Wake-Up Call

Sometimes God goes to great lengths to get our attention.

by Cindy Adams

“First stop, Mississippi!” I adjusted my rear-view mirror and backed out of my driveway. “Let’s listen to Harps and Halos first.” I handed Jessica the CD pack and then opened the map between us.

Jessica’s seniority of being seven years old allowed her the thrill to sit up front, while Nicole, six, guarded the snack bag in the backseat.

The excitement of a road trip took hold. For five weeks — no routines, bedtimes, chores, or yard work! Just junk food, music, and open highway!

Of course, this trip couldn’t compensate for the recent loss of my husband, Nelson, two months ago. But perhaps it might bring me some happiness.

Cross-country trip

I decided to escape from reality and responsibilities by driving cross-country for a summer vacation in Southern California, where we moved from three years ago.

I went to visit my friend Lynette, eager to share what my sudden widowhood was like so far.

“If I stay as close to the Lord, Lynette, like I am now,” I confidently told my friend, “then I’ll never feel any grief from my husband’s death.” I stirred my Margarita, then swigged down the last gulp. This drink helps too.

“It doesn’t work that way.” Lynette put a movie on to keep my daughters occupied. “You’re still in shock, but once you get back home, deeper pain will come.”

Drinking

“We’ll see.” I didn’t want to argue. “I think I’ll have one more Margarita before we go out to eat.” I poured myself the last drink from the blender.

Now I really feel good. I can get used to this. I can relax and maybe even have another drink at dinner. I’m on vacation!

During more of my visits in the following two weeks, my craving for alcohol increased to make me feel happier.

Compassionate family

We headed to Las Vegas, where my sister-in-law, Aida, welcomed us. She busily prepared dinner while I relaxed from our four-hour drive.

I felt comfortable in her home. Her sincere smile and sympathetic brown eyes expressed compassion. Being a young widow herself, with children to raise, she knew the difficult days ahead of me.

After we ate, she settled my daughters down for the night.

Honesty

“It’s great to have someone who understands,” I said to Aida as I sipped on my fourth rum and coke and she ran my girls’ bathwater. “Visiting my friends has kept me from suffering.”

“If I had as much to drink as you, I wouldn’t feel any suffering either!” Aida rummaged through my daughters’ suitcases for pajamas. “Your major responsibility is your children now. Your friends and family can help you only temporarily. I know how hard it is. I’ve been there.”

It is hard! And drinking helps me feel better. When I get home, I’ll stop.

Delayed return

I returned to California to spend our last week with my friend Lisa, her husband, Sal, and their three sons. Each day, I’d lie in the sun and have a few drinks while our kids played together. When my last day arrived, I didn’t feel ready to go home yet.

What could it hurt to have one last hurrah before I face my responsibilities?

“Instead of going home tomorrow, I’ve decided to stay an extra day,” I said to Lisa while relaxing on the lounge chair with a cold beer. “This way, we can celebrate your birthday tonight, and I’ll have a day to recuperate before getting on the road.”

“All right,” Lisa said. “I’ll see if Sal will watch the kids so we can go to dinner.”

Our first stop was at a Mexican restaurant. “Here’s to your birthday and being best friends!” I toasted Lisa’s shot glass of tequila, swallowed mine, and licked the salt off the back of my hand. We stuffed ourselves with food and Margaritas. Once again, I succeeded in feeling no pain.

Hangover

The last evening came, and I could no longer avoid the reality of leaving. “I guess I’m ready to go tomorrow.”

Hung over, I held my head up in my hands with my elbows firmly on the counter for support. My head, like my life, was spinning out of control.

“Good thing you gave yourself an extra day,” Lisa said as she set the table.

“We need to call the kids in soon to eat supper.”

I glanced at the clock on the microwave. It was 7:58.

Another day gone. I hate this feeling of sadness.

Emergency

Suddenly, the front door swung open. Lisa’s boys ran in, screaming, “Nicole broke her arm!”

They have to be kidding! It can’t be broken!

My pulse quickened and my head felt dizzy as I ran to the door.

“Oh, no, God!” My mouth dropped open at the ghastly sight. Nicole calmly entered the foyer as she awkwardly held her disfigured arm close to her body. It’s twisted around backward! She’s in shock and doesn’t realize her arm is broken.

Oh dear Lord! Could this ever be corrected when it looks so distorted? Why did this happen today — of all days!

I cradled my daughter to keep her arm still while I leaned against the chair, hoping I wouldn’t pass out from the sight of it. Numbness swept through my body.

Alarm

Twenty minutes later, arriving at the hospital, I was ushered to the desk to fill out insurance papers. “What time did this accident happen?” the clerk asked.

“Eight o’clock.” I repeated, “About eight o’clock this evening.” I gasped confused. What day is this? Thursday! Nelson died eight o’clock on a Thursday night!

I instantly felt as though someone had hit me over the head and awakened me from a deep sleep. The accident occurring on the same time and day of the week as my husband’s death felt like an alarm clock going off.

“Hello!” I envisioned God saying. “Are you still there? You have children to take care of. It’s time to wake up. They need you!”

Shame

I felt so ashamed. If I had stopped drinking and left California when planned, this wouldn’t have happened. I can’t even pray. The way I behaved this past month — why would God even listen to me?

“This is the worst break an arm can have,” the doctor said. “The bone above the elbow broke, and the entire arm twisted around.” I stared at the x-ray in horror. “She will need immediate surgery. Furthermore, not only might there be nerve damage, or partial loss of mobility, but this break may even retard or speed the growth of her arm.”

I sat silently in the waiting room like a child anticipating her father’s punishment. I never meant my behavior to go this far. While I drank every day, I had neglected my children. As though waking up with a hangover from a four-week binge, embarrassment swept through me.

Surrender

It seemed like an eternity before the doctor appeared. “Well, judging from the x-rays, it’s a perfect set. There doesn’t seem to be any damage to the nerves. The pins will come out in four weeks, and hopefully she’ll be fine.”

My first sigh of relief escaped. OK, God, I surrender. You’re the only one who can give me the strength to get through this. Please let everything turn out OK.

It was time to get a grip on my life. I had a lot of decisions to make and responsibilities to fulfill as a mother. Immediately, I stopped drinking.

Deeper pain

Returning home, I did feel the deeper pain at times. As I listened to a familiar song one day, it reminded me of Nelson.

You used to sing these songs to me! My stomach twisted with gut-wrenching pain. How can you be gone? I moaned with cries that came from deep within my soul. Oh, God, help me!

Changing dependence

Suddenly, a peace flowed through my body. I feel You, God. I know You’re with me. I felt His comfort in the midst of my pain.

Coming back to my dependence on God, instead of on alcohol, brought me the contentment I needed to heal my heart. I praise Him for His patience with me!