We are created to yearn; to belong—whether that be to a family, a job, or something as simple as our hometowns. No matter where you end up, that place—even with lots of bad memories—will always hold a place in your heart—at least mine does.
It is a city with 7 bridges, known to natives by their colors, not their names. It is a city with a river that runs in the wrong direction. It is the “First Coast” of Florida. It is the largest city in the country when you factor by square mileage, with 3 interstates, 2 of which for a long time, had toll bridges. The people there are mostly home-grown, family oriented people where children learn to say “ma’am or sir” from the time they learn to speak. It is a city who loves college football and for a very long time had a huge stadium for a single college football game; but later would become home of an NFL team, my beloved Jacksonville Jaguars.
The necessity for me to get out of a dangerous situation took that from me and I ended up in my “other” hometown—the greater Tampa Bay area—just a little south and on the other side of the state. But on this day in October of 2010 I found myself in my hometown at one of the country’s most respected medical facilities—everyone knew something was wrong as was evidence by copious amounts of weight loss and the fact that I could not fight off something as simple as the common code. I was at the Mayo Clinic; and we were hoping they had answers.
The first few days are appointments all day and tests, and more tests. I am not even kidding when I say they took, 25 vials of blood. Then you wait. They tell you to stay close by, so we did—at the beach just down the street. So, when my cell phone rang with that 904 area code my blood, literally, ran cold. It was almost 5PM and I figured we could enjoy one more day at the beach before we had to worry about whatever was waiting for me in those labs test. It’s so weird how a computer, and the information housed there can change your life forever.
We drove the familiar drive from the beach to the clinic. And this is horrible, but I do not remember who all was there; because the rest is a blur. I may have even been by myself. The department that called was the GI doctor; and then Endocrinology, and then Infectious Disease. They were all waiting for me on the 6th floor of the Mayo Clinic over-looking the inter-coastal waterway. God always hooks me up in situations like these because I find such peace in a body, any body, of water.
Before they took me back, I felt extremely sick, I was so scared, and so I was in the bathroom before the nurse called me. I stood at the sink and as I washed my hands I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I did not recognize that person. It had been a long-standing practice to avoid mirrors at any cost. I still do sometimes.
My mind began to wander to how I got here; at this place—at such a young age, with 3 world class doctors who would give me information with one click of a mouse.
I could see the other side of the city from the room; and my mind wandered to those days that as a child I was scuffled to and fro—never in any one place for a long time; and almost never with my mom. Flickers of memories came back as I continued to wait for the doctors, I was terrified. But just like a slide show, memories were flowing through my head some of which I had not remembered until that day.
Kids who are not connected can’t dream. At least I didn’t. I remember being happy to get through the day, and to get through any day without more harm than the day before. Sometimes that worked out and other days the harm was even worse than any other day. The thing I had going for me is that I was relatively intelligent (probably should not use past tense there) and did well in school. I have always been pretty social, so I had friends, the kind where we took care of each other; we shared the same sense of humor and were fascinated by similar things. But we were in the ghetto, and there was no time for dreaming; there certainly wasn’t time for girls to dream of weddings and husbands and families.
So, when I started dating the man I would marry it caught me by surprise. I always thought I would end up never getting married. Because of my low self esteem, I was of the opinion at the time that no one would want me. So, yes, getting attention surprised me. He was my “type” if one has such a thing. I told him I loved him first. As things progressed I became that little girl who dreamt of a wedding and how awesome it was to be wanted. I could’t wait to have family even if it were him and I and sometimes his 11 year old son. I would day dream of how he would ask me to marry him. I knew I wanted a small wedding surrounded by close friends and family.
Because we grew up in different denominations, we decided to have the wedding at our house; and had a rent-a-notary. It was lame really. But, I was very determined to have 2 things one of them was the reading of I Corinthians 13.
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love does not envy
Love does not boast
Love is not rude
Love is not self-seeking
Love keeps no record of wrong doing
It always protects
It always trusts
It always hopes
It always perseveres
Love never fails
When I realized that he never loved me; not at all; it was devastating. It also explained why I stayed so long and tried so hard.
My thoughts were interrupted by footsteps outside the rather large examination room, where I sat staring out at the inter-coastal waterway.
Suddenly the door opened and 3 doctors walked in to give me the results of all of the tests. And as if on cue, I could almost audibly hear the words from one of my favorite songs, my favorite is Jeremy Camp’s version.
“Even though I walk in the valley in the shadow of death, Your perfect Love is casting out fear. And even when I am faced when the storms of this life, I will not turn back because I know you are near…” You Never Let Go, Jeremy Camp.
The information I received that day was heavy; and the doctors said most of the illnesses that they identified was probably turned on by stress. The information they gave me was shocking but there was some comfort in finally having answers.
I could not figure out what hurt more, that this man never really loved me
or the fact that my body was at war with itself.
The information I received that day meant I was entering the most intense battle of my life, not only because of what I learned at Mayo that day but because of all that had happened before that day. I walked out of the doctor’s office a little stunned. And again, as if on cue, I heard another part of this song:
“And I will fear no evil, because my God is with me and if my God is with me, whom then shall I fear? O no You never let go through the calm and through the storm, o no you never let go, you never let go of me.”
Ironically, that day began a long road of healing and restoration for me as I learned to let go, because I knew He wouldn’t.