After reviewing the tests, the doctors decided what to call it. A name I had never known before. A name I struggled to remember then. A name I will never forget: encephalitis.
The calendar called it March 1996. My body chose a different march, a lonely march, a march rushing me into unfamiliar territory. The journey of encephalitis crushed me.
The typical Tuesday and week and year I expected? They never came. Every waiting Tuesday held a flavor of that week’s war. Every week and year since then have kept me near that pain, that place, that encephalitis.
My life knew only health before that. My childhood memories—scenes circling then in my mind as brain cells searched for nonfiction, for historic, personal facts during my recovery—knew about sicknesses of others, but only health for me. But then, a man who couldn’t remember the names of his three sons searched for recovery. I tried to think about things. I tried to think. I had never tried that hard before.
Would I remember my sons’ names? Would they remember the old me? Would they like the new me? I asked as I stared. I cried as doctors and nurses tested and worked on the new me.
Deb remembers more: “Everyone wanted to check on you but we couldn’t let them visit. I called your father again and told him he needed to come. Chris, you were really sick. Your dad made it in five hours. Your sisters also came from Georgia. You remembered faces but not names. My brother Stan came in and left very upset. He said, ‘This isn’t right. It’s not supposed to happen to him’.”
My jerking face, my shaking lips, my wet eyes, my uncontrolled remarks: Where was God during that time? Maybe He told me where and I just couldn’t recall. Maybe I already knew but just couldn’t remember. Since my ears received sound waves but got little help from the brain’s reception, maybe God’s answer remained undiscovered in mysterious terrain.
I could only pray and hope God heard. Pray and hope. Pray. And hope.
I thought of my thinking as I worked to realize and remember.
-From Chris Maxwell’s book about his illness. To read more, purchase the eBook version of his book Changing My Mind
I remember meeting you just 8 weeks after you entered the hospital. Although I had known you for years through letters and e-mail, I finally met you face-to-face. You had to ask Les what my name was. The most important impression I received from that meeting–from that visit–was a man who was totally dependent on God, Deb, his kids, his church family; a man in whom God’s presence could be seen through his brokenness. I also remember the inexplicable joy that could only come from the Lord. Your book is an incredible journey into God’s presence that only your experiences could take you. Blessings, my brother!