From Friday, April 17 through Monday, April 27, I am pretty sure my heart experienced the gamut of emotions. Ten days can teach you a lot… if you’re willing to learn.
On Friday, April 17, “The Talley Dance” took place at our elementary school. It was the first annual school dance in memory of my son Charlie’s precious 8-year-old friend, Michael Talley, who unexpectedly left this earth to meet his Maker at the beginning of the school year. I have written about him before in What I Learned from Regret and Nine. It was an emotional week preparing for this dance. Plus, my father had been in the hospital since Tuesday. Then two hours before the dance began, I received word from my sister that the doctors believed that my father’s LVAD heart pump had a clot in it. In three days, Dad would have to go into surgery to replace his heart pump–his third LVAD in 8 years. It was a shock, completely unexpected. How to make it through this already emotionally-charged night, knowing that my Dad’s life was on the balance… once again.
So through my fear, I drove back to the school and continued to hang streamers and sprinkle stars onto tables. But hours later, my fear turned to joy. The Talley Dance was amazing. Laughter and tears, staff and students dancing, Michael’s family and friends celebrating his life together… a precious tribute to a sweet boy gone too soon.
What Day One taught me:
Life is precious and worth celebrating, even if the celebration is bittersweet. Joy can come from suffering. And there is no hurt that Love cannot help to heal.
Saturday morning came, and by nighttime, Dad was in the ICU.
Then Sunday morning came, and along with it, forecasts for extreme weather. But before heading to Nashville, I wanted to make one stop for a friend, and also for myself. Weeks ago, I had made plans to attend a trunk show for my favorite line of jewelry, Noonday Collection. The founder of Noonday, Jessica Honegger, was going to be in town, and I badly wanted to meet her. Jessica’s story of how she began Noonday is so inspiring, as are the stories of the artisans who make the jewelry. Tears formed as I listened to her stories and thought how blessed we all are, how much hurt there is in the world, and how Jessica helped light a spark that has grown into a fire. I spoke with Jessica for a bit, visited with friends, and selected a few pieces of jewelry. One in particular is a yellow necklace that caught my eye, hand-made in India. Yellow…Dad’s favorite color, and mine. Knowing it would be a memento of whatever was to come in the next few days, I ordered it.
As I entered the highway with impending thunderstorms on the horizon, I thought about the storms of our lives, and how God promises to lead us through them. Little did I know how He would lead me through a literal storm that afternoon. While on the road, I finally surrendered to Louisville allergies, and my left eye and contact lens were a painful blur. I was squinting to see out of my right eye, with no exit in sight (literally :)) and driving through such torrential rain that everyone on the road was poking 20mph with our hazards blinking.
Many prayers were cast up to Heaven during this drive. I was afraid to pull over and stop, worried that someone would crash into me. So I kept on driving, with one eye open and the other completely useless. I scrambled through my overnight bag for my contact case….got it. Eyeglasses…got them. Contact solution… um, CONTACT SOLUTION?! Left on my counter at home, logically. Well, God ended up answering my prayers in Munfordville, KY. (Munfordville. Who would have thought?!) I do believe I heard an angelic chorus singing loudly, leading me here:
From this point forward, the ride home was merciful, and I was even met with some blue skies. And a rainbow. Because God keeps His promises. YOU JUST HAVE TO LOOK FOR THEM.
Well, I made it to Nashville and was greeted by the most reassuring sight: my mother, sister, and father. My father… with his surrendering and gentle spirit, his strength and courage, his humility and patience. My father… about to face another storm in his life, yet faithfully looking for the rainbows. Because that’s what he and Mom taught us to do.
Sunday night came to a close, and my sister and I headed home. Huddled on our parents’ bed, we prayed for what tomorrow would bring…holding onto each other, hope, and two of our family’s heirloom Bibles.
What Day Three taught me:
Sometimes our vision is veiled when we travel through life’s storms, but God faithfully leads us through them. His promises bring us hope, an anchor for the soul. (And sometimes He uses a Munfordville Dollar General in the process.)
Monday morning, surgery day. As my mother, sister, and I had breakfast in the cafeteria, we notice Dad’s heart surgeon enter the staff break room with his breakfast of yogurt and granola, then watch him leave 15 minutes later. (We laughed that he was about to perform life-giving surgery, fortified by yogurt and granola.) And knowing where Dad’s surgeon was headed next, we bowed our heads there in that cafeteria…and prayed.
Then later at lunch (again… the cafeteria), we were happy to see Dad’s GI surgeon from two years ago, when Dad endured the most life-threatening surgery of his life (it took three days to complete). The surgeon shared with us that while he was operating on an LVAD patient earlier, one of the doctors in the room during surgery mentioned Dad, something to the effect of: “You’ve heard about Charles Shaneyfelt, right?” And the response, “Of course. That man is a LEGEND.” We’ve always known it, but apparently so do the staff of Saint Thomas.
Then almost four hours after surgery began, the call from the OR came. We were called to the family waiting room… you know the one. The small waiting room that feels claustrophobic as you wait to hear if your loved one has made it through surgery. Those small waiting rooms of life that can either be filled with suffocating FEAR… or life-giving FAITH. And with a mixture of both Fear and Faith fighting for the space, we ultimately held onto what we know best… Faith.
The surgeon entered. You know the instant when you strain to search their eyes for clues? It’s a split second, but you know immediately. The news was GOOD. Tears flowed as I exuberantly hugged him… and this mild-mannered man of Indian descent allowed this crazy hugger Southern girl to squeeze his neck and cup his brilliant hand in hers (I stopped short of kissing it). We overflowed with relief. Our fear dispersed, defeated by Faith…and immense gratitude.
What Day Four taught me:
That faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. That yogurt and granola are good for your heart surgeon. And that my father, Charles Shaneyfelt, is a legend.
As the week went on and blessings continued to multiply, our family remained in awe of Dad’s strength and God’s provision. We were sustained and lifted up by the faithful prayers of many. Each morning brought new mercies… from Dad’s Raisin Bran breakfast the morning after surgery, to his baked fish meal that afternoon. (No feeding tube this time!) Visits from my childhood friends who came to eat hospital food with us reminded me again that the most important things in life are not things at all.
So aside from the rude cafeteria lady, the mercies in those 10 days are too numerous to count, and this blog entry is already far too long. I will wrap it up with what happened one week to the day that my Dad went into that operating room. One week after surgery, my father went home. Not “Home” home, but to the home in which he and Mom raised my sister and me. The home that shaped who I am today. The home that serves a FAITHFUL and LOVING God who gives us HOPE, not just for this life… but for the next. Because one day, it will come. But not today…
But there is one more mercy left to share, one more reminder from Heaven. Because if you know me, you know I believe that Heaven sends us reminders. On Day 10–April 27–I walked to my mailbox, and there inside was a small package. My yellow Noonday necklace had arrived in the mail. And it is a beautiful memento indeed… a precious reminder of the promises of God.
What Day Ten taught me:
Life really is about making it through the storms and supporting one another along the way. Right now we have a clouded view, but one day we will see so clearly that we won’t even remember the rains. But until we get there, there are three things that aren’t really things that were given in order to help us. And they will exist forever:
FAITH. HOPE. LOVE.
And truly, the greatest of these… is LOVE.
It always was, always is, and always shall be.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” ~ I Corinthians 13:13
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” ~ Hebrews 6:19
The name Noonday Collection comes from Isaiah 58:10:
“and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”