David and I will never forget the summer that we met our friend Bob. We had taken a group of youth to camp, and he had taken a group of youth to that same camp. Within a few minutes of meeting him, we knew we had formed a lifelong friendship. His energy and excitement for life were contagious, and his crazy ideas were hard to resist. Only Bob would be able to get us to dress up like Ninjas and prank a bunch of campers, go through the grocery store Animaniacs Style (boingy, boingy, boingy…), or eat a meal in a restaurant facing away from the table and holding the plates in our hands because really, who says you have to use the table?
A few months after our first child was born, Bob came to visit. Before he left he asked if he could pray for us, and I still remember that prayer. He was a dad too, so he knew that although we loved our son and were overwhelmed with joy, we also had a lot of fear and anxiety. Although we hadn’t told him about our concerns, when he prayed he addressed every single one of them. It was awesome.
Bob’s birthday was a few days ago, and he shared a story that was absolutely incredible. So I asked him if I could share it here, and he agreed – as long as I paid him royalties in the form of Double-Doubles from In-N-Out. Here is what he had to say:
Five years ago this month, I was lying in a hospital bed with three IVs in my arm, in organ failure. The doctor, the only person in the room that very early morning, told me to prepare myself spiritually and financially for death. “You need to get your life in order today, Mr Burnes. Make sure your family understands your burial wishes, your will, and make your peace. I predict it will happen soon, but don’t worry about the pain. I will do anything I can to make you as comfortable as possible.” Then she left the room and I was left alone with the news that I was going to die.
As the sun went down that night, the fever they predicted came on. The pain was unreal. Breathing hurt. Moving a finger hurt. But I was determined not to die like this. Not in a hospital bed. I would not whimper or plead like a child. I sat up in my bed, IVs and all, and hobbled to the window in the hall. If I was going to die, I wanted to be awake and standing. I wanted to watch the sunset.
I don’t remember walking back to my bed, but there I was. The nurse with the short black hair and the wonderful smile said something. Then the blood tech. Then another nurse with the only medicine they could give me to ease the fever; children’s aspirin. The man with the guitar who sings to people as they die was playing a beautiful Spanish love song in the next room.
Two hours later another blood tech. Then doctors. Then nurses. Then the sun came up. Then my doctor. “Robert (the first time she called me by my first name), I’m not sure how to explain it, but your blood…it’s normal. We are going to give you another MRI, but your organs are functioning normally again. This is very good news.”
Five years later I’m still here. 27 broken bones later I’m still here. Two TBIs and I’m still here.
I don’t need a present in a box or a cake with candles to celebrate my birthday. Every day after that day is my birthday. Five years and counting.
See you soon!