Ten years ago my wife Bridget had a stroke. Our older son was five years old. Our younger son was five months.
Statistically, we learned, her stroke should’ve been deadly because it occurred in her brain stem. But she not only lived, she recovered her ability to see and walk. While the immediate impact of the stroke was traumatic, and her fast progress in the first few months was amazing, the longer recovery proved to be the most grueling.
She spent the next several years in significant pain. Her face and jaw were especially bad. Since it was nerve pain, doctors wanted to manage it with neurological medications that, they hoped, would control the pain as a side-effect — anti-depressant and anti-seizure prescriptions in various combinations.
The meds changed her personality, dulled her emotions, gave her nausea, and other miserable new ailments. But the pain was unrelenting.
When she decided to wean off all the prescriptions, it was an 18-month trial by fire. More emotional changes, and constant anxiety. But it was the right decision.
Through much of this period, Bridget home schooled our oldest. With our youngest, she did everything parents have to do with toddlers, and then started home schooling him in kindergarten. Bridget didn’t just do these mechanically, but gave herself to the boys. She continued on the music team at church. She taught classes and counseled women.
She also gave herself to me. Our hardest years in health and ministry have been the best of our marriage.
How did she get out of bed in the morning? How did she find the strength to dry her eyes and face the boys again? She told me recently that it was just this thought: “My two children need me. My husband needs me. I’m going to do my best and trust God.”
Her tunnel of physical pain is now in the past. We’re pharma-free and enjoying the renewed strength. In going through it with her, I’ve learned that healing and character interact. They feed each other. In the long path of healing, full of barriers and turns with no end in sight, the decision to take each step was motivated by loyal love.
She built physical and emotional renewal by faith-in-action.