Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Purpose of Memorial Day

I remember well the day we drove my dad to the train station in Rocky Mount, NC.  I was ten.  I would not see my father for another 13 months.  That train took him to Camp Pendleton, CA, where for a month he trained for he would need for the next year in Viet Nam. 

I remember seeing him for the first time when he came home.  A year separated from your dad at that age is a chunk of life taken away.  But I'm proud he served.

However, I will not be honoring my dad this Memorial Day.  That little boy in the picture could have been me, but I'm thankful it was not.  And, no, I'm not making some kind of anti-war statement.  If you think that, you don't know me.  I'm as red-white-and blue as anyone, and thankful for all who wear our nation's uniform. 

But my dad came home from the war alive.  So, Memorial Day isn't about him or others like him or those currently serving in our military.  It's about those who died while fighting for freedom, from Bunker Hill to Afghanistan, whether it was ours or the freedom of some foreign nation.   And dad didn't die fighting.  In fact, he's still alive (and very much still a Marine).

It's important that we remember those who died.  So, God willing, I'll be attending a Memorial Day ceremony this Monday to honor the fallen and thank them for the freedoms we hold dear as Americans.  If we fail to remember we will soon forget, and those freedoms, once worth dying for may become trivial. 

And Dad?  He'll get his day on 11 November -
Veterans Day when we stop to honor all who have and are serving under Old Glory.

I just think we should get it right.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Emotional Morning is Breaking

Most of you know my daughter in law's story, and are probably aware that this morning she lies in the ICU at Duke University Hospital after a more than ten hour surgery to replace previously transplanted and rejected lungs with "new" ones.  Less than 30 minutes ago my son, wife and Tricia's parents met with the surgeon, Dr. Shu Lin (who also performed her first transplant five years ago) tell us that basically the surgery went well, the lungs are functioning. 

She's been given new life.  We are all rejoicing and thanking God for answering our prayers in this way.

But, somewhere is a family grieving over the loss of someone loved.  That reality brings a soberness to the relief and rejoicing that is almost eery.  And while we are elated that Tricia will hopefully live many more years, we are deeply saddened at the donor family's loss and forever grateful for their gift to a total stranger.

Then, on another front, at this early morning hour four years ago I was reeling from the toughest assignment God had yet given me.  Sometime shortly after 3:00AM I was awakened by my pager - I am a Public Safety Chaplain - and heard the dispatcher's words, "OFFICER DOWN".  I remember asking Gail, who also was awakened by the page, "Did she say "OFFICER DOWN?".

Along with the department's Chief it was my duty to inform my friend's family that their husband and dad died in the line of duty.  While serving and protecting our community Sgt. Earl Murray gave his life.  Knowing Earl was a believer in Jesus Christ as his Savior was the only comfort I knew that morning.  Days later I would preach his funeral sermon.

Every May 15th the past four years has brought tears to my eyes remembering that morning.  Now, added to that will be the words of the surgeon from this morning that Tricia has new lungs, and with my tears will be a smile.

As a Christian I believe that whether good or evil happens in life our God is able to work those things for His glory.  It's not that He causes all things - certainly not the evil - but His grace somehow in ways I cannot understand can take the hardest times of life and use them to point others to His Son and His the eternal life He offers freely. 

Indeed, God is good all the time.  But if that doesn't include the bad time as well as the good He would be a weak, maybe even heartless God.  To His glory He has demonstrated over and again that He is love and that He is always faithful.  And on this date in my life, knowing this wonderful God is the greatest knowledge I could ever possess.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

65Roses4PattySue Trust Fund

[Because we're asked, "65Roses" is a common children's way of saying "cystic fibrosis", and "PattySue" is a nickname that Nathan sometimes uses for Tricia.] 

In 2005 my wife Gail along with Tricia's parents Don and Agnes created a trust fund designed to assist Tricia with the collateral expenses that would come with her CF treatment and eventual transplant.  At that time we sent out letters to family and friends, inviting them to give if they chose to do so.  

The result was extremely helpful as Nathan and Tricia spent 9 months living near Duke University before and after the transplant. 

However, as her health improved, and trips to Duke became less frequent, the trust fund lost its steam.  Now, with her status very much changed, and already this year multiple trips to Duke, including the current hospitalization for rejection, we have reinvigorated the fund.  Below is a letter that appears on a Facebook group for donors.  

If you are not in that group and would like to be able to donate via PayPal, I've added a button at the top left of this blog site for your convenience. 

If the idea of donating is offensive to you, we are sorry.  Please refrain from negative comments.

Dear Friends of 65Roses4PattySue,

Amazing as it sounds, this past April 2 marked the 5th anniversary of the night Tricia was wheeled into an all night surgery that would give her a life-saving “new” pair of lungs. If you’ve followed either Nathan’s or Tricia’s blogs or their Facebook posts, you know how that while Tricia’s much healthier than pre-transplant, her overall health has been and will always be a roller coaster ride. But, who would have thought that she would again be able to play softball, sing in the choir and most of all mother her Gwyneth Rose?

Another milestone is about to pass as well. Tricia turns 31 on May 13.  Right now, as I'm sure you know, Tricia is on a ventilator, waiting for the call that her second double lung transplant is about to happen.  So, the Lawrensons, Kirschners and all who love her have much for which to be thankful.

When crises settle down, as Tricia’s did after the surgery and the subsequent battle with lymphoma, we tend to relax and even forget that she will always be a post-transplant and cystic fibrosis patient at Duke Medical Center. When we began the 65 Roses Trust Fund seven years ago it was in anticipation of that time of crisis. The response from so many made it possible for Nathan and Tricia to stay in Durham during her pregnancy leading up to Gwyneth’s miraculous birth and then on through the transplant, recovery and cancer treatments.

Once again we’re appealing to Tricia’s friends to re-invigorate the trust fund.   They have been living in Durham (while keeping their home in Kill Devil Hills) since October of last year - 7 months now.  Though they have a very good insurance policy, Tricia will always require costly medications to battle rejection and her Cystic Fibrosis. While the disease will not attack her new lungs, it continues to attack her pancreas and digestive system.

Currently their out of pocket expenses are averaging $4500/month.  Only because so many have rallied to their side have they been able to do this.  God willing, with a soon transplant they will be home sooner than later. 

So we are again asking you to consider helping financially as you are able. And we promise to send annual reminders for those inclined to partner with Tricia. If you are unable, we certainly understand. But we also know that any gift makes a difference.

Because this is a trust fund gifts are unfortunately not tax deductible. Whether you can make a one-time gift or perhaps give on a regular basis, all monies given are dispersed by fund trustees and only for expenses related to Tricia’s continued medical care.

Gifts can be sent to 137 Sir Chandler Dr., Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948. Please make checks out to “65 Roses 4 Patty Sue”. Funds received are disbursed by trustees (her parents and in-laws) according to actual costs relating to treatment of Tricia’s disease not covered by insurance.

On the top right of this page on my blog is a tab that will take you to the fund's Paypal account if you prefer to give via your credit card or Paypal account. 

Thank you and God bless you.