Sometimes I wonder why I want to write a book about Jenny. I feel in my heart that I have to. Perhaps the book is just for me. But maybe there’s someone else out there that needs to meet Jenny too. I know I needed her.
How could Jenny become completely paralyzed at only 34 years of age, lose the movement of every part of her body, not even be able to breathe on her own, and have the joy she did and a continuing faith to believe God?
She told me, from the very first day when she didn’t even know what was happening to her, she felt God had told her, “You’ll be able to walk again.”
And she believed those words and held on to them when she couldn’t hold on to anything. But hold on she did. They kept her faith strong even after 5 years of loss upon loss. God allowed us to be friends her last year on this earth, and I witnessed faith in champion proportions.
Do you know what she told me the first time I visited her at her house, while she sat in her chair. She said, “The very first day I was paralyzed, I asked God to help me get out of bed every day.”
I guess that’s why I’ll write the book. Because I need to stop complaining about my nothing in comparison problems, and fall into the temptation to look at mountains of situations, instead of looking to God.
Oh, that I might consistently think differently. That, no matter what, I would keep my faith and believe God. Day after day, trial after trial, the way Jenny so victoriously did.
Jenny couldn’t hug her girls anymore. She couldn’t do so many things.
The girls were young.
And no-one will know what the Lord did in-and-through her and, for the both of us unless the words are written. God let us be friends.
There were days when, just thinking of her and the extreme challenges she had to face every minute of the day, got me out of bed some mornings.
I had suffered great loss. My heart physically felt it was bleeding. Did we even know that the heart can feel like it’s bleeding.
I needed a hero, a champion. Jenny was all that, but don’t think for a minute that Jenny’s the hero I’m writing about. Right from the start, the hero is God. I cried out to Him and He heard me. He answered prayer by giving me a friend.
I started praying for Jenny years before when on the very same week, on a February of 2008, I had a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. But Jenny became paralyzed, from the neck down within a 24 hour period—quadriplegic.
You better believe I end that sentence with an exclamation point. Jenny also lost the use of her diaphragm, thus preventing her from breathing on her own, causing a continual use of a respirator.
I had nothing to complain about. What is Rheumatoid Arthritis, swelling and pain when moving, to paralysis of every limb and chest.
It all happened so quickly. February, 2008 brought change for the both of us, but for Jenny, she couldn’t move anything.
Was sudden paralysis of the spine due to a virus? Did the medical team ever really know? There were so many questions for Jenny, her husband, and her three girls. Questions that couldn’t be answered.
I thought about Jenny every day even though I didn’t know her well when all the changes happened.
I would reach for a cup out of the cupboard after getting up and walking out of bed. Tempted to complain of difficulties of life and my RA pain, which seemed to come so naturally, but then I would stop.
Almost as if I was watching myself from the outside, I would fill the cup with water and give myself a drink, then I would think, . . . “Remember Jenny.”
A young mom from the Y, with her girls on the same swim team as mine, and all of a sudden, word goes out, “Jenny’s paralyzed.
I was cured. Perspective is everything. I had no problems at all. Zero. None.
I can’t even imagine being 34 years old and not being able to move anything. Prayers went up to God for Jenny everywhere for her girls, her husband, and family.
Day after day.
Month after month.
Year after year.
I am not sure how long she was hospitalized, 8 months and more. And then training and preparation for life as a quadriplegic. A special chair was needed as well as 24/7 home health care. The house had to be renovated for the chair to go up stairs. A new van was purchased. The entire dynamics of the household was forever changed.
And Jenny couldn’t hug her girls anymore.
The girls would always smile when I waved as they walked into swim practice. What a great thing to have a pool to kick off all the stress and hardship of life for an hour. The girls were precious.
I remember watching her blow into a long straw-type tube to move her special wheel chair into the Y. We would have chats now and again.
I asked her, “Jenny, what’s the hardest part of all this?” Putting my hand on her hand. With great effort to catch breath, she answered me,
“People put their hands on my hand. They think they’ve touched me. I can’t feel my hands.”
She couldn’t do anything. Not even breathe on her own. This is more loss than I can comprehend.
Time to say “Thank you Jenny”
Time went on. I had a cancer diagnosis. A cancer fight with the struggles of chemo, surgery, hormone block treatments, the ups the downs, the all-arounds. And I would “remember Jenny.”
November of 2012, and I was driving my kids to school.
This was first year of school for my elementary and middle school aged children. I was a home-educator for 21 years, however the stress involved and the weakness I was dealing with gave way to public education for my kids.
We were in the car and the radio announcer posed a question,
“Is there someone very important in your life, and they might not even know it? Let this Thanksgiving be the time to let them know.”
“Jenny” was my thought.
So I found Jenny’s phone number and I called. I remembered Jenny every day, and I began visiting her home periodically.
This was four and-a-half years after the paralysis began!
A friendship developed
The first time I visited Jenny was a bit uncomfortable as I waited at the door at 10:30 in the morning for what seemed like a long time. I stood at the door, but then one of the home-health nurses let me in.
They were blow-drying her hair. I can’t imagine the amount of work it is every day to tend to all the needs of a young woman who can’t move or breathe on her own.
Jenny seemed so happy to have a visitor. And I was happy to be finally visiting. I came with my guitar. She really didn’t know me at all except for a few conversations at the Y and the call for Thanksgiving.
I felt I needed to thank her for many things.
This woman got me out of bed. This woman gave me courage and perspective. This woman taught me to be thankful.
Quite honestly I wonder how many lives this woman actually saved? I know God used her to save me from my pitiful thinking. From thinking thoughts that would were faith-less and fret-full.
Jenny had a gentle spirit and joyful nature, even after almost five years of circumstantial loss. This was someone who couldn’t move a thing. She couldn’t pull her bangs down to fix them up. She couldn’t take a sip from a cup. She couldn’t do anything!
This is the woman that should be on the cover of magazines of what a “beautiful woman” is.
I brought my guitar for a time of worship and prayer. We sang. Jenny cried. Her respirator buzzer kept going off because of the extra air needed. And we prayed.
When Jenny spoke out of the abundance of her heart, you would think there would be bitterness, frustration, anger, and complaint. But I will tell you right here and now, out of the abundance of this woman’s heart, who had lost so much, was one thing, grace poured out.
Not complaint, but gracious words. She shared, “He’s going to heal me. He told me at the beginning, when this first happened. He said to my spirit, “You’re going to walk again.”
Jenny believed God. From day one to year five, completely paralyzed.
“The Lord has let my legs still have muscle tone. They aren’t supposed to have that. “I’m going to walk again,” she told me with complete faith.
I asked Jenny of her favorite memory verse.
“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10
She would joke how she spoke with God, “Lord, I’m not going anywhere!”
You probably think I’m writing nice words about a friend. No, I’m writing about seeing a miracle of God
This woman was overflowing with faith, and hope, and I haven’t even mentioned the love.
God did this.
He was present. I was a witness of a life filled with the Spirit and submitted to Him.
Jenny’s home health care ran out after a little over five and a half years. She found herself back in the very same hospital that she spent so many months in almost 6 years prior.
This was her greatest fear. At 40 years of age.
But God gave us time together in the hospital reading the Bible together and singing songs. The girls will never know what God did for both of us in opening His word together, I thought, unless I write the words.
So, letters for the girls were written. But they aren’t just for the girls. That’s why I’ll share them.
(to be continued, Part 2).