Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Lost And Found


I. The Journey Begins
II. Lisa Lives?
III. Life Goes On
IV. The Awakening
V. The Reality Slap
VI. The Retreat
VII. Restoration

I. The Journey Begins

“Dear God! Am I dead or am I alive? Or am I somewhere in between? I can’t move. Darkness is all I see. Nothingness and pain totally engulf me.” Lisa’s muddled mind was as confused as her mini van was mangled up against a thick oak tree trunk.
Through the pouring rain, suddenly a distant voice shouted. “Here she is, she‘s still breathing. Frank, get the paramedics over here!
Lisa McConnell’s day in October of 1986 had started off as routine. An early riser, Lisa was up this Saturday while her husband of seven years, Mark and her five year old daughter Sara slept in.
She quietly dressed into her comfortable sweats, before gently kissing Mark good-bye. Softly she said, “I’ll pick us up something special for breakfast this morning.” She peeked in on little Sara, who was peacefully sleeping clutching her favorite teddy bear, Brownie.
She tip-toed away grabbing her keys and handbag as she stepped outside their fashionable Normal Heights bungalow.
Outside there was a cool wind blowing and the rain was steadily falling on this gray morning. She drove away in her dark blue mini van. She thought such storms unusual for Southern California, of course, that’s why many locals can’t drive in it.
This morning her mind wandered from thinking about Sara’s school project, to her own 3rd grade students papers she needed to correct this weekend. She thought of her handsome Mark and his possible promotion at the law firm.
As she rounded a curve suddenly there was an oncoming old pick-up truck in her lane. Lisa tried to swerve to the right to avoid the collision. In seconds her van was on the shoulder and off the road. She lost control and it careened head on into a very large oak tree.

Mark’s usual cool demeanor was rattled as he heard the words on the phone, “Mr. McConnell your wife has been in a serious accident you need to come to Mercy Hospital Emergency room right away.”
Mark immediately arranged for Sara to stay with friends, Mary and Jack Thompson next door.

“Daddy what’s going on? And where is Mommy?” intense looking Sara inquired.
“Sara sweetie, Daddy has to go now but I’ll be back soon. You know we love you. Everything will be ok. You be good for Mr. & Mrs. Thompson.” He hugged and kissed her little sweet face with those dark eyes so much like Lisa’s.
Mark and Lisa had met while he was finishing up law school. They had a blind date arranged by Linda. Linda, Lisa’s divorced sister, had known Mark through an old boyfriend, Bill, in college. Mark had been impressed with her energetic and gentle spirit as well as her attractive good looks. Lisa found Mark’s confident, logical mind and tall, blond hair, green eyes looks very appealing. These qualities made him well suited for climbing the legal corporate ladder at the firm of Harvey & Lewis.

II. Lisa Lives?

Mark rushed into the hospital emergency room and spoke to the nurse. “I’m Mark McConnell, where is my wife, Lisa? I must see her.”
“Mr. McConnell, Lisa is in surgery now. I’ll show you where you can wait for the doctor when he is finished”, with calm efficiency, the nurse, Jill Martin responded. She was well trained to control her emotions even when the patient was a friend.
“Please, please tell me how is she and is she going to be alright?” pleaded Mark.
“Mr. McConnell, all I can tell you is she is in critical condition right now. You’ll have to wait for the doctor for anymore than that.” The nurse said, as she determined to check on Lisa’s condition for herself.

Mark paced back and forth in the waiting room as the clock ticked on at a snail’s pace. The hospital buzz and busyness was a background blur that his mind did not comprehend as thoughts of Lisa consumed his total attention. His emotions roller coasted from one minute hope. These were the best doctors. The next minute he was despairing at the thought of losing Lisa forever.
The fear, anger, anguish cycles twisted his insides and left him weak and numb. He thought of praying. Lisa seemed to find some sort of meaning and comfort in it. Her spiritual experience had begun a couple of years ago when she attended Mary Thompson’s Bible study and prayer group next door. To Mark, prayer appeared to be for those weak souls who couldn’t quite make it without help.
Silently he began, “God if you are there, Lisa needs you now. You know, I’m not one to have much faith but Lisa believes in you. Can you please help her if you hear me? Please let her make it. We need her.”
As if half expecting some sort of audible response, but hearing, feeling nothing, Mark felt foolish at his attempt. He hoped God would help because of Lisa’s belief in Him.
The doors swung open and Linda came in and ran to him. In tears, she clung to him asking, “How is she? What happened? Why didn’t you call me sooner?”
He was about to answer, when Dr. Tom Spencer walked in. Dr. Spencer a short chunky muscular man wore glasses that emphasized his kind eyes. Tonight he had a very serious and tired countenance. He said, “Mr. McConnell, I’m Dr. Spencer.”

“Yes, doctor, this is Lisa’s sister, Linda. Please tell me how is she?” Mark asked.
“She’s made it through the surgery. The next 48 hours will be an indicator of how successful the surgery was. She has sustained considerable trauma to the brain. At this point we don’t know to what extent and how much long term damage, if any. She is in a coma to help contain the swelling of the brain.” Dr. Spencer explained.
“May I please see her?” Mark implored.
“Yes, you can each go in but not for long, she been through a lot.” said Dr. Spencer.
Mark was quite unprepared for what he encountered in Lisa’s ICU room. There were tubes; IVs connected everywhere as well as several monitors making various sounds. Despite the bandages, cuts, some swelling, he noticed her face was surprisingly serene looking.
Tenderly, he kissed her cheek and held her hand as he spoke words from his heart. “Lisa, I’m here for you. I love you and I’ll do everything I can to help you get well. Sara and I miss you so much. She’ll be coming to see you when you are moved out of ICU. Linda’s outside, she wants to see you next.”
For the next month, Mark’s life was full of hospitals sights, sounds and smells. Lisa’s immediate life threatening conditions passed. Sara was coping as best as could be expected for a five year old. She would visit her Mommy, bringing her latest art work or daisy’s she had picked. Mark was grateful for Linda’s help with Sara. She assisted Sara in completing her school project. Mark was able to take some leave time from the firm but had already been notified that he must return soon due to several of his pending cases.
Today he had received a call from Dr. Spencer who wanted to meet with Mark to discuss Lisa’s future care.
When they were seated in Dr. Spencer’s office, he began solemnly saying, “Mark, I must be frank with you regarding Lisa’s future. As I stated before there is much we don’t know about the brain and how, when or if such damage can be remedied. Lisa has not come out of the coma. You must face the fact that she may never do so. We do know the longer a patient remains in a coma, the less likely it is that they will recover. Our hospital has done all that we can. Her needs are now better serve by rehabilitative nursing care facility. I can recommend one and all the arrangement can then be made for her transfer.”

Reeling from such devastating news, Mark was silent. He thought is this really happening? Then he asked, “Can’t you give her anything? Or can’t you operate or use an experimental measure with my permission? Surely there must be another doctor who is an expert in these cases that could help. Are you actually saying she may never wake up from this coma?”
With sad eyes Dr Spencer replied, “I’m sorry Mark. There is nothing more I can do. Of course you are free to seek a second opinion, but in these cases very rarely do the patients recover. Again, I’m sorry; if you need the names of recommended facilities just let me know.”
At that a forlorn Mark went home to Sara and Linda who was with her. He composed himself to give the news. It was a tearful night at the McConnell home.

III. Life Goes On

It has been nearly twenty years since Lisa’s accident. Mark did heed the advice of Dr. Spencer and had Lisa transferred to a first rate nursing facility called Green Valley Rehabilitative Care. Linda moved in the Normal Heights home to assist with Sara.
Mark eventually got the promotion. He is now a partner at the successful firm of Harvey, Lewis & McConnell. Linda took some paralegal courses and also works at the firm.
Sara graduated with her degree in Education. She married Brad who runs his family insurance agency.
The family is still trying to learn how to live with Lisa in a coma. They visit her often although not as frequent as in the beginning. Mark or sometimes Sara will come by and take Lisa in her reclining bed on wheels outside for some sun in the gardens at Green Valley.
They have engaged the services of a nurse, Jill Martin who retired from Mercy hospital ten years ago. She provides private nurse care to a few patients. Nurse Martin specializes in the care of patients like Lisa and has always appreciated Lisa and her family. She often reads to Lisa from the book of Psalms. Mark had said they were Lisa’s favorite Scriptures. Lately she has noticed certain things about Lisa that may indicate more brain activity than previously noted.
Dutifully she reports this to Lisa’s doctor, Dr. Bruce Spencer, who took over his father’s practice when Dr. Tom Spencer had a heart attack and passed away.
After performing some tests on Lisa, Dr. Spencer has called to meet with Mark in his office at Green Valley.
“Dr. Spencer, what is going on with Lisa? Is something wrong?” inquires Mark as they are seated in Dr Spencer’s consultation room.
“Mark, after testing Lisa’s brain function, we have reason to believe that there is a noticeable increase in the level of activity. This is not to get your hopes up. She is still in a coma. However, in some rare cases the brain goes through a very slow process of growing new connections to heal the injured parts. So in other words the brain may seek out new pathways to re-establish working connections in order to make up for those lost because of damage.” Dr Spence explained.

Mark could scarcely take it all in. “Are you saying she may come out of the coma after all this time? I thought there was nothing that could be done? That’s what Dr. Tom clearly said.” Mark said trying to keep calm.
“I know this is confusing, Mark. This is not 1986 anymore. That was nearly twenty years ago and medical science is always developing and progressing. I have a colleague of mine, Dr. Thornton who has being doing the latest research in this area of brain self repair using stem cells. He is familiar with Lisa’s case and would like to do further tests to see if his research could help her.” Dr. Spencer further explained.

“Stem cells research? Isn’t that a very controversial field of study?” questioned Mark raising his voice in the discussion.
“Mark, there are different types of stem cells. There are the embryonic stem cells which are very controversial because a life is destroyed. But I’m talking about adult stem cells. Which are the ones that have actually shown real promise in helping heal patients and no life is destroyed. However, stem cells are still at the experimental stage so you will have to decide what is best for Lisa. I understand this is new to you and all a bit of a shock, too. Perhaps you should take a few days to discuss it with the family and think about it” Said Dr. Spencer in such a caring manner that Mark agreed and left but not before popping to check on Lisa.
Mark greeted Jill as he went in to see Lisa. Jill had been reading to her as was customary in the afternoon.
“How has Lisa been doing today? Mark asked.
Jill cautiously said, “She has been just fine. I really feel as if she hears me when I read certain Palms of comfort to her. A smile nearly comes out across her face. She seems pleased when you, Sara, Linda or Mary Thompson come for a visit.”
“Hi honey, so good to see you today. Nurse Jill tells me you been enjoying several visitors. That’s just great. I’ve got to go now but I’ll be back soon. And Sara and Brad told me to tell you they will be here to see you next week on Saturday. Love you, Bye.” Mark said softly as he kissed Lisa on the cheek.

IV. The Awakening
After a few days, Mark is again meeting with Dr. Spencer and this time Dr Thornton is also joining them.
“I’m so pleased that you have decided allow Lisa to participate in our research study program. We are very hopeful that the results could greatly improve the quality of life for Lisa.” Dr Thornton affirmed in his friendly manner not usually associated with a researcher. He was tall, slender, glasses and had a receding hairline. His social skills came from his several years as a public relations volunteer in this new field of study.
“So unless you have any more questions, Mark, Dr Thornton wanted to start next week with Lisa’s treatments.” Dr Spencer said.
“How soon should we see results in Lisa’s case?” Mark asked.
Dr. Thornton explained, “That really does vary, each case is different depending on the area of the brain affected and the individuals normal response to the treatment.”
“Next week is fine with me, but I want to be the one to tell her first, if you don’t mind. I know it is uncertain how much she actually hears but we don’t know for sure she is totally unaware.” Mark requested.
Both Doctors nodded in agreement as Mark headed towards Lisa’s room.
Then Dr. Thornton questioned Dr. Spencer, “Did you advise Mark about the possible side effects of these treatments? “
“I saw no need to trouble him with such details. His options are so limited. This is only Lisa’s chance for recovery. He wants to do anything that could possibly help,” replied Dr. Spencer.

Trapped inside her body unable to move, speak or respond, Lisa has some stirrings of consciousness. This is soon followed by her lament of her circumstance:
“I’m so confused about what has happened to me. I try so hard to move or speak or anything to let Jill know I’m here! Please recognize it and help me. I know I feel nothing. Oh, I know that Psalm she’s reading. May God grant comfort and peace in my desolation.”
Outwardly, Lisa lays there listening to Jill read to her Psalm 142.

“I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD;
I make supplication with my voice to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare my trouble before Him.
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,
Thou didst know my path.
In the way where I walk
They have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see;
For there is no one who regards me;
There is no escape for me;
No one cares for my soul.
I cried out to Thee, O Lord;
I said, “Thou art my refuge,
My portion in the land of the living.
Give heed to my cry,
For I am brought very low;
Deliver me from my persecutors,
For they are too strong for me.
Bring my soul out of prison,
So that I may give thanks to Thy name;
The righteous will surround me,
For thou wilt deal bountifully with me.”

Weeks after her treatments have begun; Lisa begins to ever so slowly regain consciousness. Jill is startled to see Lisa eyes open and follow her around the room!
Excitedly Jill calls Dr. Spencer to the room. He examines her and finds her levels of brain activity and responsiveness to have greatly increased.

He calls Mark and also notifies Dr. Thornton of Lisa’s progress.
Mark, full of anticipation, arrives quickly to see Lisa. He is first met by Dr Spencer.
“Before you go in to see Lisa, I must entreat you to above all - take it slowly with her. Her progress so far is better than we had dared hope. However, too much sudden information in finding her way back to the land of the living could do psychological harm, causing her to retreat into her own world. As is to be expected, she is very emotionally fragile”, explained Dr. Spencer.
Mark answered, “Of course, I understand. There is so much she has missed that it will require a slow unfolding as she is ready to know and understand our lives.”

V. The Reality Slap

Before entering Lisa’s room, Jill the nurse, pulls Mark aside and quietly but firmly asks him. “I know that Dr. Spencer has already discussed with you the care that must be taken in speaking with Lisa. However, you must tell her about Luke. She may have flashes of memories that make no sense to her. It would be better if she had it carefully explained to her by you not by some jolting revelation.”

Annoyed by her insistence, Mark remarked, “Yes, yes, I am well aware that she must be told. I know you two have remained close friends. And I have appreciated the great care you given Lisa throughout the years. Please let handle me our affairs in our own time.”
Not backing down, Jill responded, “Interesting choice of words, Mark, it’s not your affair we were discussing. Lisa has always been a good friend to me. When my little Pattie was in her 3rd grade class, Lisa was the teacher who took the time to help Pattie. Pattie was so devastated when her Daddy just up and left us one day. Lisa helped get her through that difficult time. I’ll never forget it. Today my Pattie, as you’ll recall, is a journalist for the San Diego Gazette. Lisa must be told about Luke!” Having had her say, she left to answer a patient call signal.

The mention of Luke’s name brought back the memory of the day of the accident. Lisa’s injuries had been further complicated by her pregnancy. Dr. Spencer and Dr. Phillips (her OB doctor) had worked so hard to save Luke’s life without jeopardizing Lisa’s. Luke was born three weeks premature, but was remarkably resilient. Mark, along with Linda’s help had tried their best to raise him and Sara. Mark had to be away working long hours. He always felt partly responsible for Luke’s problems.
Luke had inherited Mark’s green eyes and golden blond hair. That along with his trim build and friendly personality had caught the eye of his English teacher in High School. Mr. Lenny Fox encouraged Luke to get involved in the school play.
Fox used the time he spent with Luke at rehearsals to get close to him. It angered Mark that he had just not
seen it! How could he have missed it? Luke was at a vulnerable age. He had never known his real Mom.
Linda, too self absorbed, was not able to be more than an Aunt to him. Luke had sexual identity questions. He was told in his classroom that a good percentage of the students were gay or bi-sexual. Fox recruited Luke into the homosexual life style while he molested him. The truth was revealed during an investigation of another student of Fox, who committed suicide after being molested by Fox. It was Mark’s law firm that assisted on the case. They helped get the conviction and Fox was sentenced to twenty years.
He would have to move cautiously in how he told Lisa about Luke.
As Mark stepped into Lisa’s room, he noticed how very peaceful it was. There were colorful flowers and various get well cards all around the room. He could hear faint hymns from music CD’s playing.
Lisa was in a matching pink silk gown and robe. Her hair had been washed and brushed. She had on just a touch of make up. He had to hand it to Jill, she really had Lisa all dolled up. Most of her IV’s, tubes and monitors were gone.
Lisa looked at Mark.
A joyful look came upon her face as she smiled slightly and haltingly said, “Mark, oh, Mark”
Mark rushed to her and hugged and kissed her saying, “Lisa, Lisa, you’ve come back to me! Oh, Lisa how I’ve missed you all this time. I can’t believe this, this miracle!”
The encounter was sweet as he held her for a long time. Then he began to tell her about some of things that had happened. There was so very much to tell. He spoke in general terms about Sara, Linda and then Luke.
He let her know the good news about how their baby had survived. Lisa although thrilled, was beginning to tire. Mark observed it and said,” Darling, I’m going to let you rest now. I know you want to see everybody and they will come for a visit. We must not wear you out. You’ve come such a long way; we’ll take it slowly one day at a time.” And with a kiss he left to give everyone the news.

The following Saturday, they all gathered at Green Valley in Dr. Spencer’s comfortable conference room. Mark had alerted everyone of Lisa’s progress. Sara and Brad, Linda and Mary Thompson were all present.
Dr. Spencer privately asked Mark, “Do you really want Mary Thompson here. This was to be for family members only.”

Mark answered, “Yes, Bruce, Mary stays. She is one of Lisa’s closest friends. Your past case has no bearing now.”

They were waiting for Luke to show up.
“He’s usually late, but he promised to make a real effort to join us on time,” explained Sara, his sister
“I just saw him in the hallway, he won’t be a minute,” said Mary Thompson. Mary had befriended Luke when he was dealing with the Fox trial. She introduced him to Exodus International; a ministry that assists individuals in leaving the homosexual life about three years ago. Luke was now dating Tina, Mary’s daughter that Luke had always admired.

When Luke joined the group, Dr Spencer began by saying, “By now you’ve all heard the news about Lisa’s remarkable progress. I’ve asked you here to go over the guidelines regarding your visits with Lisa. None of us want to say or do anything that would hinder her recovery. How much she’ll be able to recover is still an unknown as these treatments are experimental. Every precaution must be taken to prevent any set back whether physically or psychologically. First and foremost, the visits are to be kept short. She is still in a weaken state and tires easily. Secondly, you should not shock her with disclosures of events or people that might be upsetting to her. We’ve arranged for the nurse to be in the next room watching the monitors for any signs of distress. Should this occur the visit would be immediately terminated. Lastly, Mark has agreed to be in the room initially to reintroduce you to Lisa. This should make the visits run more smoothly.”

It was decided that Sara would go in first to see her mother. She and Mark walked over to Lisa’s room.
The nurse, Jill was in place in the office next door.
Mark opened the door gently. He and Sara stepped inside. The soft music was playing. Lisa was looking out the large window at the lush gardens.
Mark greeted her, “Hi honey, I’m back and brought with me someone very special that couldn’t wait any longer to see you. Lisa, this is our Sara, all grown up now. She is as smart as she is lovely. Sara takes after her Mom, I would say.”
Lisa’s face lit up with joy at the sight of Mark and Sara. Then she said, “Sara, little Sara”
Sara who at first had hesitated, now rushed to her mother’s bedside and hugged her saying, “Oh Mom, how I’ve missed you. I love you, Mom.”
As the tears began to flow, Mark quietly slipped out of the room leaving them time to share together.
Sara was much like her mother. She had a good natured and energetic personality. Her slim build, brown hair and dark eyes resembled a younger version of Lisa.

Sara began, “Mom there is so very much to tell you. I can’t believe I’m talking to you and you are really here now. I’m married to a wonderful man – Brad Olson. I’ll bring him in at our next visit. He and his family have an insurance agency that he runs. The wedding was so beautiful. How I wished you could have been there. Aunt Linda helped me put it all together. You know Aunt Linda, everything must look perfect.
And guess what Mom, I’m a teacher, like you. I even teach at the same school – Harris Elementary. I teach 2nd grade and just love it. You know Mom that the school has a mounted glass case display which honors those who have contributed to children’s education. There is a plaque posted that honors you! An accomplished teacher the students and parents loved. Several of the students have gone on to university and successful careers. They give you credit as a teacher who inspired them to achieve. You are a hard act to follow.”
Thoughts of teaching and her students raced through Lisa’s mind. It was hard to recall specifics, yet the scenes of classrooms and little faces flowed. She loved the children and they knew it. Speaking of children she inquired of Sara, “Any children?” She still struggled to get the words out and use her voice.
The question took Sara by surprise. She managed to recover by shaking her head and saying, “None yet, I think I should leave now. I don’t want Jill coming here to throw me out for sapping all your strength.”
She kissed her Mom good -bye and quickly took refuge in the nearest ladies room. There nothing that could stop her tears now. At least her mother had been spared the truth.
About five years ago, Sara had just started going out with Brad. She was still in college when she learned she was pregnant. There was no one close she could talk to except for Linda. Sara believed she would lose Brad if he knew. And of course there was her degree. Thoughts of graduation would go down the drain if she had a baby. Sara felt in no way ready to become a Mom. How she wished her Mom had been around to counsel her. Her Dad was always away working. Sara was not really sure he would have been much comfort to her, either.
Linda was not the kindest person, but Sara had not been prepared for Linda’s cold response. It was all so very clear and simple to her. Linda said she had had an abortion years ago and it was like having a tonsil removed. Sara had made a stupid mistake that threaten her future. Linda was angry. She wanted Mark free of family problems so he could focus on getting with his own life.
No, a pregnancy, a baby did not fit in Linda’s plans for Mark and Sara. Sara must agree to get rid of it.
Get rid of the problem and then everything would be just fine. Sara noticed that Linda never referred to a baby. She always called it the “problem” or just “it”. Linda drove her to the clinic. It was an ugly, nasty place run by a cold staff. Linda and the staff person, Charlotte, assured her it was no big deal. One relatively quick procedure, some pain, some bleeding and poof –problem solved.
Sara sadly learned she had traded one problem for a tremendous amount of guilt, shame and pain. Thoughts of her baby, a girl she later learned, haunted her. Not only that, but as a result of an infection from the abortion, Sara was infertile. Brad knew nothing about it. It was her dirty secret burden to carry.
She was really crying now, when she felt a touch of a gentle hand on her shoulder. As she turned around, Sara saw it was Mary Thompson. Sara had not even heard her come into the Ladies Room.
Mary’s kind and caring manner helped to calm Sara as she asked, “Sara, may I please pray for you?”
Sara nodded yes. Mary prayed for Sara, Brad, the baby, Mark, Lisa and Luke.
Mary talked on about God’s love and forgiveness. She explained His wondrous gift of love, healing and salvation. She told Sara how she too, could find healing and forgiveness.
At the moment, Sara prayed, she felt such a rush of love and peace like she had never known before.
Sara left Green Valley feeling like a new person. Mary would proclaim Sara was a new creation.

Sunday afternoon was set for Linda to visit Lisa. Linda was tall, slender with shoulder length flowing hair and perfect features. She always dressed in style with her make up and hair just right. Today, she wore a beige linen suit with shoes, bag and jewelry to match. She was known as the more glamorous of the two sisters. Her stunning looks had opened doors for her during her younger years. Her relationship with Lisa had always been rocky.
It had not helped that Linda had the habit of swooping in and snatching away Lisa’s boyfriends. This had happened several occasions even into their adult years. Linda wondered if Lisa would recall their last conversation before the accident. They had exchanged heated words over Lisa’s concerns that Linda had eyes for Mark for quite sometime.
Linda thought, “Well, perhaps, sister that may have been true. You have not been around to take care of Mark all these years. Men need a friend,” she smiled to herself.

As Linda arrived at Green Valley, Dr. Spencer greeted her and said, “You can just go in to see Lisa. Mark is already there. Please remember to observe the visitor guidelines discussed yesterday.”
“Of course, Dr. Spencer,” Linda said smiling at him.
“Knock, knock,”said Linda as she came into the room.
Mark was seated next to Lisa who was propped up on the bed.
“Darling, your sister, Linda, is here to see you. You know Lisa, Linda has been such a big help to me while you been away. Linda assisted me finding the nanny for Sara and Luke and well as the housekeeper. She was a life saver when it came to Sara’s wedding as Sara probably told you. Today, we are letting Lisa use a computer to type her answers and save her energy during the visits. I leave you two, now,” Mark said as he kissed Lisa bye and left.
At first the two sisters just stared at each other. Then Lisa said, “Linda, Linda my little sister”
With that Linda came close to Lisa. She hugged her and they wept.
Lisa pointed to her keyboard to use during the visit.
Linda responded, “Please use what ever is easiest for you. I’m sure you have many questions since so much time has passed.”
Lisa typed, “I do remember and I’m sorry for our fight.”
“Don’t worry about it, it’s all forgotten it was so long ago,” answered Linda.
Still trying to be the goody two shoes, Linda thought to herself. As Lisa typed on, Linda looked around. She thought, “This place is not too shabby. Lisa you’ve gotten plenty of cards, flowers, and sympathy. You’ve got two great kids and a handsome well- to- do husband. Not bad for one who can’t get out of bed for nearly twenty years.
Lisa typed, “Thanks for helping out with the kids and Mark. You look good as always. How are you? I still pray for you.”
Linda could longer contain herself as she began to counter Lisa, “There you go again, Lisa with that religious stuff. You know, I still don’t believe any of it. I’m baffled how you still believe. Look at what has happened to you. Where has God been these last twenty years, while you lay in a coma?
And to think I wanted your life. That’s right, I wanted Mark for me and the, oh so perfect life you guys had with perfect children. Well, your God did a number on me. I got breast cancer and had to have a breast removed. I’m not so pretty any more. Mark is no longer interested.”
Linda then began to cry.
Lisa said, “I’m so sorry.”
She continued typing her response to Linda, “God has been with me through every step of the way. I don’t know why this happened; only He knows. He loves you too, Linda. Please find some time to go to Mary’s Bible study. The ladies there will pray for you. We are not perfect and we know it, just forgiven”
Linda read what Lisa wrote through tear filled eyes and felt the kind of love and peace she longed for.
Linda hugged and kissed her sister and whispered, “Thank you, for being a good sister despite me. I will try out the Bible study.”
Nurse Jill came in and said, “Visiting hours are over now, Linda, you can come back another day. Bye now”

Monday morning Mary prayed during her devotions for wisdom in encouraging her friend Lisa, she was to visit later today. Especially, she gave thanks for the progress in Lisa’s recovery. She was thankful she had been able to comfort Sara. She also thought of Linda, she had often invited Linda to her ladies Bible study. Linda was never interested. Mary was hopeful that would change someday. Mary finished arranging the red, yellow and purple tulips from her garden to take to Lisa. She locked up her home and drove off the Green Valley.

When Mary arrived, Mark was in the hallway ready to go in to visit Lisa.
“Hi Mary, please come on in,” Mark welcomed Mary as they went into the room.
Mark greeted Lisa with a hug and kiss saying, “Hi Lisa, it’s so good to see you today. I’ve brought you one of your favorite friends to visit – Mary our friend and next door neighbor. Mary has been such a great help to us over these difficult years.”
“Let me give you a hug, Lisa. Here I brought you some beautiful tulips from my garden for you
It’s so good to see how well you are doing.” Mary said as she hugged Lisa and sat near her.
Lisa said slowly, “Mary it’s so good to see you, too.”
As Mark was leaving he explained to Mary, “Lisa is typing her answers in the computer during the visits to save her strength.”
Lisa then wrote to Mary, “Thank you for your help with Sara and Luke. Sara has grown into such a lovely young woman. Mark is bringing Luke tomorrow, I can’t wait to see him.
So much time has passed I can’t believe, it’s me when I look in the mirror. I’ve prayed for strength to deal with the regrets of so much I’ve missed. Yet, I‘m reminded there is so much to be thankful for such as being here at all. By the way, how are Jack and Tina?”
Mary replied, “Lisa, you look as lovely and sweet as ever. You have a wonderful daughter. She’s married such an excellent young man. And as for Luke, I’ll be honest; he has had some difficult times. When he comes please don’t be put off by his appearance. He has long hair, earring and tattoos on the outside, like the style of so many young men today. On the inside, he has a real heart of gold. I’ve gotten to know him
better since his been dating Tina. Tina is still singing in church and pursuing her career in music.
Lisa smiled at the thought of her Luke and Mary’s Tina dating. It seemed just seemed right; the families had always had a special connection.
“And, Jack, how is he? inquired Lisa.
Mary took a deep breath and began recounting what had happened to Jack.
“About ten years ago, Jack began to have trouble with high blood pressure and cholesterol. He went to see Dr. Bruce Spencer for treatment. With diet changes and exercise, the blood pressure came down to normal levels. His cholesterol was still high. Dr. Spencer prescribed some new medications to Jack. He never disclosed to us the possible side-effects and the warning signs of problems with Jack’s reaction to the medication. In any case, he developed serious problem and died from liver complications a short time afterwards.”
Mary wiped away a tear and continued, “There was an investigation when it was discovered that several of his patients had similar problems. The investigation focused on Dr. Spencer’s connections with certain drug companies. The medical board reviewed it and there was a trial. Mark successfully defended Dr. Spencer.
In the aftermath, Dr. Spencer left Mercy Hospital and came here to Green Valley. The whole matter was so disturbing that many believe it caused the heart attack the killed his father, Dr. Tom Spencer.
I don’t blame Mark for the outcome. It was at a time when the finances were tight for Mark and the family. After all with kids and medical expenses, the bills can really stack up. You know of course, the driver of the pick-up truck that caused your accident was an illegal. He had no insurance and no money.
Only my faith and prayers of many have helped me move on and focus on serving others. I believe that’s God’s plan for me. He has a special plan for you, too. I’m sure of it. I talked enough now and must let you get your rest.”
So with a hug and kiss to Lisa, who whispered, “Please come back soon.” Then Mary left.

Lisa was left with a myriad of thoughts swirling around in her head. She had so many unanswered questions. What really had gone on between Mark and Linda? What difficult experiences had Luke troubled? What about Sara, who seemed almost too good to be true. Lisa thought she had seen just a touch of sadness in her eyes. And dear sweet Mary, she had been through so much, yet was so caring and strong.
The history of Dr. Spencer also concerned her, but only for a moment. After all he had helped her come so far in her recovery.

Jill came in and declared, “Lisa, you’ve had such a busy day. It’s time for you to get some rest. You must be ready for tomorrow when Mark is bringing Luke.
There will be time tomorrow for her questions. As Lisa drifted off to sleep, she dreamed of seeing her baby, Luke.

The next morning, the door to Lisa room opened and in walked Mark and Luke. Lisa’s heart skipped a beat as she gazed lovingly at both of them. Mary was right about Luke. His hair was long and he did have a silver hoop earring. A tattoo, Lisa could not identify, was visible under his short sleeved shirt at times when his arm moved. He had a charming smile much like his father.
“Lisa, this is your son, Luke, who’s come to visit you today.” Mark said.
Luke moved next to his mother and hugged and kissed her gently. He said, “At last, you’re back Mom. I’ve missed you so much.”
Lisa said, tearing up from the joy, “Luke, my baby, is so grown up. I love you.”
Lisa then proceeded to type out, “Luke tell me, what do you do? Are you in school? Mary told me about you and Tina. Is it serious? I’m so happy to see you and for you two!”
“Whoa, Mom, not so fast. One thing at a time. Right now I manage a restaurant downtown. In the mornings I take classes studying business management. As far as Tina is concerned, only time will tell. We have a lot of fun together.” Luke said as he laughed.
After Mark and Luke left, Lisa was really exhausted. She buzzed her nurse, Jill. She let Jill know she wanted to get a good night’s rest. In the morning she would need Jill’s for a special project.

VI. The Retreat

Three days later, Mark received a call from Jill. She was alarmed that perhaps Lisa was slipping away again. The past couple of days she just wasn’t as alert and aware as before.
As Mark arrived at Green Valley, he met Jill who gave him an envelope.
“Lisa wanted you to have this just in case anything were to happen to her again.” Explained Jill.
“What has happened to her?” Mark demanded to know.
Jill replied, “Nothing more than what I’ve already explained. She is having a few tests done right now. You should wait awhile till the tests are completed before going in to see her.”

Alone in the back of the Chapel, Mark fumbled open the envelope and began reading Lisa’s letter.
She wrote, “My Darling Mark,
I write this as I have no idea whether or not I would get the chance to say these things to you in case something were to go wrong for me.
First of all, I love you, Mark and always have. The past few years have been incredibly challenging for both of us.
When I awoke, I had no idea of how much my world had radically changed. You have succeeded so greatly in your career. I’m proud of your accomplishments. You’ve done the best you could with Sara and Luke. They are fine young people.
Yet, there has been a great cost due to my absence as well as your work schedule .My heart aches and is broken as I think about what happened to Luke as a teenager. Please don’t be angry with Jill. She told me because it was a highly publicized case and she feared I would learn of it on the news, etc. She also overheard a conversation in the ladies room between Sara and Mary. It pains me so much not to have been able to help Sara when she was in trouble. Mark, we have a granddaughter in heaven.
I have forgiven Linda and you for what happened between you.
My faith is tested and my life is but shell of what it was before. I pray for the strength to go on.

Utterly broken by Lisa’s revelations, Mark realizes how much he does love her. So he turns to prayer again. Silently, he prays, “God, here I am again. You helped Lisa before and gave her back to us. Please don’t take her away. Don’t let her quit on us. We, I need her and love her. We can’t lose her again”
This time deep within his soul, he feels surrounded by a love and peace like none other. He is calm now and goes to find Lisa.

The next evening Dr. Thornton has summoned Lisa’s family and close friends to Green Valley.
Around the table in the conference room are Jill, Mark, Sara and Brad, Luke and Tina, Linda and Mary.
Dr Thornton begins, “I have asked you all here because I have some disturbing news.”
Everyone gasps.
“No, it’s not about Lisa; she is coming along well, now that we have her back on the right track. Dr Spencer has been arrested and charged with patient endangerment along with taking kickbacks from the Martell Drug Company.”
They gasp again.
Dr. Thornton continues, “Dr. Spencer has been under suspicion for a long time. So with the help of nurse, Jill, we were able to gather the evidence against him. In Lisa’s case, Jill alerted me and the authorities when Lisa started to slowly fade again. I discovered that he had switched her medications to those which were unauthorized from Martell. Their testing had not been completed nor were they yet approved for patient usage. Spencer along with Martell’s director, believed that if successful, great profits would be gained in such a high profile case as Lisa’s.“
Mark was the first to recover and speak, “I find this hard to believe. I’m so grateful for you and Jill in how you’ve protected and helped Lisa. I can tell you this time I will not be representing Dr. Spencer.”
Still in shock, they all go to check on Lisa.
Jill let’s them know, “She had a tiring day of tests and changes in her treatment. She is asleep now, but you may quietly peek in on her. Please do not wake her.”
Mark, Sara and Luke agree to be the ones who stop in and silently bid Lisa goodnight.

VII. Restoration

A couple of months later on a sunny Sunday afternoon there is a special gathering in the garden at Green Valley. Lisa has been wheeled out to the sitting area surrounded by fragrant roses to join with family and friends. As usual, Jill has helped Lisa look her best. Today she is radiant. Mark is beside her as he holds her hand.
Sara and Brad are seated across from them. They are engaged in a lively discussion with Linda and Bill. Linda is dating Bill again. They are talking about Linda’s new condo she recently purchased.
Dr. Thornton arrives arm in arm with Jill and Mary. He greets everyone and asks, “So how is my number one patient today?”
Lisa smiles and Mark answers” Great, just great.
Luke and Tina come in. Tina is glowing. Luke is bursting with the news. “Mom, Dad and everyone, I have an announcement. We are engaged!”
The group erupts with joyous laughter and congratulations.