One Year Ago Today
The phone call on that fateful Monday morning. My mom’s voice, tearful and frantic, on the other end. “Kevin has been in an accident and we don’t know how bad it is. Cher and Daddy are on the way to him at Vanderbilt. Mandy…pray.”
Trying to throw on clothes while intermittently throwing myself on the floor before God to beg, to beseech, to humbly ask my Heavenly Father to spare my brother-in-law’s life. “He has two little girls, God. He has two little girls. They need him. They need their daddy…”
Sitting with my mom, hands clasped, as my dad explained on speaker phone, his voice breaking, that the doctors were going to have to remove Kevin’s leg to save his life. Remove his leg. His leg. My mom and I falling to our knees on the floor at the news. His leg, Lord. His leg. My God. Oh, God…no. No. No…
Holding my mom as she sobbed, listening to my dad choke on his own words as he tried to comfort us both. My dad was crying. My daddy, who I’ve only seen cry a handful of times in my life….
Then, suddenly…a supernatural strength. The straightening of my spine. The setting of my face like flint. The peace that surpassed all understanding. The tears stopped. The calm fell. As my mom wept in my arms, I felt God whisper: “I’m here. I’m with Kevin. I’m with all of you. I will never leave or forsake any of you. Trust me. Trust me. Trust me.” And I did. It’s funny, in 17 years of being a Christ follower, and hundreds of recitations of the scripture “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness,” it wasn’t until all strength was gone, taken, snuffed out in a moment of heartbreaking loss…that I fully grasped those words. We are weak, God…so weak. So pitifully human. I don’t know if we, as a family, can rise to the challenge of this.” And He whispered: “You’re right, Mandy, you can’t…but I CAN…”
Sitting my nieces down, eight and twelve, and telling them with as much positivity as I could muster that daddy had been in an accident and wouldn’t be coming home tonight. And neither would mommy because she had to be with daddy. Watching their sweet little smiles crumble into heart-wrenching sobs as they asked: “Is daddy going to die?”
Going to my sister’s house and seeing the roast simmering in the crock pot…ready for a family dinner that would never happen now. Folding Kevin’s laundry and feeling my breath catch as I fold his left sock and Emma taking her daddy’s socks and putting them on her own feet to feel closer to him.
Watching my sister explain the full situation to Emma and Olivia… “Daddy’s leg was hurt really badly. It’s going to look a little different now.” And seeing understanding finally dawn on their sweet, sad faces as Olivia looked up at her mom and asked in a quivering voice: “Is daddy going to have a bionic leg?”
The outpouring of love from my sister’s friends, her church, her coworkers, my dad’s family, total strangers. A Chick Fil A employee leaning out the window at the drive-through and offering to pray for us…my niece’s best friend giving her a book called “My Dad the Superhero” about a daddy with a prosthetic leg…a friend of my sister’s showing up to mow the yard without being asked…a friend of mine going in search of a new microwave because my sister’s broke and we need fast, easy meals…the list goes on and on and on…
Taking the girls to see their daddy for the first time after his accident and seeing the emotion on Kevin’s face as he embraced his babies. Watching the looks of relief spread across their faces as they saw that their daddy was still their daddy. (“I think it’s kinda cool that Daddy’s going to have a bionic leg,” they say.)
The grace and courage with which Kevin has handled his new situation…perhaps the greatest grace and courage I’ve ever seen. The loving, nurturing, protective, brave, constant vigil my sister held by her husband’s bedside…captured beautifully in this candid shot I took of them as she crawled up in his bed to lie next to him. A living, breathing illustration of “in sickness and in health.” There’s a song that says “I want a love like Johnny and June”…well, I want a love like Cher and Kevin.
The phrase that kept going through my mind over and over during that first week of heartbreak and grace was “Jesus wept.” I think He wanted to remind me that it’s okay for us to weep, too. To mourn. To grieve. But also to rejoice that we still have Kevin here with us. But for the grace of God, this could have all gone very differently. There have been so many God reminders over this past year…testimonies and touchstones…to let us know that He’s always here, that He’s present in our pain, that He hears and sees and feels right along with us. And I think that’s really all we can ask for: A Savior that doesn’t stand back and watch our suffering, but One that gets down in the midst of it with us.
Life changed forever for my brother in law 365 days ago. It changed forever for my family 365 days ago.
But God didn’t change.
He never has.
He never will.
So we cling to that and we carry on.