The Nine Lives of Matt

It’s  a well-known fact that cats have nine lives. A lesser-known, but equally true, fact is that my husband does too.

He used his first life when he was a mere six years old. Although he was very sick with pneumonia, his pediatrician was reluctant to use the new-fangled medicine known as antibiotics. Somehow, some way, Matt survived.

His second life ended at the barrel end of a loaded gun when he was 18. Working as the manager of a Del Taco, he went to check on his employee who was taking a bit too long cleaning the ladies’ restroom at closing. The reason, he discovered, was a hold-up in progress. He – and his employees – were placed execution-style on the floor while the thief helped himself to the day’s profits. Inexplicably, the intruder left without firing a single shot…and Matt survived.

His third life came to an abrupt end on April 4, 1996, at the age of 31. The pain he jokingly laughed off as a pulled muscle from carrying a heavy bag of dog food on Monday turned out to be a ruptured appendix on Friday. The appendix the doctors thought they could remove laparoscopically turned out to be much deader than they thought…as in five days dead.  As in rigor mortis. As in decaying and toxic. Miraculously, Matt’s peritoneum – his stomach wall – had encapsulated his necrotic and stiff appendix and protected his body from deadly sepsis. After three days in the hospital, he was released with a clean bill of health. Once again, he survived.

He danced with death a fourth time in 2008 at the age of 44. The hard, marble-sized lymph node in his shoulder he’d been monitoring for 6 months ultimately led to a diagnosis of cancer: Stage 3B Non-Lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. While an incredibly curable form of cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma still claims 1,300 lives per year. Only by God’s grace – and maybe just a little bit of praying on my part – did Matt avoid becoming #1,301 and earn the title “Survivor.”

But for his fifth life, Matt brought out all the stops. On September 24, 2015, almost exactly 7 years to the day after his diagnosis of cancer, Matt headed to Medical Center of McKinney for what he anticipated would be routine day surgery. What actually happened that day was anything but routine. As I sat in the surgery waiting area and listened to the surgeon explain the complications to me, my head began swirling with words like pulmonary flash edema, breathing tube, and ICU. As I walked into the ICU area toward Room 3, I caught a glimpse of my husband, sedated and restrained, having the very breath of life forced into his lungs. As I stood next to his bedside, aching to touch him and longing to comfort him, I struggled to believe the doctor’s promises that Matt would be all right. After a rough 4-day stint in ICU and an extra night in a regular hospital room, Matt returned home with no noticeable damage other than a shiny new scar down the middle of his spine.

There are those who would explain away these five lives with logical explanations and factual statistics. Others would simply chalk it up to fate, to coincidence, to the marvels of modern medicine. But for me, there is no better explanation than this:

A person’s days are determined;
    you have decreed the number of his months
    and have set limits he cannot exceed. (Job 14:5, NIV)

Although God said it best, I think Matt summed it up pretty well:

Only God knows my days, and my time is not up yet. I still have a purpose in God’s kingdom and I will not be called home until that is done. When I am finished, He will call me home. Jehovah Rapha has always been my favorite name for God. Not only does He heal me physically, He also heals me spiritually. God does not send anyone to Hell (eternal separation from God). We are all on the highway to Hell, Jesus is the only exit for Heaven (being in the eternal presence of God). As we all travel on this highway, the nice thing is the exit to heaven is always right there. God and God alone deserves the praise. (Facebook post from 9/30/15)

Bring on the next 4 lives!