In the Maasai community, young girls typically marry men chosen by their fathers. But Alice had a different calling. Through a sponsorship and an unexpected opportunity her brother’s school provided, she was able to get an education and learn about Jesus. It changed her life. He gave her a spirit of courage to follow His calling on her life. Alice said, “I have a task to do. If God has brought me to this level, there is a purpose.”
April 21, 1966 is a day I will never forget. As we enter the 50th year I recall it as a time when God really started to work in my life. That day I was in Mary Hitchcock Hospital in Hanover, New Hampshire to have a huge brain tumor removed. Although the tumor proved to be benign, I suffered a great deal of physical damage which dramatically changed my life. I was only 11 years old at the time.
My growing up years were very good but my family was extremely poor. My home was 10 miles outside of Manchester, New Hampshire and my father worked in the mills there. When he got out of the Navy after World War II he worked at several jobs that were going no-where. He married my mother in 1949 and over the next 14 years six of us kids were born to them. Dad went to college in 1959 and graduated in 1963. He became a school teacher, then a principal, and things did go somewhat better for all of us after that.
Two things of tremendous importance happened in my life in the early 1960’s. The most vital one was that I got saved through the faithfulness of my mother. Every night she read to us from a Bible book and had devotions with us. The night she read to us about the man who came to see Jesus alone, I received Him as Savior (John 3:1-36). I know it was only a child’s understanding but I really did get saved (I Corinthians 13:11). I am very glad I got saved at that time of life because it would stand me in good stead in the years to come.
The other thing was: Baseball. I was watching a game on out battered T.V. set when I was about seven years old and didn’t even understand the rules of the game. We got only two stations. One out of Boston and one out of Manchester. It was the Red Sox and some other team. The batter hit a lazy fly ball to center field and it was caught easily (a “can of corn” in baseball lingo). I couldn’t understand why the batter was out because he hit the ball but I quickly mastered how to play the game. I fell in love with the Boston Red Sox that day and started a lifelong hobby that is still with me even now. This brain child of Abner Doubleday had become an integral part of my life.
Little League was a wonderful opening for me. Because we were located so close to Manchester, we had a large pool of boys and a major and minor league. I was on a minor league team my first 2 years. The first year we lost all of our eight games and I only got up three times. The second year, however, I was an all-star second baseman. I batted third or fourth in the lineup and everyone said there was no way I would not make the major league that next year. They had real dugouts, a scoreboard and concession stand.
Something happened, however, on the way to the majors the next April at tryouts. Lights were flashing before my eyes and my movements were herky-jerky. We didn’t know it then but a huge tumor was growing inside my brain cavity. It was centered in my cerebellum but it pushed out and got mixed up in my optic nerves. I lost the sight in my left eye and my motor movement skills were greatly damaged. My batting average fell well below 200 and that whole 1965 season was a complete disaster. As I had the operation the next year it not only almost killed me but left me legally blind today.
My comeback attempt in 1967 was also a failure. A right handed batter has the left eye facing the pitcher directly. I could no longer pick up the balls as they same in and I could no longer make the contact I used to. My fluid motion at second base was also gone and the hit balls would come off the turf like rockets and bounce off of me as I tried to field them. I was the only player cut from the Babe Ruth tryouts that year and that hurt so badly-I cried. Please read about an old Boston Red Sox outfielder Tony Conigliaro and what happened to him on August 18, 1967. I completely identified with poor Tony and his comeback attempts.
Yet it was the beginning of my spiritual growth and my deeper relationship with God. Over the next several years I had many trials and it was hard to admit it was really over. God had many things to show me and Philippians 4:13 became my life’s verse. I learned to play chess and became first board my Sr. year in high school. I went to Bible College and earned my Bachelor of Religious Education Degree in Christian Education. I pastored one church and taught in Christian schools for 23 years until diabetes robbed me of most of my eyesight.
My wife, Geraldine, and I got married in 1977. Our love for each other produced four wonderful children and at the present, 14 grandchildren. We are nearing our 39th wedding anniversary. Gerry is also a Bible School graduate and helps me in all of my endeavors.
Yet there as always a nagging question in the back of my mind: Would the brain tumor ever come back? As we all know, brain surgery was in it’s infancy in 1966. My neurosurgeon, Dr. Robert Fischer, said that if the tumor did not come back, in five years or so I would be all right. Back then it was simply a process of cracking open my poor old head and taking out the tumor and it’s roots piece by piece. They had a concept of a shunt but they did not really know what it was or how to put it in. The neurosurgery staff knew that the fluid would slowly build up over the coming years.
It did build up and the brain problems came back with a fury. I remember 1982 as the summer of my discontent. The third of our four children was born that June but it was hardly enjoyable. The headaches were so severe I had to take four aspirin every waking hour. I was walking over a mile a day but it was more of a stagger than a walk. I was retching on a regular basis and I knew in myself what it was. I took a couple of late afternoon trips down to Eastern Maine Medical Center but no one could seem to find out what was wrong. My parents and I knew.
They finally got it right though and I was admitted to EMMC on October 10, 1982. I had to wait a week in the hospital because that aspirin I’d been taking all summer had thinned out my blood too much and they were afraid I’d bleed to death on the operating table. That was a painful week.
The operation on October 18 was critical. A shunt had to be put in my head. There was only a 40% chance I would survive and I 60% chance that if I did survive I would be in a vegetative state. A shunt is two plastic tubes placed North to South and East to West, attached to the brain. It relieves the fluid that had built up over 16 years. They told me it was equal to 500 lbs. pressure but many people have told me that I heard that wrong and nobody could live with that much fluid pressure in their head. That probably is true but that is not what God decreed.
When the fluid drained off it revealed a tumor had grown back and two cysts. They were removed on Oct 25th. That was much less critical but was more emotional. That is my wife’s birthday. The Lord brought me safely through that ordeal also.
My family and dozens of my friends visited me during the 27 days I was in E.M.M.C.. I thank God for every one of them as we need each other. Please always remember those who are in harm’s way (Nahum 1:7; Hebrews 9:27).
I went back to teaching in Christian schools for 24 more years. It was strange being in the classroom one year to the date after I had been released from the hospital. I had to get done in May of 2006 because I could no longer read or write.
Fifty years have gone fast. God has been very good to me in giving me all I have and am still in my right mine. I deeply understand and identify with those who are going through hard times physically.
It’s Time to Let Go
On April 10, 2002, my first wife, Sue, went into the hospital for a routine hernia repair surgery. Everything appeared to go well. At 4:30 AM, on the 11th, I received a frantic call from the hospital. The nurse told me that Sue wasn’t breathing and I should get there as soon as I could. I woke up my son, Stephen, and we rushed to the hospital.
When we got to Sue’s room, we were met by a nurse. She took us into another room to talk to Sue’s doctor and a team of nurses. I knew something was wrong. They all kept telling us all that they had done to help Sue. I stopped them and asked them if Sue was gone, and they said yes. We asked if we could see her and she said that we shouldn’t because they had not had time to “clean” her up. We both said it did not matter, we wanted to see her.
Stephen hugged his Mom one more time, and I kissed her on her forehead, and said good bye. As we left the hospital, we were both in shock. How could this happen? It was just a routine surgery. Then I remembered Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 2, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die…” I reminded my son that we were not to blame God for taking his Mother home. He said he understood.
Over the next few days, grieving turned to anger in Stephen, and in Sue’s brother, Ron. They both wanted me to sue the hospital and doctor. When I looked into this and learned that there had been no heart monitor on Sue, I gave serious thought to suing them. But even though I learned that I had one year to file any suit, it didn’t feel “right” to go in this direction after seeking God’s will in prayer.
In March of 2003, I had a dream in which I could see Sue as if she wasn’t dead. She was driving home from work and was involved in a terrible accident. There was a doctor in one of the cars nearby, and the paramedics got there quickly; they were able to save her. After she recovered, she went back to work. Then on her way home that evening, she was again involved in an accident. This time, she died immediately. Then I heard a voice say, “When it is your time to come home, nothing man can do will change that.” I woke up knowing right then that it had been Sue’s time to go home. I called a friend, Sandy, and she said “Charlie, that’s God telling you that it was Sue’s time.” I told her that I knew it and I was now at peace. I no longer had any desire to sue the hospital and doctor.
As Mother’s Day 2003 approached, I knew I would not have time to go to church, visit Sue’s grave, and get to work on time. Because of this, I decided to visit the cemetery on Saturday so I wouldn’t be rushed. When I arrived, workers were digging a new grave near Sue’s. They had piled all of the dirt from the hole on Sue’s and another woman’s graves (this woman had been dead only three months), making it impossible to place flowers on either site. I was upset, especially when there was room on the opposite side of the new grave where dirt could be placed without a problem. I went to a nearby information booth with my complaint, really venting. Then I had to back off and apologize for my outburst. The attendant was very understanding and promised that she would take care of the situation for me.
At the time all this happened, I was working at Disneyland, “The Happiest Place on Earth,” so I needed to adjust my attitude in a hurry. That particular Saturday I was a cast member at Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, a 3-D movie. As I entered the break room and sat down, a friend asked me what was wrong. I told her what I had just gone through. As she was listening, another cast-member friend, Peter, came in and listened for a while. Then he logged in to the computer and got his next assignment.
When the time came for me to clock in and get my assignment mine read, “Go give Peter a break. He has just started the machine to wash the 3-D goggles.” I was relieved! “Thank You, Lord, for not placing me in the park with people right away!” This gave me a few minutes to get my attitude “fixed.”
When I walked into the goggle room, Peter asked, “Your wife died? How long were you married?” I told him we had been married for almost 33 years. “How do you do it? You’re always happy, I don’t understand. My fiancée died two years ago and I just can’t get over it.” Now, I knew that Peter was a Christian, but I was relatively new on “Honey,” and Peter didn’t know me very well, so I told him a story I had heard to illustrate the point I wanted to make.
A young man had a burden that he had to carry. It seemed so very heavy. He cried out to the Lord and told God that his burden was too heavy to carry. The Lord took him into a room and told him to put his burden down and pick any other burden in the room. He looked around the room and saw a lady from church. What burden could she possibly have? She was always happy. Upon looking closer, he could see that she had a husband who was an alcoholic and beat her. “I don’t want that burden,” he told the Lord. Looking around further, he saw another lady from church. Surely she couldn’t have a heavy burden! She always had a nice word for him and a great smile. Her burden turned out to be even heavier than the first lady’s. He continued to look around, and when he had almost given up, he spotted a small burden in the corner. He ran over and picked it up and said, “I’ll take this burden, Lord.” The Lord told him that was the burden that he had come in with. “How can this be?” he cried. “The others are always happy. I never knew they were carrying such burdens!” The Lord said, “That’s because they let Me carry their burdens.”
I told Peter, “All you have to do is let the Lord carry your burden. This doesn’t mean that you won’t still miss her, but He helps you with the pain.” Peter hugged me and we are still friends to this day.
In Psalm 23 we read, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil, my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” In this passage we find that we are not promised a life without pain or troubles, but that the Lord is always with us; we not alone. He’ll carry our burdens, if we let Him.
Isn’t it time we let Jesus carry our burdens? He wants to. Hear His words in Matthew 11: 29: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” After you give it to the Lord, don’t go back and pick it up again; just let Jesus carry it for you.
By C. E. (Chuck) Garber
All scripture, unless otherwise stated, is New King James Version (NKJV)