Tieing Up Loose Ends, My Dad

23 08 2009

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I have developed quite a bad habit of starting series of posts about a certain subject and then never finishing the story.  Our trip to Italy was one such series.  You may have been left hanging about what happened to my dad.

If you have been reading here you know that the doctor did an angiogram on my dad and that it did not look good.  But the next thing you know is that Dad is flying across the country and driving with us to North Carolina, snapping photos along the way.  So what happened?  I will try to keep it short this time.

My dad went into the hospital and had six bypasses done on his heart.  It was pretty bad.  He came through the surgery well, but we did not know what the outcome would be.  Dad did not leave us in the dark for long.  The first day after surgery they had taken his ventilator tube out.  He was on morphine for pain the first day, but on the second day was taken off of that.  I was a little confused about his pain medicine at that point.  I knew they had taken him off of the morphine, but I did not know yet what they had replaced it with.  Sometime in the afternoon I was with my dad in the hospital.  He was sitting up and eating.  We were talking.  One of the nurses came in with his medicine, so I took the opportunity to ask about his various medications.  She told me all he was taking, but she did not tell me what he was taking for pain. 

“What about his pain medicine?  What is he taking for that?”

“He’s not taking any pain medicine.  We took him off of the morphine yesterday.”

“I know that, but what did you replace it with?”

“Nothing, he hasn’t complained about any pain, so we haven’t given him any.”

I looked at my dad.  He seemed a little lost during the conversation.  “Dad,” I asked, “are you not in pain?”

“Well I don’t know, Todd.  Should I be?”

[Thinking to myself: “Other than the fact that they took a power saw to your chest two days ago?  No I guess there’s no reason.]  Out loud I said, “No, Dad, that’s great.”  He went on eating his meal.

Dad ended up staying in the hospital for six days.  He had a lot of problems with hallucinations and panic, but we understand that is normal from that type of surgery.  Physically, however, he did great.

When he came home he seemed fine.  His chest healed up great.  He had a bigger problem, it seemed, with the incisions they made up and down his legs where they took the vein grafts for the bypasses.  One of those had some trouble healing, but eventually everything was fine.

He is doing cario rehab now three times a week.  They have him exercising more now than I ever remember him exercising.  And he seems sharper and more alert than he has been for some time.

He has done a great job through all of this.  God bless you, Dad.


We are in North Carolina!

2 08 2009

Timberley, Samuel, and I said goodbye to our friends in Louisville and set off for the faraway land of North Carolina.  But we thought we should stop off in St. Joseph, MI along the way for some swimming in Lake Michigan.  While we were there my dad flew out from CA to make the trip to NC.  We picked him up at the airport in Kalamazoo.

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We returned to Louisville from St. Joseph long enough for Samuel to get his warts frozen and injected at the doctor, then we set off for NC.  We went through West Virginia on the way and found the best Italian restaurant in Beckley.  I wish we had found it years ago for all of our many trips from Louisville to Richmond.  We could have avoided Sbarro pizza at the Tamarack travel stop and just gone down the street for some real Italian food at Pasquale’s.  I had linguini carbonara, and it was fixed the authentic way, which I am sure is illegal in some states since it involves raw or slightly cooked eggs.  But it apparently is still legal in West Virginia, or Pasquale has some deal going with the local health department officials.  Anyway, we had a great meal, spent the night at Beckley and then set off for Raleigh.  We entered NC through Mayberry (Mt. Airy) and passed Mt. Pilot (Pilot Mountain) on our way to Raleigh.  My dad took our picture at the border.

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Borgers are Moving to NC

14 07 2009

This past year has seen many changes in the lives of Timberley, Samuel, and I.  We have experienced the death of our daughter, relocated to a new (and always temporary) location, changed our ministry and work, endured the sickness and death of Todd’s mother, and then rejoiced in the sickness and recovery of Todd’s father.His will in certain things.

Through all of these trials we have experienced the surety of God’s hand in our lives.  That hand has not always been comforting, but it has always been certain.  His hand at times has seemed severe, yet it has always inspired confidence.  We have learned through this year to trust in God despite turmoil in our lives, uncertainty about our future, and sorrow about loved ones.

God has led us through some decisions, and the results of God’s leading have led us to better understand, in part, God’s will and design for our lives, and to understand, in part, the events of the past year.  I say “in part” because there is still a vacuum that no understanding will fill.  And it is that vacuum that we must learn to live with and to offer our selves to God’s care and providence without knowing, or liking,

All that being said, I need to let you know about some recent important changes in our lives.  On July 1, we began our leave of absence from the International Mission Board.  That means that although we still have a formal relationship with the Board, we have no responsibilities and are not being supported in any way from it.  That decision was made as it became clear that we were not going to be able to return to Indonesia at this time.

As the time drew near for that break in service to begin we were contacted by a friend at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, about an opportunity to join the Old Testament faculty.  At first I did not think much would come of it, for various reasons, but perhaps the biggest being that it did not look as if they would be hiring anyone for almost a year.  We needed to find some other work before that time.  But I responded that I would be glad to talk to them about it.

As it turned out, they did want to hire someone now.  I have been invited to join the faculty of Southeastern Seminary beginning this fall.  We are working out details now, but it looks as if we will be moving to Wake Forest, NC on August 1.

It seems as if God is bringing together some new things that only He could do.  Southeastern is a place where I can be involved in training young men and women (and probably some not-so-young men and women) for gospel ministry including service overseas.  But the relationship between Southeastern and the Mission Board is such that I will still be able to see to fruition some of the goals I had made while I was in Indonesia.  It became very important to me while in Indonesia to develop theological education in other countries so as to help strengthen the local national churches and conventions.  This was a difficult task while on the field because of limited resources available and other factors.  I can see now how God might be working in a new way, however, as I will be at a seminary with greater resources and with an institutional focus on seeing God’s gospel of salvation go out to the whole world, seeing churches around the globe strengthened, and training pastors of all nations for gospel ministry.

And June Came and Went (part 2)

7 07 2009

So we wrapped things up in southern California and made our way home.  That was on a Sunday.  On Monday Dad had to go to the hospital for some tests before having the angiogram.  And then Tuesday came.  We went to the hospital bright and early.  One of the pastors from his former church was already there waiting for us.  It was 6:30 AM.  His new pastor came a little later.  My oldest brother, Richard, was in the waiting room with us.

We had been told that the doctor would use the angiogram to take a better picture of Dad’s heart.  If nothing was needed then Dad could be released that same day.  If they saw something that needed to be fixed, then they could do an angioplasty (less likely) or place a stent (more likely) using the same entryway as that for the angiogram.  If that was the case, then he would be released the following day.  The worst case scenario was that he would need surgery.

We met with the cardiologist after the angiogram and he explained that surgery was imperative and that it needed to be soon.  Dad had several blockages in the arteries of his heart.  The doctor showed us at least six places that the arteries were at least 90% blocked with several of them 100% blocked.

We spent the day with Dad waiting for a hospital room.  He was admitted that afternoon and we met Dr. Fung that evening.  Our cardiologist, Dr. Lai, was at times brutally honest about Dad’s condition.  He didn’t hold back any punches.  I think all in all my Dad appreciated that.  It was hard hearing the truth at times, but it was better to know where we stood.  But if meeting with Dr. Lai was like taking punches from a sparring partner, then meeting Dr. Fung was like getting in the round with Muhammad Ali.

We were all gathered in my Dad’s room.  It was my brother and his wife and I.  I think a nurse was there.  And another patient, of course.  Then Dr. Lai and Dr. Fung came in.  All of us standing around Dad’s bed.  Dr. Fung began.  “Mr. Borger your heart is in very bad shape.  It is very weak.  [Pause]  I can operate on you but there is a chance, maybe 10%, maybe more, that you will die on the operating table and there is nothing I can do.  [Pause]  Your heart is in bad shape.  If you survive the surgery, I cannot guarantee what will happen afterwards.  There is a good chance that you will have some kind of stroke that will kill you.  Or you might never walk again.  Or you might be a vegetable the rest of your life.  You might lose the use of your hands.  Perhaps you will go blind.  I don’t know.  [Pause]  Your heart is in bad shape.”  At every one of his pauses I could see my dad’s eyes getting wider and wider.  Finally, when he came to the end of his list of possible ways my Dad might die, I asked the doctor, “Excuse me, Dr. Fung, is there any possible good result from having the surgery?”  He seemed startled.  “Oh, yes, if I am successful (and I can’t guarantee that your father won’t die) then I think he has another 5-10 years with his heart.”  At the end my Dad had to decide if he was going to have surgery or not.  The doctor said that if he elected to have the surgery, they would start the next morning.  It was already about 8 PM.

…And June Came and Went… (Part 1)

2 07 2009

Wow, a lot can happen in a month.  I have much to tell, but some things are not quite ready to be told yet.

The biggest news is about my dad.  After my Mom’s death on May 2, I stayed with my dad in California.  We worked on getting things together at the house, getting his finances in order, finding out where Mom hid things in the kitchen, etc.  After about two weeks he began complaining about a problem sleeping.  He said that at night he would lie down and then begin having trouble breathing.  He would grow anxious thinking about his breathing and thinking about Mom and then he would not be able to sleep.  For several nights this continued.  I asked him at one point, “When did all this start?”  He answered, “About the time your mom died.”   Hmmm.  Might there be a connection?

I suggested we go to the doctor and have him checked and perhaps get some medicine to help with anxiety.  We got right in to see his regular doctor.  He agreed that this was probably related to stress fro his grieiving process and prescribed some medicine that would relieve his anxiety and help him sleep.  But he also wanted to run some heart tests “just in case.”

We had planned two trips at this time.  One was to fly out to Kentucky and see Samuel at his school award ceremony where he received his Winston Churchill Award.  The other was an American Airlines retiree convention taking place in Las Vegas.  We asked the doctor if it was all right to make these trips and he said it should be alright as long as Dad was able to sleep.  So we set off for Kentucky.

While we were in Kentucky my dad received an email saying that he had been scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist for July 6 (this was on May 22).  There was no explanation given, but we knew that it was as a result of his heart tests that had been done.  We started to try to contact his doctor’s office (no mean feat, let me tell you) and find out what was happening.  When we finally contacted a nurse in his doctor’s office my dad was told to be sure not to travel.  “Well,” my dad explained, “that will be difficult for me since I am in Kentucky now and I won’t be able to see the doctor in July unless I travel back to California.”  The nurse seemed a little put off that my dad had already traveled to Kentucky, but we were a little put off by the fact that we had great difficulty getting any information about what was wrong with my dad.

What really bothered us was that they had scheduled an appointment six weeks away for my dad.  But at the same time the office is telling him not to travel.  If it is serious enough to put this restriction on him, isn’t it serious enough to get him into the doctor sooner than that?  We were puzzled and frustrated.

When my father and I returned to California we met with my dad’s pastor for breakfast.  When he heard about my dad’s problem, he said, “We have one of the best cardiologists in the area right in our church.  Let’s ask Peter on Wednesday night what you should do.”  So on Wednesday night prayer meeting we met Dr. Lai (Peter) and went over my dad’s symptoms.  He promised to look into it and get back with us as soon as he could.  Thursday we received a phone call saying that he wanted my dad to come in right away and see him at the office.  We made an appointment for Friday morning.  On Friday we met the doctor and after looking at the initial heart scan said that this was very serious and that he wanted to do an angiogram next week.  We made an apppointment for Tuesday morning.

Since we had the weekend free we made a trip to Southern California to visit my Aunt Alice, my mom’s sister, who was in the hospital with several issues.  We had not seen her since my mom had passed away and we thought this would be a good time to see her.  We had a great visit with Aunt Alice and her children.  It was the first time I had seen some of them in close to 30 years.

Misplaced Sadness and the Joy of the Truth

22 05 2009

The death of my mother this month has been a different experience for me than the death of my daughter a year ago this month.  The death of my mother just a few days before the first anniversary of my daughter’s death has given me ample opportunity to reflect again on the lessons of life and death.

As we prepared for my mother’s memorial service I caught myself thinking, “Anna would have wanted to be here,” or “I wonder how Anna would have been taking all of this.”  Anna was very sensitive and the death of her grandmother would have devastated her.  Yet I know that she would have taken those deep emotions and integrated them into the rest of her life and I am sure that the death of her grandmother, whom she loved dearly, would have made her in some sense a better person.  I can only hope the same could be said of Timberley, Samuel, and me.

But as I reflected on those thoughts about Anna, and other similar thoughts about my mother [“She would have loved these flowers that so-and-so sent.”   “She would have loved to have heard the music sung and played or the poems and letters read at her memorial.”] I realized the silliness of my thoughts.  Would Anna really want to step away from the presence of her Lord, whom she loved more than her grandmother, more than life itself, in order to rejoin the land of the living and mourn the death of her grandmother?  I hardly think so.  Would my mother, whose ship has now sailed and who is now resting peacefully with her Lord and awaiting his second coming, would she want to re-animate her old and suffering body in order to hear the songs and poems of her grandchildren?  As much as I love my son and my nephews and nieces, again I hardly think so.

And so we are left with this sadness.  But why are we sad?  Too often, I find that I am sad for Anna’s sake.  Timberley recently observed that Anna had not experienced springtime in Kentucky since she was old enough to have long-term memories.  When we returned to the US in 2006 for our first stateside assignment, she had no memories of the United States and could not even remember many of her relatives.  Indonesia does not have a springtime like we have in the US.  Our thoughts quickly and naturally went to the conclusion, “Anna should be here to see the tulips and crocuses.  She is missing out on something beautiful.”  At those unguarded moments, I will only speak for myself and not for my wife, my lack of faith is revealed.  I forget that Anna’s situation is so far superior to anything that we might be experiencing here that there is no real comparison to be made.  She is experiencing reality and truth.  We are living in the shadows.  She has left the cave to see the strong light outside, and we are beckoning her to come back inside.  How frail is our faith at times.

The salve for that lack of faith is to know the truth.  We need to know God’s word about the fate of the faithful saints who have died.  Sometimes it is helpful to hear those truths put in different words.  Last year Timberley, Samuel, and I had an opportunity to go to Chicago and see Anna’s and our favorite band, Switchfoot, in concert.  It was a bittersweet experience, and the bitterness and the sweetness were very strong that night.  We had a five-hour trip home from Chicago to Louisville.  On the way we decided to listen to a recording of Max McLean  reading John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.  [It turns out that the Chicago-Louisville trip fits the book exactly.  Try it out if you ever have a five-hour road trip ahead of you.]  The end of the book tells the story of Christian as he crosses over the river to enter the city of God.  Bunyan’s description, and McLean’s reading, so capture the happiness of Christian and his friend Hopeful as they pass this last obstacle on their journey to be with God, that we were almost bursting with the same joy and happiness.  It was a good salve for our souls at a time that we were saddened at Anna’s passing and sorely missing her presence.

Yesterday, my father was lamenting the loss of his wife of 57 years.  We sat in our living room and cried together.  I remembered the medicine and went to find the recording of John Bunyan.  I played just the last few chapters so my father could hear about Christian and Hopeful entering the Celestial City.  At the end, my father said softly, “Do you think that really happens?”  “I am sure that it is something very much like it,” I answered.

One Year Gone By

8 05 2009

september2006-186We are remembering today the first year since Anna’s death.

Today has been busy with the preparations for my mother’s funeral on Saturday so we have not really spent time together remembering Anna.  Instead we have checked in with one another from time to time, mentioning Anna or asking about certain memories.  The outward focus has rightly been on my mother and helping my father.  But in the background of everything is our memory of Anna.  The experience of losing Anna certainly clouds this new experience of losing my mother.  I don’t think it fair to say it has desensitized us, but I do believe that Timberley and I have approached her death with a realism that we would not have had before.  I am certain that in my own case my reflections on death and the resurrection have prepared me for answering certain questions about my mother’s sickness and death.  Of course, the whole experience of losing one’s parent is a wholly different experience than losing one’s child.  This week has not been as gut-wrenching as the week we had one year ago tonight.  Timberley reminded me of that while we were eating dinner this evening.  We were talking and joking about things.  Sometimes we spoke of Mom, sometimes we spoke of other things.  But everything, even the serious things, had a lightness about it.  Timberley leaned over to me and said, “Todd, do you remember the night after Anna died, how you felt like your heart had been ripped out, and everyone else was just walking around and talking about mundane things?  Look over at your dad.  I am sure he is feeling the same way now.”  I looked at my dad.  As we were all laughing about other things, my dad just sat and ate and looked at his food.  His other half is gone.  The one with whom he had become “one flesh” is gone, and so he is no longer one flesh, but what, just half a flesh?  Which half?  Left? Right?  Perhaps he is just the outside with nothing inside.  He is hollow and aching.  Or perhaps he is just the inside with no outside, raw and exposed to every passing intrusion.

the-kids-june-2005-007I received a letter–email actually, but letter sounds more human, less mechanical–from a friend who knew Anna perhaps better than anyone outside our family.  Their daughter was one of Anna’s best friends in Indonesia.  She was writing to tell us how they were remembering Anna’s passing on this one year anniversary.  They read Anna’s book aloud as a family.  They listened to Switchfoot.  They brought out things that Anna had given as gifts.  They have planted a memorial garden for Anna and they spent time in that garden.  I am really glad that on this day in which we are busy with other things, that other families are able to celebrate and remember the day in this way.

If you have young children, consider printing out Anna’s book and reading it together with your children.  Read some of the stories about her and what others have written about her.  Think about the example that Anna set as she followed Christ and use her as an example for your children to follow, or for yourselves to follow.

In preparing for this day we thought about putting something in the newspaper as a remembrance of Anna.  This was what I wrote.  I asked Timberley if was too “high-school-yearbookish” but as I told Timberley I was trying for something that had the character of Anna, something light and playful but serious at the same time.

Anna Christine Borger (March 29, 1999-May 7, 2008)
We wish to remember Anna Christine Borger on the first year after her death.
She gave freely.
She loved deeply.
She played happily.
She sang joyfully.
Anna, do you still have your eyes wide?
It’s not over yet!  Jesus is coming soon!
Anna resurget. Anna will rise again.