For several days now I haven’t had a Nate-Nonreality and hoped I was over the hump. I hadn’t “heard” his voice or thought he was driving in the driveway. I hadn’t planned to ask him “about that” when I saw him next and hadn’t dialed his office number to see how his day was going.
Then I drove past Walgreens.
It wasn’t just any Walgreens. It was “our” Walgreens, the one we passed driving home from every appointment, treatment and test during Nate’s weeks of cancer. We had to stop there often with our fistful of prescriptions, and our last visit was on Thursday, October 15. It had been an especially trying day for both of us, and Nate was at his limit. We needed to stop, though, to renew a prescription for pain meds, or he wouldn’t have made it through the night.
As we approached the drive-through pharmacy window, there was no one ahead of us, and the parking lot was nearly empty. The clock read 5:50 PM, and people were probably at dinner. Although Nate had lost his appetite, he was anxious to get home. His back was killing him, the cancer had delivered a raw belly ache and the day’s radiation had drained his last ounce of energy.
I handed our prescription to the pharmacist who said, “You can’t wait in this lane. Pull up into the lot.”
“Can’t I wait here?” I asked, hoping the visual of our car outside the window would make them hurry. “If someone drives up behind me, I’ll go around.”
“No,” she repeated. “You can’t wait here. Pull up.”
Nate sat with his passenger seat pushed all the way back in an effort to take weight off his spine, his face pulled into a pained expression. I drove forward, made four slow left turns around the building and arrived back at the pharmacy window.
“We’re calling your insurance company,” she said. “Pull away from the window.”
We went around a second time and were greeted with the news that our insurance company wouldn’t approve any more pain pills.
“Call the doctor,” I said, trying to keep my frustration from bubbling over. “He said if there was trouble, you should call him.”
“Pull forward,” she said again. “You can’t wait here.”
Our ordeal turned into a battle of two hours and twenty minutes, accompanied by unnumbered left turns around the building and repeated commands to “Pull forward.” By this time Nate was groaning in pain, not a shred of medication left in him. Since the only two pain pills we owned were 27 miles away at home, it became urgent to secure the new prescription. In the end, three pharmacists and an insurance phoner were all on the project. Eventaully we had the meds in hand, but not before I’d written a check for over $700.00 for pain pills that would last just one week.
As the pharmacist handed me the bag she said, “This is the last. They said absolutely no more, even if you pay full price again.”
Thankfully, Hospice arrived the next afternoon, medical angels with sign-up forms and a hospital bed. Nate never even used all the Walgreens pills, because our at-home nurses initiated a parade of daily FedEx drug deliveries without us even lifting a finger.
Today as I passed that Walgreens, I felt a chill. If I ponder how much pain Nate felt, I cry hard, anytime, anywhere. So today I asked the Lord to replace sadness with gratitude. Before the Walgreens had disappeared in the rear view mirror, he gave me five reasons to be thankful:
- I’m glad Hospice removed the need to fight any more pill battles.
- I’m glad there actually are medicines that can overwhelm severe pain.
- I’m glad that all pain is ancient history for Nate.
- I’m glad we don’t need a pharmacy for any reason today.
- I’m glad Nate accepted his incurable cancer and finished well.
I still like Walgreens, but I sure hate cancer.
“I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own. It is not for man to direct his steps. Woe to me because of my injury! My wound is incurable! Yet I said to myself, ‘This is my sickness, and I must endure it’.” (Jeremiah 10:23,19)