Imagine casually galloping through the countryside enjoying its beauty when your horse loses his footing, somersaults, and you roll off a cliff into an unfamiliar world below. You come to, dazed, and the effects of your predicament begin to take hold.

Worry consumes you. Helplessness enters your blood. You wonder if life as usual will return. Your steady faith reaches a level of unsteadiness greater than you’ve ever experienced.

And yet, you find out that you are stronger than you think. You take each day as it comes, trusting your instincts and giving it your all. You pray that God will give you more time with your loved one. You bargain with God even though you know you shouldn’t. Your mind struggles with accepting what your soul already knows—that the Lord is in charge, not you. Allow me to take you back to that moment in my life when the land gave way.

On February 27, 2020, my father was taken by ambulance to our local hospital’s emergency department. He was vomiting, his temperature had climbed to 103, and he was talking in a language no one understood. It was beyond scary to witness. My dad was moved to ICU within hours. Mom and I knew that the ICU was the best place to treat him but those first two words of that acronym— “Intensive Care”—didn’t ease our worries one bit. He was diagnosed with influenza A, pneumonia, and sepsis.

On the morning that my dad was due to be discharged from the hospital, my mom expressed how she had been battling flu symptoms throughout the night. Off to the urgent care we went where she, too, was diagnosed with the flu and placed on Tamiflu for ten days.

I brought my dad home that afternoon, March 1, 2020. Here’s the thing. I’ve never had both of them “down” at the same time before. I’d go back and forth between my house and theirs twice daily, tending to their needs, helping with medications, and coordinating appointments with home nurses, physical therapists, doctors, and medical equipment companies. I even had the joy of learning basic Medicare coverage in record time. The way I look at it, I’m now better prepared for the day that I reach Medicare age!

On the Friday evening of my father’s first week home, he was struggling to breathe. His oxygen level per the pulse oximetry was dropping as his temperature was rising. The ambulance was called and my dad was taken back to the emergency room where he was admitted and diagnosed with a lung embolism. He stayed at the hospital for another four days.

The home nurse and physical therapist visits were resumed with blood thinning medication and incentive spirometry exercises added to his new treatment routine. Small daily gains seemed to be working until eight days later when all that progress crumbled and his body turned on him yet again.

I watched the firemen and paramedics work on my father outside on the front patio of his home, and my mother and I answered their questions as Dad coughed and shivered profusely. As first responders were about to leave, they asked if Mom and I were aware that rules had changed and we were not allowed to visit the hospital. COVID-19 was to blame for that restriction.

My heart sank. My dad looked so bad. I stood at a distance from the opened rear double doors of the ambulance and said in a little louder than normal voice, “Dad! We’re not allowed to visit you at the hospital because of the virus.” I do not know if he heard me but I hoped he did. Those were automatic words that came from deep within my soul. Words that would help explain my desperation for him to know why we were letting him down. I know I had no control over hospital restrictions, but I felt guilty and helpless for not being able to be by his side like in every previous hospitalization. The ambulance drove away, and I broke down in tears.

Why was God putting my family through ongoing anguish? God also decided to test my emotional and spiritual strength earlier that afternoon with a flat tire five minutes from my home after taking my cat to the vet. By that night, it was all too much.

I’ve often written in my blog posts that when something is happening to us, we are not to ask why but we must instead figure out what it is there to teach us. These last few weeks have turned the table on me, and I had to ask myself this question. What I came up with is that it is not so much that we should live each day as if it were our last, it is more that we should live each minute as if there will not be a second.

My retired cattle-ranching father is resilient and has always carried a positive attitude throughout life. As of the date of this newsletter, fourteen days have passed since his last five-day hospitalization and his health is improving daily. Nursing home visits will continue for another two weeks but we’re pleased to report that Dad was discharged from physical therapy four days ago! The road to recovery is sweetened by each day that he’s looking more and more like himself. I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed that God has given me more time on Earth with my dad.

I’d like to honor the army of prayer soldiers, on and off Facebook, who came to our rescue. I reached out to you at our lowest point on February 27, 2020 and you never left our side. I feel closer to you than ever before. It’s funny how I was working on the last section of my book and brainstorming about those chapters when the land gave way. I’m pretty sure God stepped in and said, “Allow me to create a testimony for you that will remind believers all over the world that when you walk in faith, you will find joy, restoration, and greater strength on the other side of pain.”

We are never alone with God carrying us through valleys but some situations are tougher, more faith-testing, than others and that’s when we also need His angels on Earth to ride along with us on the journey. Thank you for being my family’s angels on Earth. We love you!

Happy Palm Sunday,
Denise Lee Branco