Do you ever hear a song that impacts your heart immediately? Unspoken's If We Only Knew has been on the playlist a whole lot in our house. Take a listen!
This week I wanted to remember His goodness to our family as the anniversary of Matt's passing will be here so soon. One of the things God wanted me to do was to physically walk back to some of the painful places along our journey and remember how Jesus showed up so vividly! I wanted to bring the gospel to a dark place that we sat in not long ago. For months as I drove by the exit for the hospital I would get this rock in the stomach feeling of sadness...SO...
The little kids and I made plans to go back to Vanderbilt Hospital. We baked homemade goodies, bought some bracelets, chocolates and flower bouquets to bridge gaps and packed up our beautiful, red family heirloom wagon. (those are wooden wheels!)
We headed over to Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Clinic. Our first stop was the valet parking station outside the clinic. As Ellie and I handed these guys a plate of homemade cookies I thanked them for being there. I told them that they made our visits to Vanderbilt so much easier. I swallowed a lump in my throat as a flash of Matt struggling to get in and out of the car went through my mind. They just smiled and looked at me with almost no words. They said thank you and shook their heads.
Next we made our way inside. I was a smart mom ;) and had given them all a warning about staying close/quiet to me because it was going to be a packed, busy place. I had never been there when the waiting rooms weren't filled to the corners with people. But today....they were mostly EMPTY!
I was looking for a check-in desk specialist that really blessed Matt and I at our first visit to Vanderbilt. Linda was a gift from above. She spoke words of truth and love to Matt and I when we felt so scared and helpless. She looked two strangers in the eye and told us to keep our eyes up at Jesus that day. Matt and I walked away in tears.
Today, she was there, I walked up to her desk and said, "Hi, my name is Sara Van Hooreweghe, and my kids and I are here today to thank you". She looked surprised and asked why. I told her we were there honoring the memory of their daddy and we handed her a bag of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers. She got up from her desk and came out to hug each of the kids and I and through tears she blessed them and hugged me. She remembered Matt and I and told the kids that their daddy was with Jesus and that he was a kind man. Like the song says, "We have tasted the sweetness of your kindness". Again and again and again.
From Linda's desk, we moved around the waiting room meeting the few patients who were sitting in those dreaded waiting room chairs. Some people teared up when Lanie offered them a free bracelet as I told them we were sitting there once too. I told them I would be praying for them. It was a beautiful, painful moment. As the Spirit led us to love and show our hope in Jesus, the kids and I stepped a little more excitedly to each place.
Next we visited the lab where Matt went with each visit. The techs there teared up when I told them we were there to honor Matt. After the lab, we went upstairs to the infusion clinic. We visited the three nurses stations there. I recognized some nurses and it brought back hard memories for me. As we walked through the chemo waiting room, I knew the Spirit was telling me to keep walking and not to stop and talk with people in there. That was hard for me! Wasn't I there to share Jesus with someone?! I stood in the hallway and explained to the kids that this was where daddy and I spent hours waiting and Daddy would love on people and tell them about Jesus.
As we walked downstairs and found three more ladies to hand bouquets of flowers to we were met with tears and the kids and I found joy in serving people in our pain. I was reminded of a quote I read a while ago by Winston Churchill, "If you are going through hell, keep going!" If we only knew how much He loves us, we can keep going.
It was time to go home so we left the hospital. I decided my feet did not want to walk around the block again so I was hopeful the side street we were passing would lead us to the street where I had parked my van. As we walked along, Ellie and I stopped for a picture with our matching t-shirts. "There's no shadow you won't light up, mountain you won't climb up...coming after me" Our shirts had lyrics from a song played at Matt's celebration of life service. As we stood there a man stopped so he wouldn't get in our picture and I looked over and it was Matt's nurse he saw at each visit with his oncologist! I was stunned again by God's goodness to me (and you can read the post before this one to hear about what Ellie did after I told her who that man was)
We walked back to the van. As I was thinking of the time there I was feeling discouraged about not getting to share the gospel with someone. The Lord whispered clearly to me, " Today was not about them, it was about you".
Tears welled up and in my heart I knew that was right. We needed that time to visit the places that held pain and memories so we could see and be reminded of the goodness we'd received. It was SO healing for me and the kids got to see the small impact Matt left on people there as many of them remembered him. On the way home, Ellie said, " I want to do that everyday!"
As you stand near a precipice and face the fear you feel, continue to climb as He guides you. Today was just a short climb for us but so worth the labor. He gives the perfect guides!