Posted by: trevormeers | August 13, 2010

New Guy in the House

She said, “Here’s your room,” and showed me inside. Plain white walls with a couple of inexpensive framed prints, a pair of beds and fake flowers on the nightstand. It was pleasant, but still felt vaguely like it must on your first night in a barracks or a rehab halfway house.

Even as I tried to figure out how I’d landed in someone else’s life in the last few hours, there was no denying that I’d always suspected I might wind up in this house. I realized early on that its trajectory and our family’s just seemed to be running too recklessly close together to never cross. And after most of a decade of wondering, I’d finally arrived at the junction on a muggy Wednesday night in Iowa City. The surgeon said this afternoon that he saw no choice but to operate on parts of my daughter’s nervous system that I can hardly imagine anyone but God touching. But then, I still have trouble digesting the science of how a 747 gets airborne. And the surgeon is the best in the business, we’re told, and he’s done it hundreds of times and he said that we’d better make ready to come back next week and stay for three weeks after the operation. Two hours later, I was walking into Room 120 of the house for visiting families and calling it my own for the night as a test run. Just me, while one kid stayed with grandma back home and the other one held down a hospital bed a few blocks away with mom at her side. This house is built out of generosity and a spirit of service to the families of hospitalized kids from out of town. But no matter how welcoming the concept, it’s a place that no one aspires to dropping their bags in for the night. Generous donors keep the cash cost of a room very low, but the real price of entry is a parent’s heart that’s almost certainly breaking.

The friendly college girl showed me around the place. The laundry room (free for guests). The four communal kitchens where you have a cabinet with your room number on it, ready to hold whatever groceries you want to stash. The pantry and “Everyone Fridge,” where donated food sits as fair game to anyone who’s hungry. Despite the fridge’s name, I unwittingly broke the rules the first night by drinking a cup of lemonade from a jug in the Everyone Fridge, only to notice after two swigs that the jug had someone’s name on it. Just like the new guy, clueless to the unwritten rules.

She walked me through the great-room, where a couple of families eating their dinner stared at me as we passed through. A guy on his cell phone in the upstairs lounge didn’t seem to notice us. A kid sat down next to me in the office and watched as I filled out the paperwork and paid my $15 for the night’s stay. “I’m just standin’ here,” he said and watched as I opted to give my driver’s license number instead of my social security number. As other guests and I passed in the hall, I imagined each of us with a sign stuck to our backs explaining our story. The Cancer Family. The Kidney Transplant Family. The Spinal Surgery Family.

The girl gently explained to me that there were rules to staying here. Keep the noise down. Don’t walk around in bare feet. Change the bed linens in the morning and clean up the bathroom because there’s no maid here. But, she said, if a guest ever manages to find some downtime from their vigil at the hospital, they’re welcome to take on one of the cleaning tasks listed on the job sheet by the front door.

I almost asked if we’d get an early parole from the hospital if I did a few extra chores. But I didn’t. Just like I didn’t ask the woman putting out cookies next to the Everyone Fridge, “So, what are you in for?”

As I walked by the rec room and heard people playing Ping Pong, I remembered that someone wise once said that if all the world piled its problems into one great heap and let us choose which one to take on, we’d probably all choose the one we came with. I envisioned all of us in the house throwing our kids’ issues out into an Everyone Pile next to the Everyone Fridge and choosing the one we’re most willing to bear. It’s possible that if I knew the facts, I’d like to steal the problem of the Smiths in Room 102, just like I unintentionally stole their lemonade. But I don’t intend to ask too many questions yet. When you’re the new guy just launching a long stay, it’s probably best to keep the noise down and stay out of the fridge.



  1. Trevor,
    Thank you for keeping us posted. Makes my heart break to hear what you are going through as a family. I can’t say that I understand, but
    I can say that I know ONE who does and it is HE (the Sovereign, Great Physician) whom I will ask to wrap His arms of love around you, comfort and sustain you. Praying for and love your little Katie. – Jen

  2. We’re all praying for you guys Trevor. God’s grace is sufficient. If there’s anything you need let us know as I’ve got some “free time” to run stuff out there if you need it.

  3. I promise to pray for you and your family every single day and whenever the Lord lays you on my heart. I can only imagine how overwhelming it all must be. The Lord be with you as you have stepped out in faith…trust Him.
    St Frances de Sales above the entry:
    The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you strength to bear it. Be at peace, then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

  4. Thanks for sharing. Please know we are praying for all of you, and please let us know if there is anything at all we can do to help out in a big or small way. Take care and give Katie an extra hug (really tight) from all of us :).

  5. Trevor, thanks for sharing what is going on with Katie. I will be praying for her and your family as you face this difficult time. So thankful that
    God is in control!

  6. Trevor – you never fail to amaze us with your ability to bring things to life through words, whether written or spoken. We will surely pray for your family as God leads you through this storm. Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” We count it a great honor to be able to enter into His presence on your behalf. And we are comforted to know that nothing happens without first passing through the Father’s Hands and that of his Son’s wounded ones as well. Give that Katie of yours a big hug from us!

  7. Trevor,
    Know that you have extended “family” feebly approaching the throne of grace on your behalf. Our favorite picture of our now not so little Seth in your wedding still sits on our piano top. It will be a constant reminder to pray for your family during your trials.

  8. Really appreciate opening your world to the rest of us in that Louis L’Amour fashion. We’ll petition that He continues to shape your family as He unfolds His perfect will. Just know you’re a great inspiration!

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