“I’m dying. I don’t know how to do this!” Laying on the bed in the dark, these words played over and over in my mind. I had felt a little off for some time, but there was nothing I could put my finger on. My family urged me to go to the doctor, but what were my symptoms? Would I say, “I just don’t feel good,” only for her to tell me to eat more fiber and get more exercise? I also had a newborn granddaughter who was having a rough start. I preferred to help my exhausted daughter rather than chase my elusive illness. I could hardly eat and began losing weight. Extremely fatigued, I finally dragged myself to the doctor and, through tears, said those very words, “I just don’t feel good.” Following blood work, she called me saying she needed to see me in her office right away. No appointment necessary. 

Something wasn’t right, and I was afraid. She met me at the door and told me I needed my labs repeated immediately; she was hoping results from the previous day were due to a lab error. My creatinine was through the roof. What in the world was creatinine? Unfortunately, I would have to wait until the next day for the new results. So, doing what we are all told not to do, I Googled “creatinine.” I was in kidney failure.

That was the longest night of my life. According to the lab numbers and what I had read, I was looking at a mere three months to live. I was only fifty-two and needed to plan the last three months of my life. I tried praying but didn’t know where to begin, so I called on the Holy Spirit to intervene. My thoughts were all over the place: “I need to declutter my house so my daughters won’t have to. I need to write letters to grandchildren to be opened on birthdays and at milestone events so they will know how much I adore them. I want to be with Jesus, just not quite yet!”

I felt like a tight rope walker, trying to find the balance between life and death while attempting to put one foot in front of the other. 

I was taken to the emergency room the next morning. Hardly able to stand on my own, I believed I would die before I saw a doctor. Lab results indicated stage five kidney failure, and my future would depend on the cause. My body and soul began to feel numb—the only escape from the severity of my illness.

Glimpses of impending death continued to arrive. A doctor informed me that I qualified for a transplant list, and my heart sank. This was real. The next day, lying face down during a kidney biopsy, I suddenly felt faint and heard a nurse call out, “Blood pressure dropping!” The doctor shouted orders, and I could hear the crash cart being thrown open. I sensed the room coming alive with activity as I closed my eyes and floated away, trusting God to help me cheat death once again…and He did. 

Another morning as a central venous line was being surgically placed, I frantically tried to recite Bible verses. I was terrified. The only words I could recall were, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me.” I repeated those words again and again. And those were the perfect words—He was with me! 

My biopsy revealed acute kidney failure due to an allergic reaction to a medication. My condition was somewhat reversible, but I would always have kidney disease. A month later, I was released home to begin my second chance at life. Over time, my lab numbers plateaued. 

But three years ago when I embarked on a different kind of healing journey, one to heal my heart from a trauma-filled life, something miraculous began to happen. With each moment of mindfulness and each deep breath I took, my body responded. As I named truth and became  more embodied, numbers improved. This week God smiled on me once again when the lab report showed my creatinine in the normal range! 

Today I am celebrating the life I thought I would lose. Never expecting to see that newborn granddaughter’s first birthday, this month we’ll celebrate her tenth. It’s been a decade since I sat in the valley of the shadow of death with Jesus by my side. There, I found a closeness with Him I had never known. I’ve spent years balancing life and death. It’s been a long road, but I now realize I have actually lost my balance. I have fallen. I have fallen into life!  

Wendy Lipham lives on the Alabama Gulf Coast where she has taught interview and communication skills for over twenty years. Having heard God’s call to work with young women who have experienced sexual violence and abuse, she is further inspired by the growth of her “Beautifully Broken” story group. She enjoys writing, drawing, and needlepoint. Most of all, she loves living life beside her husband and hearing the laughter of their seven grandchildren.