see Lydia and being so little, she would’ve nursed and slept. Well, the lady at the desk that day was not having any of my baby wearing and turned me away at the door…. I say “stupid” after the fact because technically the rule was no one under 18 allowed at all in the hospital. I knew that. However, I had taken Lydia to many of Dad’s pre-op appts with no issue in the same building… “Go Home” she says. You can’t be here with anyone under 18.
My body literally started breaking down. I was crying, almost hysterical and in a panic. What do I do now? I am here and he was expecting me. I obviously didn’t have anyone else lined up or available to see him. I started to pace, put my bag down, walked outside, then back in. It was very hot out… beginning of September. Lydia is sweating and by now about ready to eat. After a few calls, It was determined that my cousin who was currently living up in the Hershey area was around that afternoon and available to come take my place to see Dad so he had a visitor. I was totally bummed. I tried to phone a friend up that way to maybe keep Lydia while I went back in and, no success. An hour drive for nothing…. Or for something God knew I needed. Here is where I met Bev.
As I am trying to regain consciousness of my emotions and nurse my infant in the lobby of Hershey Medical Center, this sweet, middle aged woman smiled at me and said “Can I help you in any way?”
Now, on an everyday regular basis, typically I would say that we shouldn’t often seek advice or help from a stranger. It’s not the safest general practice and something us foster moms definitely frown upon. However, in that moment, I said yes. With a puffy face and an abundance of tears coming down my face, I said yes. She got me some tissues and water. As I sat and nursed Lydia, we talked. It turns out she lives very close to us, and had just moved here to Lancaster County to be closer to family. She told me why she was at Hershey that day and I told her about my Dad! I told her that I was not that nice to the lady at the counter and I should probably say I am sorry to her. I was just so mad. Bev loves The Lord and she encouraged me in those moments. She understood my deep pain and love for my earthly father. I had a bouquet of flowers along with me that day for one of Dad’s nurses, that I ended up giving to the lady at the desk that I yelled at. 1 Star, do not recommend being mean to the covid screener people at the hospital. They don’t make the rules…. And at the time in 2020, If I would’ve ignored them like I do now in 2022, they probably would’ve tazed me. After my flower gifting, and contrite puffy faced apology, I ended up exchanging numbers with Bev. I kept in contact every few days during our Hershey journey. It was so, so incredibly encouraging to me. Bev prayed with me before I left. Ironically, I ended up being at Hershey almost as long as I would’ve had I visited my Dad. Thank you Jesus for this stranger!!
Bev and I talked recently, almost 2 years after we met at Hershey. Both of our long days there are over and God remains faithful in it all.
To Be Continued…..
I tried to always have fresh flowers in his room. I really loved this one!