In my last post, I shared about how I was dreading getting our family portrait made for the church directory this week. My friend Wendy left a comment, suggesting that we bring a photograph of Hannah and include it in our portrait. That was actually something we had already considered doing. The promotional literature we'd received from the church encouraged people to bring family pets or other special items to include in their portraits, so we figured that if it was okay for someone to bring their cat, we could surely bring a photograph. So that's what we did. The photographer took a few pictures of just the three of us, and then took several of more of the three of us holding Hannah's picture. We liked those pictures so well, we chose one of them to include in the church directory. Our church was such an incredible support to us when Hannah was sick (and even since then), walking every step of the journey with us, it only seemed natural to use one of those pictures for the directory. So, overall, the photo session ended up being a positive experience.
But that was not the end of our photo sessions for the week. For some time, we've been wanting to take a new "middle of the road" picture. The one above has been such a vivid symbol of our journey down the road of cancer and the loss of our daughter. It was taken by my sister-in-law, Maria, in Briggsville, Arkansas, just about two miles down the road from the cemetery where Hannah is now buried. The day after this picture was taken in October of 2008, Hannah lost all of her beautiful, curly hair. The land on both sides of the road is owned by members of the Sullivan family. This is a very rural area, and not a single car passed by the whole time we were taking pictures. We took a lot of pictures that day in a variety of different settings...but the "in the road" pictures were our favorites because of the inherent symbolism.
Well, this weekend, we finally had the opportunity to do some updated pictures. There was only one problem...instead of a nice, cool day in mid October, it was a 100 degree day at the end of July. We waited until about 6:00 in the evening, when the temperature had plummeted to about 98.5 degrees, to sit down on the steaming asphalt. Needless to say, we didn't sit there very long, but we ended up with some nice pictures. Thanks, Maria!
This morning, we had the opportunity to share our testimony in at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Cabot. We were invited by one of Hannah's nurses from the Hematology/Oncology clinic at Children's Hospital. We had not seen her since leaving Children's Hospital for the last time in February of 2009, until we ran into her and her husband at a Chris Tomlin/TobyMac concert in Little Rock about six weeks ago. We got reacquainted that evening, and they invited us to come and share with their Sunday School class. When we arrived today, we were so pleased to see three more of Hannah's nurses there. We had a Hem/Onc clinic reunion right there in the fellowship hall!
These four nurses, and the other nurses who work in the Arkansas Children's Hospital Hem/Onc clinic and the Gold floor are truly amazing people. They go to work every day and freely give their hearts to children with life-threatening cancers, and have their hearts broken again and again. I know that for me, personally, during the year that we spent so much time at Children's Hospital with Hannah, these nurses became a lifeline. Even as Hannah's health deteriorated and I know it had to be shocking for them to see her decline from visit to visit, they always greeted us with smiles and encouraging words. I remember one of our last visits to the clinic...Hannah was so ill that it was hard for her to sit up in a chair in the waiting room, and there were no beds available in the chemo infusion room. One of these nurses took us to a conference room which contained one of those pull-out sleep chairs that you find in hospital rooms, and fixed it so Hannah could lay on it while we were waiting for an available bed so she could get her chemo. That's the kind of kindness that a parent never forgets.
When we left Children's for the last time, on our way to the hospice center, one of the hardest things we did was say good-bye to these nurses. Actually, I shouldn't say "we", because I didn't do it. If you've read this blog for awhile, you know I'm a self-confessed avoider of emotional situations...I let Brad say our good-byes. These people had become such an important part of our lives, and when we left that day, we didn't know when or if we'd ever see them again. Several of them did come to Hannah's visitation, and that was such a huge blessing to us. But, until today, I'd never thought about it from their perspective...they told me today that they experience the same thing. They become involved in these children's lives, and many of them are healed and they are able to rejoice with those families as they return for follow-up visits. But, some of these children go to Heaven, and when they do, their contact with these families comes to an abrupt end. Most of the time, they never see the family again, and never know how they are faring in the aftermath of their cancer journeys. So it was a blessing for us to see them, and a blessing for them to see us. It was pretty cool how God worked that out this morning. As God brings it to your mind, please pray for these special people...that God would give them what they need to continue to minister to these kids and families each day like they do!