“What’s with the rocks?”
“Do you have a few minutes? Pick a rock and I’ll tell you a story.”
#2 gold: miracles (this and all of the Rocks of Remembrance stories I’m posting are not in the Karis book)
One morning I said to the Lord, “We don’t have enough money to pay the rent.” A couple of hours later I picked up my mail. There was a card, and a check. The card said, “God told me to send this to you.” It was the exact amount of money that we needed.
I had not heard from that person before. I have not heard from her again.
This is only one of many surprising ways God cared for our family through the transplant years. Supporting two households (one in Pittsburgh and one in Brazil) with a daughter in college, numerous medical expenses, and Dave’s trips from Brazil to visit Karis and me every couple of months did not fit within our missionary budget.
In November, 2004, a few days into what would become 74 days in the ICU, I received a call from the hospital finance office. “Are you aware that your daughter will reach her lifetime limit on your insurance tomorrow?” No, I had no idea. “I think you better come down right now and talk to me.”
The financial officer quickly ascertained the facts of our situation, and said “We’ll have to apply to Medicaid. This means your daughter will become a ward of the state of Pennsylvania.” The woman put aside other concerns in order to help me jump through the hoops that very afternoon. Still, it was a week before Medicaid was approved, and that meant thousands of dollars of expenses flowing into Karis’s account.
I mentioned our situation on Karis’s blog, requesting prayer. A friend of Karis’s who worked at Notre Dame took it to the Vice President for Student Affairs. The first I knew of this was a call from his office requesting additional information. Next I received an email directing me to submit to the VP’s office all medical bills from that week between the end of our private insurance and the start of Medicaid. From an ND charitable fund managed by the Vice President, those bills were covered. Many thousands of dollars.
Later, from that same charitable fund, the Notre Dame VP decided to help cover Dave’s round trips from Brazil to visit Karis and me every couple of months. The next year they re-evaluated our situation and decided to include some help with our rent. And yes, they knew we aren’t even Catholic! Karis received in the mail a warm Notre Dame blanket from the President of Notre Dame, and a warm powder blue ND jacket from the Vice President, along with an even warmer note to her, which I still have. Karis wore that jacket and used the blanket for the rest of her life.
When Karis became aware of what being a ward of the state of Pennsylvania meant, she took it very seriously. On walks in her wheelchair she would say of strangers walking by, “I owe that person . . . I owe that person . . . I wonder if that person knows that I’m alive because they pay taxes?” She worried about whether people would want part of their tax money going to pay her medical bills. She tried to live as economically as possible, and tried to find way to give back, such as tutoring children through a Pittsburgh program. Her heart was warmed one day when a friend told her, “Karis, I used to gripe and complain about paying taxes. Not any more, now that I know I’m part of the great community of Pennsylvania that is supporting you. It’s a privilege, not a burden!”
A friend took me to an upscale resale shop to buy me winter clothing. Another, on her death bed, bequeathed us her car, seventeen-year-old Maxi. Maxi transported us for a year before he died and became an organ donor. When we moved into an apartment, we were inundated with gifts from people’s basements and attics: a set of dishes and flatware, pots, pans, curtains, bedding . . . A friend called after a garage sale offering a leftover double bed. Somehow, from nothing, our apartment was furnished.
A friend who lived a few blocks from the hospital offered us parking at her house so we wouldn’t have to pay the hospital parking fees. A friend treated Rachel, Valerie, and me to a Christmas high tea to give us a delightful break away from the hospital; to say to our other daughters, “I see you. You matter too.” People’s generosity came in every color and variety. It kept us afloat.
And here’s my favorite story of God’s miraculous provision for us: During the 74-day ICU nightmare, the day before our youngest daughter Valerie had to return from Pittsburgh to Brazil for school, she timidly informed me that she needed a dress for the junior-senior banquet coming up at the end of the month. She hadn’t wanted to burden me with her needs while we didn’t know from one hour to the next whether her sister would still be alive. But I was thrilled to be able to do something for Valerie. We immediately left the hospital to go shopping.
However . . . the dresses were amazingly expensive! Worse than that, we couldn’t find one that Valerie liked. Most of them were not adequate for her school’s dress code; those that were looked like “grandma dresses.” We went from one store to another, growing more and more discouraged.
Finally, I said, “Val, I hope this won’t hurt your feelings, but what keeps coming into my mind is a Salvation Army resale shop that someone recently told me about. I haven’t been there before so I don’t know . . . but would you be willing to try it?” She was, and hanging there was a dress that was the exact color Valerie wanted—a lovely dress that seemed to have been made for her. It fit her perfectly! And the extra-special bonus: its tag was the right color that day to be half off. We paid five dollars for a dress that made Valerie look like a million dollars, just as the store’s lights were being switched off for closing at the end of the day before she had to board a plane to fly away from me. Val carried in her suitcase a tangible reminder of God’s love for her, and mine as well.
It’s no wonder that like Karis, I feel that our family owes more to more people than anyone else on the planet. But especially to the Lord, who cared for us financially through some impossibly stressful years. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!