Connections: Debra and Rick Tucker
Embracing Life After Death
Debra Tucker, author and speaker, and her husband, Rick, of Campus Crusade for Christ, visit with Pentecostal Evangel Editor Ken Horn about the message of Debra’s book, Rhythms of the Heart: Embracing Life After Death.
evangel: Your book revolves around a serious physical crisis. You left home one morning, prepared for a regular day. What happened instead?
DEBRA: I got up and got ready for work. That morning, however, evoked a lot of emotion in me. October 14 was the day I gave birth to my first daughter, Abby. We had had an estranged relationship; I didn’t know where she lived, or if she even had a place to live. But there was something in me that wanted to make that contact with her that morning and tell her how much I loved her.
As I drove I picked up my cell phone, and I did make contact with her. I told her of my love for her, I told her happy birthday, and then I hung up.
I arrived at work and there were just a few cars in the parking lot. My younger daughter, April, also worked there part time, and she started talking to me.
All of a sudden there was a “thump” in my chest. The next thing I knew I was losing consciousness, gripping the counter.
The next voice I heard was a gentleman saying, “Come on, Deb, just breathe. You can do it.” By then the room was full of people and paramedics, and we were off to the hospital.
evangel: A friend at the Pregnancy Care Center, where you work, did the CPR that saved your life. The Lord had the right person there.
DEBRA: Yes. He was a staff member, and I was actually meeting with him early that morning. As a former police officer, he knew how to perform CPR.
evangel: Talk about what happened in the days that followed.
DEBRA: When I fell, I hit my head so hard there was a brain injury. My entire face was black by the time I got to the hospital. As I was being prepared for emergency surgery, they gave my husband no hope for even a partial recovery.
evangel: Rick, what was going through your mind while this was happening?
RICK: On that drive to the Pregnancy Care Center, I was just pleading with God. But when they wheeled Debra into the emergency room, it was evident that things were getting very serious, very quickly. There was a growing hematoma in her brain, and they had to perform emergency surgery right away or she would die.
Shortly before the neurosurgeon came in, I was talking to Debra and she said, “Don’t let him operate on me!” I was faced with the dilemma of what I knew had to happen and what she had just said to me. It was a difficult choice because I looked at her and she was desperately, with her hands, almost clawing trying to get inside her head to relieve the pressure. I knew the surgery had to happen.
evangel: Debra, what do you remember from that moment?
DEBRA: I always remember my husband’s emotions at that point. He had just seen me at home an hour earlier. How can you see somebody and then be losing them?
They lifted my left hand and pointed for him to take off my wedding ring. He told me later that he thought, I slipped that ring on her finger, but I’ve never taken it off — and I never thought that I would. He said that he cradled my hand in his, and he could feel the warmth from my body and could smell the hand fragrance that I had put on. He just wanted to hold onto that forever.
The days that followed were not easy. I don’t remember a lot of things. I was in and out of consciousness. I could not communicate. There was a lot of pain.
But I do remember that my older daughter had gotten the message about the birthday and had deleted it. The next message she received was from my other daughter, who said, “Mom’s probably not going to make it.” She was in St. Louis, and she drove home [to Springfield, Mo.] as quickly as she could. As I lay there unconscious, I felt this soft, small hand on mine and I realized it was Abby.
evangel: The initial incident — the fall — had occurred because of a problem with your heart.
DEBRA: Yes. So, in addition to putting a steel plate in my head, they also implanted a defibrillator in my chest so that if the arrhythmia happened again, the defibrillator could kick in.
evangel: Rick, there was a moment at the hospital that was especially meaningful ?to you.
RICK: The night before the surgery to implant the defibrillator, Debra developed a serious fever. When they came the next morning to take her for that surgery, I said, “I really don’t think she can stand a surgery right now.”
They called the doctor in and he said, “Yes, let’s delay this.”
Debra continued to have the fever, and she finally said to me, “Call for the elders of the church.” Then she quoted the James passage where this command is found (James 5:13-16).
So I called the elders of the church, and about three hours later, 12 men filed into the room. They said that they had taken time beforehand to meet and confess their sins to each other so they would be prepared. They prayed over Debra and anointed her with oil. The next morning her blood count was good, the fever was gone, and she was ready for the surgery that she needed.
evangel: What happened when you went home?
DEBRA: My leg and my foot were broken when I fell, and I still couldn’t think or communicate clearly. I couldn’t bathe myself or feed myself. I went home dependent.
But the person who helped me when I went home was Abby. She returned home and stayed with us. Along with Rick, they watched me around the clock.
evangel: God used this to restore a relationship.
DEBRA: It was an amazing, powerful thing. That relationship was out of rhythm, just like my heart was. I loved my job, but I was so wrapped up in the “goodness” I was performing that many times I didn’t have time to communicate with the Lord. I was waiting for Him to communicate with me. So, I used the time to write this book, and, really, to draw closer to Him and ask Him, “What is it that You saved me for?”
evangel: Talk a bit about the lessons you learned through this experience.
DEBRA: I remember the day, six months later, when I was finally able to drive again. I got in the car and my husband said, “Do you want me to go with you?”
I said, “No, I need to do this by myself.” I was excited. I felt like a teenager who just got her driver’s license.
I drove to the top of a hill overlooking a lake, like I usually do to talk to God, and I asked Him the “why” questions. “Why am I still here? Why did You save me?” I expected to hear something like, “This happened so you could reconcile with your daughter.”
Yet I felt Him saying to my heart, “This happened just because I love you and I want you to have an abundant life. What’s keeping you from enjoying life?”
And so, I’ve learned to ask myself, “How do I show other people how to live each day as if it may be their last? How do I tell them to hold onto things very lightly, and relationships very tightly?” And I have also learned to ask, “How do I embrace the Lord in every part of my life?”
Debra Tucker blogs at debratucker.wordpress.com.
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