I’m going to be gross for a minute. Skip to the next paragraph now if gross medical stuff makes you want to toss your cookies. Twenty-eight months ago I was lying in a hospital bed at Lahey Hospital with a new liver of just 6 days. I had four balloon drainage bags coming out of holes into my abdomen. They were filling up with green and red fluids that the nurses drained every several hours. I had a tube going into my right nostril, down my esophagus into my stomach draining its contents into a jug. I felt humiliated because I wore adult diapers that my sister and wife changed for me. They cleaned me like an infant and wiped my bottom. No one told me that transplant recovery would be like that. I told my wife that I wished I hadn’t had the transplant at all.
Skip ahead to today, 28 months later. No drains, no diapers, no tubes and I am so glad that I went through with the transplant and was gifted a new life. Today, I pedaled my bicycle 50 miles.
A handful of my new friends rode with me and encouraged me up each hill and around every bend. Karen shouted”whoo-whoots” celebrating my reaching the top of the monster climbs. They had no idea what I was feeling or of the thoughts and memories going through my mind.
On one hill I had a mental image of the blue handicapped parking permit that hung from our car mirror for more than a year. I could see blue plastic so clearly. I could see myself sitting in my spot in the passenger seat, unable to drive.
At the top of a ridge I looked off to my right and saw spectacular rolling hills, the beginning of Fall on treetops and blue, hazy mountains in the distance. I saw myself confined to a mobility scooter at the Fryeburg Fair in 2011, unable to walk more that 100 yards. I pushed back the emotion that clenched my throat.
When I hit the 10-mile mark, I flashed back to September of 2012 when my son-in-law jumped off his bike and pushed me up the final hill of a charity ride that I was determined to finish. It was only four and a half months after transplant. My legs were done and I was in so much pain. But today, 10 miles was nothing. Ten miles is a quick ride for me now.
At about 28 miles I started losing the mental game. “Fifty is too much. You are never going to make it. You’ve got nothing.” Then Rick came up beside me and started a conversation. I think he could see that I was struggling. The next time I looked, we were at the 35 mile mark and the mental battle was over. Sometimes friends step in and take your mind off the struggle until you are coming out the other side.
By 40 miles these new cycling friends were laughing and joking and even poking fun at me a little. I knew I was going to make it. They were pulling and pushing me through it, giving me strength and encouragement.
For the last 10 miles, the sun finally came out and Russ and I shed our jackets. Why do I mention that? It changed my view. Russ was wearing the Donate Life cycling jersey I gave him this summer. Donate Life – the whole reason today even happened. My mind wandered again.
My friends could not see the tears behind my sunglasses when we stopped as my GPS ticked off mile number 50 to take the picture above. Fifty freaking miles! The last time I completed a half-century ride was in 1989 when I was 26 years old. Twenty-eight months ago I couldn’t even begin to picture the new life my Creator had in store for me.
Today I have a new life, a new neighborhood and so many new friends. Some people ask “why me” when bad things happen. I find myself asking the same on a weekly basis but for a completely different reason. Why have I been so blessed? Why is my life so good? Why is my recovery so remarkable when I see so many others struggling?
No, I don’t deserve it. There is nothing in me that makes me more worth God’s favor than anyone else.
Grace. Undeserved favor. I can’t figure it out. It baffles me. There’s a lot of God stuff I can’t grasp.
But, I’ll take it. I’ll take it with tears of thanksgiving hidden behind sunglasses.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11