Pray for My Bill: Update #2

Bill and I met July 16, 1995–twenty-five years ago this month.

Right after the pandemic hit and we were in lock-down in Lisbon, I had written to Shannon (our home church’s global mission director and daughter in Christ), 

We are living in a surreal cocoon, preparing for a new world and praying for a new world.

I would have forgotten those words had Shannon not echoed them on an online video to FBC back in March. 

The caterpillar metamorphosis is such a powerful analogy for all of us. The crushing of the caterpillar within that cocoon ultimately brought forth new life, a beauty in flight. That’s all of us at one time or another. Even for those who are tattered butterflies like I am. 

Here’s the long and short of it.

The Short Version First:

With the pandemic, language barriers and a less uptight culture (one Bill and I  had been alerted about beforehand) where getting one thing done in a day is a productive day, we are grateful for all of these happenings in the past two days.

Bill’s physical health:

So far, he still has no feeling from his waist down. He had a second visit from Dr, Fernandes Thursday with a more optimistic response from Bill’s first prognosis. His dura (the connective tissue in the spine) appears to be intact with 90% compression.

Dr. Fernandes thinks by Monday, August 3, Bill’s back will be stable enough to travel in a medical evacuation flight to the designated spinal cord rehabilitation centers in the US.

Since one of our pastors’ wives and dear friend speaks fluent Portuguese, Melissa has been working with the administrative staff at Santa Maria University Hospital. Friday afternoon we received the forms we needed with the doctor’s signature. I got those to son Nick, and he faxed them to the rehab centers for evaluation on whether or not Bill can be helped through their specific program. 

Presently, the Shepherd Center in Atlanta does not have any beds for those with Medicare. The Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago’s contact person is working on it. (This is the one I favor, and it is listed as #1.) No word yet from Kessler in NJ or McGhee in Philadelphia, but they only got the information Friday afternoon. They also have tremendous programs with a respected history.

Bill’s emotional/mental and spiritual health:

He sounds good, especially strong spiritually, trusting God. In fact, increasingly so.

The Longer Version:

Many have asked for specifics. Being a visual person, I get that, so I will share for those who have time. Writing is healing for me.

I just discovered he can get FaceTime calls. Seeing his now scruffy face (they shave on Tuesdays) with his smile assured me we will get through this.  

I must say how overwhelmed Bill and I are with your support. I see where you are. When I just read the last comment, I saw the views of all of you from all over the world praying just in the last two days since it was sent out.

Bill and I are honored and humbled for those we’ve met over the years, those many individuals last June at the ABWE missionary training, the Malta conference we attended for those in ABWE European missionary fields the week after we moved to Lisbon. We see you on this map. For those we don’t know, we do. This map connects us in prayer for Bill and our world. Thank you.

I have names for some of you, but we all are connected.
For each one of you have a name.

What happened as I know it:

Friday morning around 10:00 AM Lisbon time, Bill went to the school—GLCA—to do some outside work. This is the Christian school where I taught high school art this past semester, and Bill volunteered to help however he could. I had students from all over the world. Many of the students are with their parents in missions and have lived in many other countries. Some students are from Nepal, Pakistan, Lithuania, Korea, Portugal, etc. and are seeking an English education. I want to tell you sometime how they all enriched our lives.

The school is on a beautiful hillside that overlooks the city and mountains. Bill was planning to finish up on power washing the outside. 

The temperature was already in the high 90s. While trying to fix a leaking hose, he thinks he blacked out and fell off a ledge about six feet. Once he regained consciousness from the fall, he had the upper body strength to reach into his pocket for his phone and call Andrew. Andrew and Mollie are a young couple who take care of the facility.

I received a phone call from Bill’s number around 11:00. I answered with a “Hi!”

It wasn’t Bill, but Andrew, saying that an ambulance was on the way to the school. Mollie was on her way to pick me up. She got us back to the school while the ambulance drivers were securely strapping him in and starting IVs. I answered their questions—no meds, he doesn’t even take an aspirin, surgeries, etc. Yet, when the ambulance driver asked me his age, I couldn’t remember, 67, 68? I don’t think “age.” Under the Portuguese sun, I tried to subtract 1951 from 2020 while trying to determine how to take a year off since his birthday isn’t until December. 

The driver must have done the math for me.

Bill was taken to the closest hospital, Beatriz Angelo. Security wouldn’t let Mollie come in, even to translate. I did get to talk with a receptionist who spoke English. The emergency room was packed. So many desperate people with no hope. I tried to imagine their stories and pray for them along with Bill. At least Bill and I have hope.

Do any of us even fathom the opportunities we have? 

I kept checking with the receptionist when there wasn’t a line of incoming patients or ambulance drivers admitting those passing through. So many. All I knew was that Bill was going to get X-rays and a CT scan. 

Someone brought me his clothes and his belt in a plastic bag. I kept his belt in hand as a touch point, reviewing Ephesians 6 in my mind. The belt of truth, girding him with strength. So many memorized scriptures—Promises from a Mighty God—flowed through me.

Maybe three hours later, a young Portuguese doctor who spoke English came out and told me Bill’s back was broken. He would need to be transferred to Santa Maria University Hospital for back surgery the next morning. I nodded and absorbed the news. My mask firmly affixed. 

More time passed, and I asked the receptionist for an update, then pleaded kindly, “Is there anyway I can just see him, hold his hand?” 

She paused, looked into my eyes, then nodded. Ten minutes later she motioned me back to where Bill was. He was in such great pain, shaking his head, that he couldn’t live this way.

“Don’t pray against God’s will,” he said. “I love working. I get so much out of working.”

I kept repeating to him, “You are so valuable. You are enough just who you are. Even if you never do another productive thing–as we define our lives so often–we all want you here. You have a brilliant mind, a heart for God. You can write and share with others from all your notes from studying the Bible, those books on Apologetics.”

Two ambulance drivers were standing behind me, waiting to prepare him for the next hospital ride. I got to follow him out and sit with him in the ambulance. One driver fanned him because of the heat while the other one was getting the paper work. 

I haven’t seen him since. Melissa picked me up, and we followed the ambulance to Santa Maria University Hospital. With more ambulances flowing into the hospital and a packed emergency room, by the grace of God, they said Melissa could stay with me to translate.

She spoke with the receptionist and nurses for me. One resident came out and told me that Bill would need surgery, possibly in the morning. That was it for more hours. Finally my phone rang. Someone had given Bill a phone to call me.

Since they were not going to let me see him, Bill wanted me to go home. I could only imagine where he was and how he was. Yet, all the while I had God’s loving arms around me with a profound peace only a Good Father offers so gently, so fully.

In the meantime, Melissa checked to see if we needed to get Bill into a private hospital. Our friend Lionel (he and his wife Carol have been here since the late 80s) found out from a doctor friend that Bill was in the best hospital with the two top neurosurgeons in Portugal. We found out later Bill’s doctor is one of them. 

Melissa and I returned early the next morning (Saturday) and were told Bill had his surgery late Friday night. He had a plate with screws placed. With more requests, I was able to send his cell phone and glasses to him with a pen and paper. 

As Melissa and I sat outside the hospital on a bench, talking and praying, she said,”Look, two love birds just flew into that tree.”

They sang a little song and then flew off–bright green bodies and orange beaks. 

I once wrote about learning to sing a new song in a time of distress after the Sandy Hook shootings. Songbirds don’t sing the same songs, I had discovered. They regenerate brain cells continually for new songs, sparking researchers to fathom in the late 70s that humans can, too.

We regenerate!

Over those 24 hours, the Lord must have convinced Bill to fight for his life and to face rehab. Your love and prayers washed him in great peace. Bill’s strong work ethic will be seen and his voice will be heard wherever he is.

Moving to Lisbon didn’t change everything. Coronavirus didn’t change everything. Who we are and who we become in the midst of it is what changes everything. 

This is unprecedented for all of us, and, yet, whether we battle through it for generations to come or for the end of time, we get eternity. We just have to share hope to the hopeless. 

This morning I found something I wrote years ago. It has circled back to remind me about this frailty of life with its profound beauty. I share it on my Art page.

One more thing:

Sunday night I spoke to my brother Clay. He was in shock about Bill, saying “These are things that happen to people like me, not Bill.”

We had a good conversation. He shared how in his early years as a clinical psychologist, his first years were evaluating Workman’s Comp patients. Over 6000 of them. He said most never got beyond their accident, always living in the past. We talked about living forward.

I shared with him my conversation with Bill in the first ER Friday–how I kept telling Bill how valuable he was–because of who he is, not what he does, and how the Lord would use this for His glory, giving us opportunities to share His goodness. 

After I posted Bill’s update Wednesday night our time, his wife Kalma responded by email at 3:09 PM CST. She would share my post about Bill with Clay. I don’t know if he read it. Kalma found him at 3:30 and he had died. Clay had his aortic heart valve replaced twice–one at 30 and then at 50, but he swam everyday and was in good shape. He still had his hearty laugh.

My heart’s prayer is that for all of the burdens he felt for Bill, that heavy weight on his heart, that he reached out to the Lord in his prayers for Bill and claimed God’s fullness for him, too. He is my brother; I love him. Our mother died July 21,1997, so I picture them in heaven rejoicing right now where there is no pain.

Clay is between Ari and me.

For those who knew Clay, watch Sean Connery in Finding Forrester. It’s like watching my brother in life. His rough exterior was torn down each time he counseled children and their parents, as he spoke of Kalma and her two children who became his. He is loved.

Thank you for letting me share this.

I just had to say it out loud to make it real. Your prayers are received here and on high. For all of the words of inspiration, songs, videos, we are being nourished by you.

Right now two things reverberate.

One is a scripture Debbie Miller sent. I had just shared in the first update that we shouldn’t, we couldn’t, let our lives slip away. The verse she shares along with the names of Jehovah prove He is with us in those slips.

The names of the Lord should encapsulate us in His care.

Another is a phrase from Bill and Carolyn Wheeler’s message recently received:

Ann, he is God’s Bill, too. With both of you caring for Bill, tomorrow will be a brighter day!

I also found this prayer I had written years before. I pray it for all of us.

Lord, even though I do not see you, I believe in you and love you. With our deepening relationship is an inexpressible and glorious joy just as your Word promises. Help me not to trust in my “feelings” but trust in you and your joy that no man can take away.

I took this photo of Bill in Malta. I love it, yet I wonder now why I didn’t have him move away from the trash can and not have my finger on its edge. But then it would be staged. We don’t do staged. Life has litter and imperfections. We see past to its beauty if even for a moment.

22 thoughts on “Pray for My Bill: Update #2

  1. Thank you Ann, for your update. I think going to Portugal was good for Bill – he looks so much healthier than he did before he retired (when I saw him last at your place). I am so sorry about Clay. “Besieged on all sides, but not worn down.” You are ALL in my prayers. You can tell Bill he has to hang in there – I am the oldest of the Foreman cousins and he can’t usurp me! (I hope he understands and laughs).

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  2. Ann, thank you for all your new information, thoughts & prayerful words. I am not a visual learner but do need lots of words, descriptions, details. Thank you for providing those written bits of clarity. We continue to pray fervently for Bill, to remember His love for Bill that surpasses your’s, & are thankful for any tidbit of positive news from the medical team. We continue to pray for the right facility to be a done deal & for his medical flight to the USA. Bill is so necessary in this world. His goodness & thoughtfulness have blessed us for so many years….calling on Rusty’s birthday from Portugal. Taking time from his hospital bed to send my birthday message. What a man of God who is needed more than ever by us. We will keep on praying & praying some more for God’s healing & intervention. The persistent widow & her pleas are a role model of promise. We love you both so very much. Praying for your daily strength & for your needs to met hour by hour. Cindy & Larry

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  3. As I read through your very thoughtful and authentic words, I found myself thankful that you have such faith. It clearly comforts you to be able to put everything that’s happening in the context of scripture. I am holding you close in my heart and I’m comforted myself knowing that you have community with you in Portugal.

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  4. Your sweet, tender heart and your love for your family resonates in your writing. Know that you are being held close in prayer. Much love, Nan Calhoun

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  5. Ann you and Bill are in my prayers.A few years ago I fell and broke leg and arm…nothing like what Bill is going through. All can say is it is tough and humbling.

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  6. Dear Ann, We are praying for you and Bill💓
    And are so sorry to hear about your brother, Clay
    Your beautifully written words give us a glimpse into your heart and faith.
    Thankful you continue to lean toward God and continue to share your testimony.

    Much love
    Cynda and Jim

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  7. Ann,
    Thank you for your update on Bill. It is no surprise that God puts the right people in our path, just when we need them. I am so glad you have such wonderful friends there who are like family, to be by your side. Thankful they let Melissa be there to interpret for you. What a blessing she is. So happy to hear the doctor thinks he will be able to travel to USA soon. In the meantime, may it help you to know, we love you and send you all our love, hugs and prayers!

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  8. Ann, We met you and Bill in Malta. we are missionaries with ABWE in Spain. We just want you to know that we are praying for you all. So very sorry to hear about your brother. May you feel His love and strength and presence in every moment.
    Ken and Carolyn Muckle

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  9. I’m thankful for trash cans. At least there wasn’t any visible trash in the photo. Like the eraser on a pencil makes a pencil better. Like Jesus makes me better b/c He takes care of my big mistakes.

    He will take care of you, too. I know you know that. ❤

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  10. You and Bill are dearly loved by people all over the world, and by a Good, Good Father who created all of those people, and loves them and me and you far more than we can even imagine. May you sense His presence as you grieve and as Bill heals.

    Craig and Carol

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  11. Ann,
    I understand how writing can be healing. You and Bill are daily in my prayers. May God bless Bill with the healing he needs and bless you with continued strength as you write so beautifully of this journey.
    Kathy Parish

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  12. Praying for Dr.Robertson. Myself as well as other staff from Unity Health know his strength and faith will see him through. 🙏🏼

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  13. Dear dear Ann!!! I have Bill and you in my heart and I am praying and praying!! Many years ago at a marriage workshop, I believe it was Paul Faulkner who warned wives against nagging their husbands. Then he defined “nagging“ as “reminding someone of something he has not forgotten“. Well, I am nagging the Lord incessantly! I know he hasn’t forgotten, but I’m laying it at His feet again anyway! Love and healing and strength and encouragement to you both!✨💖✨

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  14. Ann, thank you for the update. Continuing in prayer for you and for Bill. Too, I’m so very sorry for your loss of Clay. Your words speak of an unwavering faith, even in the midst of what I can imagine to be extreme heartache and pain. You and Bill are loved. May the prayers of those around the world constantly give you a relative sense of peace.

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  15. My dear, sweet friend,
    Your strength and faith is such so remarkable during the trials you are facing.
    You seek and find your solace in the Lord knowing that all of this is in HIs hands and that His will be done. And that is a comfort to you – to all of us!
    You have been so generous with your updates and we appreciate that. It can be a good release to write it out.
    I continue to hold you close in my heart and lift you up in prayer. I love you my friend.
    Loving God,
    I pray that you will comfort Ann and Bill in their suffering,
    lend skills to the hands of Bill’s
    doctors and bless the means used for his cure. Give them such confidence in the power of your grace that even when they are afraid they may put their whole trust in you through our Savior Jesus Christ.

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  16. I met you both one Sunday when your husband decided to sit next to me at Fellowship. I was nervous about being there alone, but you both made me feel welcome, and that meant a great deal to me. I will continue to pray for you both.

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  17. Ann, I was so sorry to hear about Clay. I’m so glad to be able to reconnect with you and I’m keeping you and your husband in my prayers. I know this is a difficult time for you. Thanks for the updates.
    Melodye

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  18. Dear sweet Ann!
    My heart hurts. I continue lift you and your family up to the throne of God. I can only imagine how difficult it is for you and Bill to be away from each other. I pray that God will heal Bill’s back and the paralysis will be no more. I pray for peace and comfort at the sudden passing of your brother. I pray for strength and wisdom for you and Bill as you travel this journey, knowing that God’s got this. Please know that you are loved and being prayed over, beautiful friend!

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  19. Prayers and love from White County Medical Center – Unity Health! We will continue to humbly at His throne pleading for peace and miraculous healing! We know He is The Great Physician! Keep the faith Dr. and Mrs. Robertson!

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