In the middle of that first night, she said, "You haven't eaten anything since lunch...you need to." I had no hunger, but she insisted. I numbly walked to the cafeteria with her at one shoulder, and her husband, Duane at the other. I met their gentle request by selecting a chocolate Fat Boy ice cream sandwich. We sat in surreal quiet, entreating our Lord to meet us there because this was beyond us.
Duane, my pastor, basically moved his office into the conference room next to the PICU, and didn't leave for a week. Kathleen was steadfast, especially in the midnight hours when fear, grief and sorrow gather enormous strength. The McDaniels laid out their hearts to ferry us across unfathomable depths.
I was sitting at Kyle's graduation on May 21, saving seats, when Ray called to tell me that the stroke Duane suffered earlier in the day was "bad, really bad....Tiffany, it's bad...." I knew that sound in his voice, even as my soul began screaming in an effort to drown it out.
I couldn't get to New Orleans, where they had moved two years ago, until late on May 25th. Even with fire-tested faith, I was intimidated by what awaited. I knew before my dear friend Sandra, her daughter Keiko, and I landed, that we were arriving to say goodbye to Duane, and to help Kathleen and their four children keep breathing through those first days without Daddy.
I cannot put into words the days that followed. Each hour seemed a year. Love so purified, so intense as to wash away every disagreement ever had, every cross word ever spoken. Truly, the "greatest of these" is love.
To sit with Duane was one of the highest privileges of my life. One evening I was alone with him, weeping with regret. I could have supported him better as my pastor, as my friend. What in the world did I do to be holding the hand of such a man as he lay waiting for his Lord?
In the darkness, a gentle Voice said, "No man feels worthy of me, because he is not. But, I love you, I seek you, I choose you anyway. I want you with Me." I began to grin through my tears as I looked at Duane's face and said, "Even here....even here you are being Jesus to me."
Kathleen, amazing Kathleen, walked through these days filled with the special grace God grants to those at the center of the storm. I felt it after Abbie was injured, as I was suspended above the maelstrom below. But, this time I was not given this grace, and experienced the crushing pain of watching people you love suffer. It gave me insight into how Abbie's injury was experienced by all those who love and support us...the fire you withstood to stick with us, to pray for us, to hurt with us. I am so profoundly grateful.
I also got to witness the fortitude of Duane's mother, Margery...who can best be described as "concrete coated with sugar." Her graciousness never wavered, nor did her faith. But, you know...Mamas are not designed to say goodbye to their children. It doesn't matter if they are 2 or 54.
So, could you please pray for these two special women; Kathleen and Margery, as they try to find their way in a world that no longer has their brightest star in it.
It was also exquisitely painful to witness four very-loved children (15,14,8,7) begin to process what had happened to Daddy, and what him being in Heaven would mean for their lives. Please pray for Mallory, Matthew, Keanu and Abby as these days and months ahead will be a maze of emotions, grief and the creation of a new normal.
Kathleen allowed me the honor of walking very closely with her through this journey. We wept together as Duane departed in the middle of the night. But, as the sun rose, we truly rejoiced deeply for Duane. In a quiet moment, I grabbed her hand and tried to croak out the following words:
"Thank you for letting me be here for this, for all of this....to see not only the tears, but the joy. If, and when the time ever comes for Abbie, I won't be as scared."
The shadow of the monster constantly lurking was trimmed in size by a friend's courage and love. Just as it was at the beginning of our journey with Abbie.
|Duane and his eldest daughter, Mallory|