Monday, January 12, 2015

Bookends

The text from a friend told me which hospital to visit. I was so excited to meet her new baby boy on the day he'd been born. We had prayed for him to enter our lives for years and I was enthralled to see the fulfillment of this prayer in action.

As I turned in to walk into the hospital a few days before Christmas, I reflected on the different aspects of life that were taking place between the hefty heights of those white walls.

It was the circle of life taking place within an arm's length.

I could sense I was entering a sacred place. Walking the fine line between...

Life and death,

Hope and sorrow.

The beginning and the end.

That day I was excited to be at the beginning of something spectacular.

The hospital room was filled with excitement, joy and hope. The glorious smell of the sweet newborn I was allowed to cradle in my arms for a few moments filled me with overwhelming contentment in that soft moment of time.

Later, as I watch him nuzzle his mother and listened as she and her husband told me his fascinating birth story, I was drawn back to my own experience with Talitha nestled softly in my arms years ago where the excitement of having my baby was tinged by the underlying sense of dread about the uncertainty of Ryan's life.

Cancer loomed large in the corner.

But God chose to give Ryan more life, and it was here, years later in a different hospital room, that I relished my husband's existence even more at the sight of her sweet newborn child. My heart was bursting with love as I quietly left their room to begin their journey as a small family of three.

Only a few short days later, however, I got the text we'd been dreading.

I followed a different friend's directions to go to a room in that very same hospital in order to say goodbye to a faithful friend.

That man had loved us like his own. He taught by example. He loved his wife well. He loved and cared for his children and grandchildren deeply. Most importantly, though, he loved his Lord fervently.

Ryan and I walked into his hospital room that was filled with his doting wife, one of his daughters and her oldest daughter. Our friend laid in a hospital bed, only hours away from leaving the earth to be in the arms of Jesus and we were given the privilege to say goodbye.

Ryan and I were so deeply impacted by this man's life. In 1997, when his liver was failing and he had only days to live, the Lord spared him from death and gave him another 17 years with a liver transplant. It was during that time, when he and his wife lived every day to make it count that we met them.

This couple poured their love into us, and taught us what it takes to have a great marriage of 53 years. We went on double dates and just had fun together. It was fantastic getting to know them.

But when Ryan got diagnosed with Stage 4 Stomach Cancer, they knew what that journey looked like more than most people in our lives because they'd lived something very similar themselves.

And they didn't forget it.

But a short time after Ryan's diagnosis, our friend's doctor told him his second liver was failing.

And we walked the difficult journey side-by-side until we walked out of his hospital room and he stepped into eternity.

As we left his room and got into the elevator to go back to our minivan, Ryan said he was struck by how a hospital was where most people bookended their lives - we begin and end there.

What happens in between those bookends, though, is what makes the difference.


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