I really did
not know what to expect when I journeyed down to Memphis last weekend
for the Day of Remembrance Ceremony. I read my Bible most of the
flight. I prayed for God to use me to help others. And when we landed
in Memphis, I saw the FedEx planes and I knew that I really was
in Memphis. Even though it was hard to imagine going back there,
I was there. Before the plane pulled into the gate, I made myself
realize that I was not coming to Memphis to see Bennett. I fought
I exited the
plan and saw a toy for children to play with. I remembered seeing
it the first time John, Bennett, and I flew to Memphis for Bennetts
first resection. I made a b-line to restroom. Tears flowed freely,
and I re-reminded myself that I was not here to see Bennett.
I found a taxi
to take me to the hospital. The driver drove erratically through
the traffic on the expressway to downtown Memphis. He was driving
fast. I wanted to drive slower, and his driving scared me. He did
not say a word to me. I reminded myself to breathe. Before I knew
it, we were pulling up at the hospital gate.
guard that we saw nearly every day for a year was there to greet
my taxi. For the first time, I had to utter Elizabeth Sterling
instead of Bennett Sterling. I tried to say I was here
for the Day of Remembrance Ceremony, but I choked (really choked)
instead. The taxi driver said you coming back. I burst
into tears and barely managed a yes. He finally got
it and said, Im sorry.
I exited the
taxi and headed over to a bench outside the hospital. Breathe
I cannot go into the hospital and fall apart. Too many people are
hanging onto a thin thread of hope in there, and they do not need
to see someone falling apart. We walk in each others shoes
enough as it is. They dont need these tears.
I worked up
the courage to enter without Bennetts legs kicking up and
down because he is excited. I looked up at the big mural that Bennett
pointed to everyday with a big smile on his face. I faced another
security check and again cannot say the words Day of Remembrance.
I made another b-line to the restroom. My face was so red, and my
eyes were so puffy. Okay, I just have to accept that right now I
have no control over my emotions. I remembered to breathe. That
comes in waves. Walking into the hospital was like facing a tsunami.
I go to the chapel next. I sit on the back pew where I nursed Bennett
so many times. I ask for Gods help. Breathe.
I finally face
the hospital and see familiar faces. Parents, all with one less
child who have gathered here for the same reason, hug and find strength
in numbers. I got through reception breath by breath. I decorated
a board with all the beautiful pictures of Bennett and beautiful
Memory Board at Day of Remembrance Reception
staff came over to the reception, and many tears were shed. Its
hard for them too. I cried over and over again, mostly because I
can sense their sorrow for our outcome. It is hard to look at those
pictures of Bennett with a cutie-pie smile on his face. It is hard
to believe that he is not able to light up the world like that anymore.
It was good to see all those folks again. I wanted to tell them
all how honored I am to know them. Usually a hug was all I could
I woke up Saturday
joyous. It was beautiful. The trees were blooming. The sun was bright
and warm. The morning was spent in small groups discussing our journeys
with grief. Despite the day before being so tough, Saturday I was
happy for my place in this world again. I survived the tsunami.
I was wet but not washed away!
The day ended
with a remembrance service. It was very beautiful. Each family made
up a bouquet of flowers, and at one point, we all went up and placed
our bouquets together to form a giant bouquet. There was a slide
show presentation of all the little heroes. The service ended with
us on the green lawn releasing butterfly balloons. You can imagine
how awesome that was for me.
The next morning
I got a taxi to the airport. I asked the driver how he was doing.
He told me that he had a rough start because he forgot to set his
clocks ahead. We took the slow route along the river. We talked
about St. Jude. He drives kids from the Target House a lot. He told
me about losing his mother a few months earlier. I sympathized with
his loss, but think to myself no one can really understand losing
a child unless it has happened to him or her. Then he told me how
close he was to his mom. He remembers telling her once that he hoped
that he would die before her. She told him no parent should
have to bury their child. Im relieved. He does get it.
The driver told
me how he got really attached to one little boy at Target. He knew
the boy was a sports fan, and one day he was driving the boy to
the hospital when the boy noticed and got excited about a Titans
neon in the window of a bar. The driver happened to know the owner
of the bar and arranged to get a Titans neon for the boys
birthday. The driver was invited to the Target House for a surprise
birthday party for the boy. The driver told me that he cried because
he felt so good about being a part of this little boys party.
It is amazing how these sick children touch the hearts of people
in such a special way. I told him that when people did that sort
of stuff for us, I viewed it as the love of God radiating through
the hearts of the people involved.
We pulled up
in front of the airport. I got out of the cab. The sun was shining.
I felt great. The driver told me that I had made his day and gave
me a great big hug. It felt like God and all the angels were saying
You did it! And that made my day.
of death entangled me,
of the grave came upon me;
overcome by trouble and sorrow.
called on the name of the Lord:
Lord, save me!
is gracious and righteous;
is full of compassion.
protects the simplehearted;
was in great need, he saved me! Psalm 116:3-6
is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the
sun, so must you know pain.
you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life,
your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always
accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.
Gibran, from The Prophet
Father, you are always there for me. In my weakest moments, you
are always there to turn to. You keep me under your wing. You shelter
me from the storm. You keep me from being washed away by grief and
despair. And I emerge stronger and stronger. Your love radiates
through others to lift my spirit. You heal me with your love and
light. And I am blessed over and over again. Thank you Lord God.
Thank you for saving me! Amen.