In just a few days we will celebrate a national holiday we call Thanksgiving. I always loved this observance. In some respects, I like it just as much if not a little more than Christmas, only because the emphasis is upon family, feasting together, and taking time to acknowledge how blessed we really are.
As I am writing this blog, my memories are taking me back to the Thanksgiving of 1977. I was 27 years old. The Sabol family traveled to New England with a family from our church, the Collins’, to celebrate Thanksgiving with some of their family and friends. While there, I had the opportunity to speak at a church. It was a memorable trip for many reasons.
When I woke up to prepare to preach that Sunday, I noticed little blood blisters all over my body, inside my mouth, and in the whites of my eyes. I felt fine, but there was definitely something mysterious going on with me physically. Nancy and I agreed that we would call our family doctor on Monday after the long trip home Sunday afternoon and evening.
We got in to see Dr. Ferry that Monday, and he ran a blood test to confirm what he suspected – my platelet count was low. Later that day he called with the results. The platelet count for a healthy young many my age would have been 450,000 – 500,000. My count was 5,000, meaning practically non-existent. Platelets are the components of our blood that cause clotting. He warned me not to return to work, and to be careful not to get bruised or cut myself as it could result in me hemorrhaging to death. He also alerted us to call him if any further symptoms developed.
The next morning, November 30th, I starting to see blood in other areas. We called Dr. Ferry and he said that we should get to the emergency room at Saint Mary’s hospital a.s.a.p. That began a hospital stay that lasted until January 7th, thirty-seven days!
Two weeks into the hospital stay, my attending physician, Dr. Carl Jambro came into my room and told me that the results of all the tests they have been running have not revealed the culprit that was erasing my platelet count. He said that some of the leading hematologists in the nation told him that, in 20% of the cases that presented like mine, the surgical removal of the spleen rectified the situation.
They scheduled that procedure for the next morning. It was high risk. They would perform major abdominal surgery on a patient with no clotting factor in his blood. There was a strong chance that I would not survive the surgery, but there was no chance for survival if they did nothing.
As I pondered my options the night before my surgery, I came to the conclusion that there was no way I could lose! If I died on the operating table (and I did code twice during the surgery), I would win! I would be absent from my body and present with my Lord. If I survived the surgery (as I obviously did), I would spend the rest of my life and ministry serving him, loving people and proclaiming his goodness – A HUGE WIN!
Staring death in the face at such a young age taught me some valuable lessons that still serve me well even 42 years later…
- There are no guarantees. Life is fickle and unpredictable. Live like you are dying – because you are. Keep all accounts current. Say what needs to be said; do what needs to be done; become what you need to become now, don’t put it off.
- God truly is our source. Even though I was out of work for five months, every need was met, every bill was paid, and every meal was supplied. God even provided for my kids during Christmas that year using someone dressed in a Santa suit who delivered a load of gifts for them. Many of those gifts were things on their Christmas list.
- From that day on, that special day of the year was no longer Thanksgiving – just the giving of thanks for me. It became Thanks Living, living thankful with an attitude of gratitude.
I am so thankful that the Father spared my life that day so long ago. So many amazing things have happened in the ensuing 42 years. I am grateful that I could stick around to write this blog for you.
I don’t know how many days are left for me. Who of us really knows? But I do know this – I will spend whatever days that are left with Thanks Living – not just Thanksgiving.
Will you join me?