Train Conceit

September 2004 051.jpg
A view of the “Quiet Car” after everyone has detrained.

The last several weeks I have begun to ride the train to and from Seattle, now that we are (nearly) moved-in to the Lakewood house.

If I get up at crack-o-dawn (5:10 am), I can beat the traffic and be at work in about 50 minutes. Similarly, if I wait until after 7 pm, I can get home in as little as 46 minutes (it might be time for a blog on speeding). The problem is, I don’t really want to work from 6:20 am until 7 pm at night, every day. What is the point of moving to this side of the water if I’m only going to work longer hours, and see my family no more than I did before?

Some would argue that at this point in my career, especially considering the experience I had being laid off, that I should invest long hours as a way to regain my technological skills and to improve my chances for promotions and raises. I’m of two minds about that.

September 2004 047.jpg
The Sounder in the early morning mist.

But in any case, I do very much like riding the train. It isn’t particularly quiet … unlike European trains, the cars rattle and squeak almost constantly, every switch or irregularity in the track is communicated in no uncertain terms.

I do, however, patronize the ‘Quiet Coach’ … a special southernmost passenger car where conversation is taboo and phones & pagers are to be turned off. I usually stake out a table so that I can use my laptop comfortably (as, in fact, I am doing now). The scenery ranges widely between junkyard- industrial and rural-picturesque, with Mount Rainier looming to the southwest throughout much of the journey. There are two levels in the center part of each coach … so far I haven’t yet sat in the upper deck, but I plan to do so today, if only to broaden my horizons. I think I’ll wait until the hordesfolk detrain in Kent and Auburn before I venture into the unknown upper regions.

As a full-circuit Sounder rider, I look down my nose at the penny-ante Tukwila commuters, here today, gone tomorrow. Their pathetic 15-minute commute doesn’t really make them worthy of the train, but we let them ride anyway, if only for their tax dollars. A true Sounder veteran is able and willing to commit to the full hour between Tacoma and Seattle … he doesn’t put his hand to the plow only for a few measly stops, like those folks from Kent, Auburn, Sumner and even Puyallup.

September 2004 052.jpg
The afternoon sun gleams off the sleek contours of this mighty train, arrived in Tacoma.

It is hard to imagine, but I may even prefer the train to the ferry. There is a certain charm to the fact that I have only a 20-minute drive at the other end of this train-ride, unlike the 90+ minutes of bus- and car-ride that I formerly faced at the conclusion of my Bainbridge Island ferry ride. And of course I have a deep-seated genetic predilection for trains, inherited from my father. My Dad used to schedule entire family vacations around the train schedules of Europe, so that we visited ‘historic’ train stations with remarkable regularity. He had the ability to time his rate of travel so that any time a highway crossed a train-line, there would be an engine chugging along beneath us just as we crossed. His passion for trains continues unabated … there are those who believe that this whole ‘Refuge’ retreat center thing is just an elaborate front for a gargantuan model railroad (to be constructed in the basement). My Dad might tell you that the dreams are not necessarily incompatible.

Today was a banner day for another reason; today they actually asked me for my ticket or pass. I’ve been riding a number of weeks, but I have never (until today) seen a conductor, let alone been asked for my ticket.

One of the perquisites my employer offers is an annual FlexPass. This covers the cost of a bus ride or a train ride up to $4.00 each way, which, coincidentally, is the cost of a one-way Sounder ticket. I can ride pretty much any bus or train in King County, as well as any of the Express buses that connect between Tacoma and Seattle, for free. It is nice to never have to worry about paying … I wonder if it would be a better model for cities and states to offer public transport free of charge to anyone who has any kind of a job. I can understand the desire to assign the cost of the service to those who actually use it … but I wonder if those who don’t use public transport wouldn’t be glad to pay a little extra if only it would reduce the congestion on the roadways. And of course there is the whole question of how much it costs to collect the money and to maintain the machines that sell tickets and validate passes.

An interesting feature of the train ride is the regular appearance of a uniformed guard, who makes a circuit of the entire train at least twice during each trip. There seems to be at least one guard at each station, as well as a guard assigned to each train. Several days ago I brought my camera onto the train and snapped a few pictures of the train as it prepared for departure in the early morning mist. I neglected to turn off my flash, and within two minutes I was interviewed by a security officer as to my reason or intention for taking the pictures. It is a strange world we live in, post 9/11. I must say, I was impressed by the speed and efficiency with which they identified and confronted me. Somewhat sheepishly I admitted that I took the pictures for this weblog, wondering if he would know what a blog was. The officer was courteous and did not seem disposed to search my bag or otherwise harass me — he seemed to accept my explanation. Perhaps I am only one of many people who write about their commuting experience.

September 2004 050.jpg
The hallowed heights of the Sounder car.

Well, it turns out that there are tables on the upper deck as well, a fact that I had not realized, viewing from below. There is a certain satisfaction in riding an extra eight feet above the track … the vista is much more expansive. I feel a little like Lucy van Pelt, of Peanuts, riding in her imaginary coach, waving at all the people, as she enjoys her fantasy Queendom. Except I’m not quite as sure of myself as is Lucy … I’m too embarrassed to wave at the golfers on the course we just passed.

I can’t believe how much I was missing, riding downstairs all these weeks on the claustrophobic, lowly first floor of the train car. Sure, we of the upper deck have no bathrooms; we leave such mundane concerns to the peasants below. Even the train stations are transformed as I look down with lofty disdain. The tiny passengers disembark beneath my feet as they scurry off to their ant-like cars, pursuing their insignificant insect lives.

Or maybe I’m getting a little carried away. After all, all too soon I will be forced to descend from my majestic chariot and do some scurrying of my own. Ah, well, it was good to be on top of the world, even if only for a few sweet moments.

Share or follow

Related posts:

Cherishing Iniquity

I heard an interesting sermon, a few Sundays ago. I think it is worth a recap; if nothing else, it will help me to better establish the important points in my own mind.

The topic of the sermon was prayer, or perhaps more accurately intercession. We started by examining Hebrews 7:23-26, which focuses on Christ’s role as our go-between, mediating between us and God the Father:

“Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need … one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”

May 2004 Pictures 129.jpg
This picture has nothing to do with my blog, but Kathy says I need to have some images for those who kind of skip over the blog text looking for current pictures.

I like the idea of being saved completely … no half-measures will do for me! Imagine if your salvation depended upon the priestly skills or character of Eli, Hophni, or Phineas? Even Aaron was a piece of work, leading the whole nation into idolatry while God was meeting with Moses only a few miles away. Or Samuel, who managed to serve without corruption yet somehow did not communicate that tradition to his sons.

We surveyed a number of other scriptures, including those which identify conditions for acceptable prayer:

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Psalm 66:18

This one is worrisome. I’ve been taught to understand the word ‘regard’ in this context as ‘cherish’ … the idea of accepting known sin in my life and doing nothing to correct or restrain it. The pastor spoke at some length on this topic, pointing out our tendency to excuse habitual sin and rationalize it, saying, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” Some of us think we can bargain with God, sort of a “I’ll obey most of your commandments in exchange for leniency in this one area” arrangement. Is God corruptible? Can He be bought so cheaply, or at all? Even if God did accept such bargains, I doubt He would look warmly our cheating Him so outrageously, since we know from elsewhere in scripture that even our best efforts are worthless in terms of living up to His standard of holiness.

Nearly all men struggle with lust, in one form or another. How many of us have rationalized our impure thoughts or sexual fantasies as being an integral part of our masculinity, breaking fidelity with our wives and our God on a frequent, if not daily, basis?

I was once involved in a Promise Keeper’s group that met each week at a local business. One of the questions which came up was this: “Is it wrong for me to look at a pretty woman in my workplace?”

We discussed this at considerable length. Finally, perhaps out of exhaustion, we came to a tentative conclusion:

  1. God created woman to be beautiful, and there is nothing wrong with appreciating that beauty
  2. God’s primary purpose for a woman’s beauty is to be appreciated by her husband
  3. While a man cannot reasonably live in this world without looking at a beautiful woman once, he certainly can and ought to control himself from taking a second look, unless the woman is his wife. For most men, the sin of lust (which Jesus equates with adultery, see Matthew 5:28) occurs between the first and second glances … a man is tempted and succumbs to the sinful desire to take a second look, with the intent of gratifying his lustful thoughts.

When I was in high school, I walked about a mile to and from school each day. One afternoon as I walked along, I passed two girls, glancing at them as I passed. One of them caught my eye, and I gave that girl a second, more lingering glance. As I moved ahead of them, the one girl said to her friend, “Hey Stephanie, he sure looked you up and down.” I blushed as I walked away, because she had correctly identified the appraising, intrusive intent of my gaze. I was embarrassed because I had moved beyond innocent appreciation into lust, and I had been caught in the act.

The scriptures talk about “making a covenant with our eyes” such that we keep our appreciative glances for our wives and avoid that sinful decision to take a second look at other women. Yet there are many who draw the line with a lot more wiggle-room. In my experience, few men can trust themselves in this area, whether it be the movies we watch or the books or magazines that we read.

Many people tolerate casual dishonesty in their lives, telling ‘white lies’ or habitually deceiving the people around them. Others permit themselves to lash out in anger at the people around them, or have a bitter, sarcastic tongue. Many women (and not a few men) indulge in gossip, concealing malicious talk behind a cloak of righteous concern and prayer. Still others routinely steal from their employer or the government, pretending that some kind of entitlement or past victimization permits this behavior. Can we cherish these kinds of sin and expect that God will hear our prayers?

April 2004 Pictures 118.jpg
Another picture with no particular connection to this blog.

This sermon made me reflect on my life and the various ‘idols’ I have erected. Some of the sins that we wink at include self-indulgence (in my case, a tendency to overeat), pride, laziness, short-temperedness and an unconcern for others. We tell ourselves that we are not perfect, and that surely God does not expect us to become flawless overnight. “I’m a work in progress,” we piously intone, implying that some or all of our sins can be ‘temporarily’ ignored. How many of us have become enslaved through habitual cherishing of sins of this kind, spending our years cut off from God’s grace?

And yet there are other reasons our prayers are ineffective:

“You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:2-3

We looked at the passages that talk about the way that the Holy Spirit translates for us and presents our requests in terms of the things that we really need.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

One very basic principle of prayer hit me right between the eyes: prayer is about submitting my self to God’s will, not constraining or inducing God to give me special treatment. It may be that you have already grappled with this, but I find myself continually surprised and re-surprised (to coin an awkward word) by my negative reaction to this truth. When it comes down to it, I suspect that God is ready and willing to deny me the comforts I crave but rather may choose to allow me to suffer, if through that suffering He can mold me to His purposes. According to Hebrews 2:10, and 5:8-9, God used suffering to ‘make’ (or perhaps reveal) Jesus’ perfection. When I pray, many of my prayers are suggestions to God about how to make my life more pleasant; strange to think that the Holy Spirit may actually stand in opposition to some of these prayers.

I can just imagine the conversation among the Trinity, please excuse the liberties taken with the awesome majesty of God, no blasphemy intended:

Father: “So, I see that Tim is praying again. What do you think he really needs?”

Spirit: “Well, he’s asking for more money again, and he wants to be protected from the consequences of some bad decisions he made, but I think it would be best if we let him build some much-needed patience. Also, he continually struggles with pride and self-sufficiency, and it seems to get worse every time we give him a higher salary. He pretty much just wants to be allowed to sit back and take it easy for the next 50 years or so. We want him to rely on us, rather than taking pride in his own ability to earn a wage. I think it best that we teach him to be a better steward of what he already has. I don’t think he is making very good progress in terms of compassion for others … we need to soften up his heart a little. As to his tendency toward laziness … I think we love him too much to spoil him.”

Jesus: “You better believe it! I died for that rascal, and I won’t be satisfied until he enjoys life the way we intended, in its full abundance. Ever since he was redeemed, we’ve been looking for opportunities to help Tim realize what an awesome gift he has been given, with the Spirit as his Comforter. Tim’s not getting any younger, and every day is full of potential for Our power to fill him and mold him. I want him so full of the Spirit that he barely notices when he dies and takes up residence here!”

Father: “Well, as I always say, bad things are excellent opportunities for Our creative power. I have some other really great gifts I’d like to give him … let’s creatively disguise and repackage some of them and draw Tim to Us by building his faith and character. I can’t wait to see Tim’s face when he realizes that We’ve been acting in his best interest in spite of the hardship in his life. (Of course, that is just a figure of speech, since I can wait, and technically I’ve already seen the future, but you get the idea.)”

Spirit: “Sounds like Tim is nearly finished praying … he doesn’t take long, you know. For a guy who is so long-winded in his blog, it is strange that he can’t manage to pray for more than a few minutes at a time. I’ll provide him with a sense of Our peace, and I’ll call his attention to some of the passages that Paul wrote about being joyful in adversity.”

Jesus: “Now there’s a guy who knew about trials and tribulations.”

Father: “Not anymore! Hey, Paul, we’re talking about you again! Stop dunking John-Mark in Our river … he’s already been baptized!”

Again, please know that no disrespect or blasphemy is intended in my invention of this conversation between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

At the core of my problem with prayer is a basic unwillingness to suffer for the cause of Christ. Although He laid down His life for me, I am considerably less ready to lay down my life for Him, especially if it might bring me discomfort or inconvenience. In such a case, how can I pray for God to glorify His Son in me?

April 2004 Pictures 109.jpg
Here is a little girl that we pray will grow to glorify God.

There is no doubt that God wants me to have and enjoy every good thing. The problem is that most of the things on my list (happiness, wealth & possessions, health, leisure, power, sensual gratification, comfort) don’t make His top-ten list. Indeed, there is a close correspondence between those things I desire (at least in the extreme) and the list in I John 2:16-17:

“For everything in the world … the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does … comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

We see that the good things that God wants for me are more lasting and valuable than the things that I want … but, like a young child, I prefer a lollipop right now to ownership of a city tomorrow..

So do we rush off and become monks, whipping our bodies and living on roots & berries (and Nutella, that well-known monastic staple) in some quest to deny the flesh? If God so wills it, then yes. But God seems to call us to submit our desires to Him, yet grants us considerable pleasure and comfort in the gifts of His hand. Often he permits us to have the lollipop today, even though it may delay our inheritance of the city; yet we must be wary of granting too much power and importance to the desires of the flesh.

Prayer, then, takes courage. No wonder many people prefer only to pray for others … who can pray for themselves, other than something like “Thy will be done”?

What does it look like, to be a person who trusts God and submits their desires to His will?

  • such a person tithes and gives sacrificially above that 10%
  • they habitually subordinate themselves to the needs of others … when you call them for help, they respond
  • they do not put the gratification of their body ahead of the well-being of others
  • they will tend to give freely of their time to God’s work
  • they do not seek to puff themselves up
  • they keep a tight rein on their tongue
  • they don’t mind looking foolish for God

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” I Corinthians 13:4-7

Sound familiar? I guess it should be no surprise that with God, everything comes back to love. If we truly love God, we’ll be able to trust Him with our lives, putting our will below His, and loving Him enough to suffer if necessary. I guess there is one prayer that I need to be praying, “Lord, please give me a heart that loves you more.”

Share or follow

Related posts:

Immortality, Hot Tubs, and Pop Tarts

It is a crisp Fall morning, dawning clear and golden on the slopes of Mount Rainier to the southeast, as I ride above Tacoma’s waterfront on the elevated Sounder train to Seattle. Even the Tacoma Box Company building (established 1889) looks elegant in the fresh sunshine of this day. Yet my appreciation of the beauty of this glorious morning is somewhat dimmed by the lack of Pop Tarts.

Under ordinary circumstances this would never have happened. I take prodigious care to ensure the regular provision of Pop Tarts in my little bronze car, the only place where they are (relatively) safe from the ravages of Slug, Weasel and other natural predators. Ever since the catastrophic mouse nibbling incident, I secure them in a clear Rubbermaid container with a MouseAway™ lid. While I have come to prefer the bland reassurance of Brown Sugar & Cinnamon, I am known for my ability to lay aside large quantities of Blueberry, and even Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Pop Tarts.

September 2004 012.jpg
Joshua put together four bookcases for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. He has been the envy of all, as he generously shares out his treat, one half-spoonful at a time.

Imagine my shock, dismay, surprise and chagrin when I looked on the back seat of my car and found no faithful plastic bin, no preservative-laced pastries, no breakfast. In the chaos of our recent move to Lakewood, the bin was removed and the pastries likely devoured by some undeserving wretch. And so I must ride without Pop Tarts, woe is me.

One of the reasons I began this blog (apart from the fact that I thought it was a cool idea and it gives me an unparalleled chance to blather on without being interrupted) was that I had begun to feel my mortality. These kind of things occur to me later than for most people; it has only recently begun to dawn on me that I am the father of five children and should (at least occasionally) act like a grownup. It seemed to me that, in the event something happened to me, it would be pleasant to have written down a few thoughts by which my children could remember me, if they were so inclined. As my body continues to age (I am, after all, approaching 39, which is merely a pebble’s toss from the dotage of 40) my thoughts have been more and more fixed on the temporary nature of my sojourn on this planet.

September 2004 001.jpg
This was not a ‘posed’ picture — Sarah set this up herself, with no prompting!

It was, therefore, with startling joy this past Saturday, that I remembered a key truth: I am an immortal. I have read many stories (usually fantasy or science fiction) about people who are, for various reasons, immortal. Traditionally, these characters are flawed; often storybook immortals are wearied by their years and jaded by the sameness of life’s pleasures. Many of them have experienced the personal tragedy of watching a beloved one die of old age or other mishap, and are often detached from the world and unconcerned (at least on the surface) with the plight of mortal man. In some cases, they have been disappointed or betrayed so often that they have little or no desire to continue to live. Typical handling of such characters in fiction involves the poignant renunciation of deathlessness in exchange for True Love of some other lofty ideal.

In the beginning, many of the early patriarchs lived for nearly a thousand years, according to the records in the book of Genesis. Many have speculated about these long-lived men, wondering why mankind is now limited to such a comparatively low average of 70 years. Of course, the reason is recorded in Genesis 6:3, as God speaks about His intention to destroy the earth with a flood:

“Then the Lord said, my Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

The generations began to shorten after Noah, who reached the respectable age of 950. Noah’s descendants lived 600, 438, 433, 464, 239, 230, 148, and 205 years, down to Abraham, who lived to be 175. Some argue that the change in the Earth’s atmosphere after the flood and the resulting increased solar radiation is to blame for aging. Others have pointed at the relentless and cumulative impact of sin as the cause for shortened lifespan. Whatever the reason, it is a rare person these days who lives to be more than 100, let alone 120.

When I was in high school or college I saw a movie about a bunch of Immortals who (for reasons that were never clear to me) could only be killed by chopping off their heads, usually after a dramatic sword fight and the exchange of stilted insults. The plot (if you can call it that) required a small group of these sword-wielding maniacs to chase one another around the planet with the brutal goal of absorbing each others’ life energy or something (I was never clear on that part, either) and ultimately becoming some sort of god. It seemed to me that the only thing they were likely to accrue was high dry-cleaning bills, but, hey, I didn’t write the screenplay.

That’s not my kind of immortal. Any who saw me swing a sword would know that the only likely impending decapitation would be my own. Actually, I possess a much better grade of immortality … the kind that cannot be ended by the chop of a blade, poisoned by despair or cheapened by ennui. By the word of the Lord, who does not lie, I am guaranteed eternal life. By faith in Jesus Christ, and according to His grace and mercy, I will live with Him forever. Not some measly 50,000 years, but forever. No end. Ever. It sends a chill down my spine when I think about the amazing infinite nature of this gift of God.


I have been doing a lot of thinking about time, and readjusting my reaction to the ‘waste’ of ‘my’ time. One recent Saturday, I drove downtown to pick up a rental truck, only to discover that I had reserved the wrong vehicle (actually a cargo van) and that my plans to move would have to be delayed. Driving back to Lakewood, a cheerful peace descended upon me as I remembered that I have (literally) all the time in the world and that it didn’t really matter what I did with today or tomorrow, as long as I gave glory to God and enjoyed Him. I started to sing along with the praise songs on the radio and adjusted my plans to move our furniture on Monday, instead of Saturday.

It seems a little childish, almost, but I get a lot of glee out of the fact that I don’t really have to worry about anything. As Jesus said, in Matthew 6:25:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not your life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”

September 2004 029.jpg
One man’s hot-tub is another’s olympic-sized pool.

One of the nice features of our new rental house is a hot tub, nestled into a corner of the deck behind the garage. Although it is in view of the neighboring house, the room that overlooks it is tenanted by a four-year-old, who waves at us cheerfully when we use the tub in the daytime. Mostly we hit the hot tub just before bedtime, enjoying the cool breeze above the water and the stars overhead. It has been a real blessing throughout the move, refreshing our aching muscles after a long day of hauling boxes. There’s nothing like a hot tub to help you to forget your cares and worries, and to reflect on God’s gracious provision throughout the day.

Now that the weekend has passed, today I have to work. I’m sure there will be many worrisome details that will require my urgent attention. But I must admit I’m not really very uptight about it … after all, I’m an immortal.

Share or follow

Related posts:


Breath of Life

“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7

Over the course of the past year or two I have had many occasions to remark on the graciousness of God and His many gifts to us. From time to time I have reminded myself that each breath is a gift from God and that without His grace I would not continue to exist. It is one thing to say or think, but quite another to experience.

With five children around the house, Kathy and I are no strangers to illness and injury. Sometimes it seems that every time we place the smaller kids in a church Nursery or expose them in any public venue, they come home sick. This Sunday, when four of the children woke up in varying degrees of sickliness, I stayed home and Kathy attended church with her friend Julee and family.


Our two-year-old, Sarah, has suffered with a cold for almost a week, and began the day with a squeaky voice and a croupy cough. Most parents will recognize the strange-sounding bark-like cough that is caused by inflammation of the throat passages near the vocal cords … it is a distinctive and worrisome noise.

We kept Sarah under observation throughout the day … she was cheerful and active and seemed to improve as the day progressed … we put her to bed around 8:45 pm, expecting to see her no sooner than 8 am the next morning.

In spite of Kathy’s repeated warnings and admonitions, I stayed up and played a computer game until midnight. She cleverly napped on the couch and was in bed by 10 pm … uncharacteristically early for such a night person as my beloved wife. About 12:30 (just as I had fallen asleep) Rachel woke us up, saying “There’s something wrong with Sarah.”

Sarah End August 002.jpg

I found Sarah standing in her temporary crib, alternately crying and gasping for breath. I carried her to our room, where Kathy held her while I rooted around for our nebulizer and albuterol (medication administered in cool mist form to open up bronchial passages) that we have on-hand to treat David’s occasional wheeziness.

We gave her the albuterol and calmed her down enough to put her back to bed, each labored breath marked by a loud raspy wheeze. I pulled her crib into our room and we all went back to sleep. About 2:30 she woke up again, gasping for each breath as if she were drowning. By this time we were pretty worried. We didn’t dare treat her with the albuterol again … it wasn’t prescribed for her and it didn’t seem to help much anyway. Kathy told me to take Sarah outside for a few minutes while she ran the shower to create some steam. Then she held our toddler on her lap just outside the shower stall while I frantically searched the yellow pages for an urgent care or emergency room facility.

We moved to this new house in Lakewood only a week ago, and we didn’t know where any hospitals or urgent care places are. Although the local phone company had promised service by 5 pm on the previous Friday, they had failed to deliver on this promise, and we had no dial tone. I’m still pretty upset about that … phone companies ought to be required to maintain dial tone between tenants of rental houses and apartments so that people could at least dial 911 for emergency assistance.

Sarah August 04 090.jpg

Anyway, I ended up driving to the nearby 24-hour grocery store and asking one of the cashiers for the location of a nearby hospital. He gave me directions and I rushed home. Sarah was still not getting any better, and we felt it was time to get her some medical attention. I plopped her in her car seat and rushed off through the rain-covered streets, praying that the clerk’s directions were accurate.

After what seemed an eternity, but was probably less than 12 minutes, I found the hospital and (after one wrong turn) parked in the emergency room lot. Sarah’s breathing had become more and more labored as we drove, and she began to choke and vomit as I tried to unbuckle her from the seat, no longer breathing at all. I threw her face-down over my arm and pounded her little back with my palm as I ran for the emergency room door.

The place was empty except for a receptionist, who rose halfway out of her chair as I rushed in, perhaps fearing for her own safety.

“She’s not breathing … I need help NOW!” I yelled.

Her look of alarm at my charging arrival changed to a focus of concern for Sarah. Her eyes narrowed in critical appraisal, and she said to me, “She IS getting some air.”

Sarah End August 003.jpg

Sure enough, the vomiting and choking had stopped, and she was actually breathing, in a gasping sort of way. The receptionist led me quickly back to a cubicle and several nurses cleared Sarah’s airway and sat her up on a hospital bed. They gave her a shot of some kind of steroid that was intended to reduce the inflammation, and began with a breathing treatment of some kind. They attached a monitor to her toe that measures the saturation level of oxygen in her blood … the nurses seemed relieved to see that the percentages were in the high 90′s, perhaps indicating that she was getting the air that she needed, even if it was less than was comfortable.

She looked so tiny on that big hospital bed, surrounded by hospital technicians and medical machines. Her face was pale and tear-streaked, and her little lips were purple. I thought to myself, “This is one little girl that we CANNOT do without.”

Thanks be to God for preserving my daughter’s life! I shudder when I consider all the factors that could have conspired to delay my arrival at the emergency room, or the possibilities that could have prevented us from knowing about her plight in the first place.

Sarah End August 007.jpg

After continuing with several breathing treatments, the emergency room doctor recommended that Sarah be transferred via ambulance to a children’s hospital in downtown Tacoma. They put in an IV, which was painful to watch, and difficult to explain to my little Muffin. By this time Sarah had developed a deep distrust of all medical persons, and would answer only a tearful “No!” to all questions posed by people in lab coats, no matter what they said. I rushed home to get a change of clothes for Sarah and to inform Kathy of Sarah’s condition and destination while they waited for medical transport … then I rode with Sarah to the children’s hospital in the back of the ambulance.

Ultimately we were transferred to a room upstairs in the hospital after another breathing treatment or two and a long wait in the emergency room of the children’s hospital. The expressed intention was to keep Sarah under observation overnight. Kathy had the dubious privilege of sitting at home beside a disconnected phone wondering what was going on with Sarah and how I would communicate.

Happily, she began to show substantial improvement later in the day and we were eventually released just before dinner. We managed (with no little difficulty) to persuade Sarah to imbibe her anti-inflammatory steroid (this time in capsule form, ground up in applesauce) and put her to bed. Kathy slept with her in one of the other bedrooms so that I could catch up with my rest and go to work the next day. In the morning, Kathy brought Sarah into our room and I spent ten or fifteen minutes just lying next to her, watching my little girl sleep. It is a tremendous privilege to be a parent, but it does not come without the occasional moment of terror.

Sarah August 04 095.jpg

Sarah is back to her normal self now, and will probably retain no recollection of this experience, but I think it is something I will remember for the rest of my days. I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a child, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to find out.

Share or follow

Related posts: