...can change EVERYTHING!
The events of the past week have been amazing- miraculous- unexpected. After three years and two months of waiting, I had all but given up believing the call that a heart had been found for Rachel would ever come… ever. The hyper-vigilant state I had begun with right after Rachel was listed for a transplant did not last long. I realized quickly that it is not possible to stay in such a vigilant state long term! I’m embarrassed to admit that I had become so un-expectant that I had even unpacked my hospital bags. If the call suddenly came, I’d throw things back together, but the constant reminder of unmet hopes and dreams those packed bags represented were finally put away. After over 1,000 days on the waiting list, I wasn’t even counting anymore!
The most difficult thing about waiting is that most of the time it does not include the knowledge of when it will end. A waiting mom has a good idea when her baby will finally be born, of course, and this serves to help her hang on when the days get long, but other times of waiting hold no such promise. Rachel’s wait for a new heart included no promises of a happy ending. This alone made the wait especially hard. Would we wait in vain for a new lease on life or would all the waiting finally pay off with the realization of everything we hoped for our little girl?
There have been times in my life when the object of my waiting appeared so far out of reach, it seemed as if it would never come! In those times I needed to remind myself that in a single moment, at God’s appointed time, my wait would suddenly end and what appeared endless would slip from my memory as it faded into the past. In fact, the truth is that the most profound moments of our lives are usually ushered in with little warning and those moments actually change everything! But we would do well to remember that this is also true of our most prized treasures. In a single moment, those too can slip away!
I've learned over the past several years that since those moments of life altering change come so quickly and sometimes unexpectedly- we need to heed the words of Psalm 90:12 "So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom." God calls us to live for the moments of today and then trust Him with the moments to come that He has secretly ordained for us. Some of those moments bring inexpressible joy; and some heart-breaking grief. I am grateful that we can rest confidently in His sovereign hands - knowing that He is wise and will withhold no good thing from us. I especially need to cling to His truths on days like this one, when life-changing moments overwhelm me!
On May 5, another mother, whom I have not yet met, had one of those moments that would change everything about her life and mine… One moment her child was alive and thriving and then suddenly, in a split second, that child was gone. Her choice to give life away in her loss meant that at 2:34 PM, the moment that would change the course of our little girl’s life would finally arrive!
The phone call that we had waited for exactly 1,153 days would actually come in the form of a FaceTime call from our transplant coordinator and our beloved Cardiologist. I couldn't imagine why she would be calling via FaceTime and the thought didn't even occur to me that our happy news had actually arrived!
I joked around in my usual way and told her I was too busy to chat!!! I had five little girls about to get off the bus and my day of real work was about to kick into full swing! With Doug in India- this was serious business and I had my hands full with so many needs! I was quick to assure them that I was a woman on the edge!!!!
They didn't seem interested in how I was or wasn't coping with all of the new changes in my life and suggested that maybe I needed to pack a bag and drive to Gainesville that very afternoon! Huh?? I didn't have time to come to Gainesville!!! Had they completely missed my rant only a few moments earlier?
This very moment was the one I had waited for and dreamed about for so long, and yet I don't even remember what was said! Something about an "offer" for Rachel and "how quickly can you get here?" My heart understood before my head did and it momentarily stopped beating and dropped into the pit of my stomach! Was I hearing what I thought I was hearing? A heart for Rachel??? Now???
My mind started reeling with all that needed to be done in the moments ahead if this was truly what I had been hoping for! I had unpacked long ago! My husband was on the other side of the world and Rebekah was so new! How would we pull this off? But of course we would!!!! I had a lot to do and very little time to do it!
I was to get off the phone and pull things together in order to get to the hospital two hours away as quickly as possible! I was frantic to get off the phone and somehow reach Doug in India, where I knew he was sleeping, before Rachel climbed off the bus to hear the news herself!!!
Doug didn't answer his phone!!! Maybe the FaceTime ring would awaken him... Ahhh, yes!!!! I could hardly wait while it connected! The room where he was sleeping was completely dark, but I could hear his groggy voice as he answered, obviously alarmed and not knowing what to expect from this middle of the night call!!!
I couldn't hold back the tears of joy that flowed from an announcement I had wanted to make for three years and two months!!! "Doug!!!!! They have a heart for Rachel!!!! They have a heart!!!!" We literally sobbed together through a dark phone screen! It was one of the happiest phone calls I ever remember placing!!!! And in that moment, Doug's trip was redirected and he would somehow find a way home to be a part of the long awaited answer to so many prayers on behalf of his precious girl!
He asked if Rachel knew yet... She didn't, but her bus was to arrive from school only moments later! I wondered if it might help him feel closer to home if he could have the honor of telling Rachel the news! He cried at the thought!
We were ready and waiting on the family room coach connected to Daddy in a quiet hotel room on the border of India and Nepal when Rachel walked in the door from the school bus... She came running in and headed straight for the bathroom! Clearly she had no clue that the moment that would suddenly change the course of her life had arrived!
I hurried her to the front of the screen where Daddy was waiting. "Daddy wants to talk to you Rachel! Come here!" I was surprised at how Doug held it together for the announcement! But that ended as soon as the words escaped his mouth... "They have a heart for you, Baby!!! You're getting a new heart!!!!"
Rachel looked as stunned as I was... I think the long wait had taught her to not expect this moment anymore and she actually thought that her Daddy was joking! When she realized that he was not- she buried her head into my chest as she tried to grasp the way this moment had suddenly changed everything for her!
I was in the car and headed to Gainesville within an hour and would arrive at 6 PM to begin the process we had only dreamed about for so long!!! It seemed as if the whole Congenital Heart Center at Shands had already begun to celebrate!!! The moment we had all waited for had finally arrived!
One moment we thought we would lose our waiting daughter- the next moment brought word that maybe, just maybe, there was HOPE for many more tomorrow's with her instead!