Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Sullivan 5

Monday, March 8, 2004

I wanted to give you all an update on Chad's surgery. Things didn't go as well as we had hoped for a couple of reasons. One, the tumor was wrapped around a nerve. The surgeon was able to extract the tumor without damaging the nerve, but this heightens the risk of a recurrence because cancer cells were were probably left behind on the nerve itself. Two, there were 5 or 6 lymph nodes affected that the surgeon didn't expect to find. Dr. Salo believes they are malignant, but we won't know for sure until the pathology reports come back in a few days. It could be that the nodes were just inflamed and irritated by the tumor itself. If in fact they are found to be cancerous, this also heightens the chances for a recurrence, and the surgeon is recommending radiation. We had hoped to try and avoid that. My folks are, again, looking at all the options. Big decisions ahead.

I am going to keep reminding you all to lift this up. We pray for good news at every juncture, and that God's will would be to heal Chad in a time that would bring the most glory to Him. Pray for a good pathology report, and that Chad's body would be receptive to the treatments and therapy he receives. Pray that all of us keep our eyes on God and His plan and love for us...pray that we would have the strength to hand Chad over to Him. You think you have faith...and then something like this comes along and it's so hard to say, "Whatever you want, God." Pray for my mom. She continues to struggle the most.

I so appreciate all the support and compassion. I hear from more and more people every day. Thank you. It means a tremendous amount to my family and I.


I remember this day vividly...the day Dr. Salo walked into our waiting room with the news of Chad's surgery. The day had been agony. We had gotten there at the break of day, it seemed, and the surgery lasted hours longer than originally scheduled. They had said we should wait only 2-3 hours, and the surgery wound up going almost 7 hours. Those times Chad was in surgery were the longest of my life. What I remember most about this day was not that time of waiting, it was the time after we had received the news of the surgery. The doctor was sober, and I was very suddenly made aware of the gravity and longevity of the situation. It was almost as if, up until this point, I had been trying to pretend like nothing had changed and, soon, all would be back to normal. Reality was setting in.

I remember my mother asked penetrating and bottom-line questions, and my father's hand was on his face, the way he does when he is worried and thinking and introspective. When the doctor left the room, my mother laid in the middle of the floor and wailed. We had a private waiting room, so the only people that witnessed this were my father and I. My father let her be. I left the room.

It has been...interesting I suppose is the right word...to watch my family deal with and change through this tragedy. My father has become even quieter and more introspective than before, but also more laid back and relaxed about life's little snafus. He is also far more willing to do something extravagant and frivolous, realizing life is short. He is and always has been our family's rock, an ever-present blessing and peace to me, but I have seen his humanity in this journey. I'm somehow thankful for that. Alex, too, has turned inside himself even more than before Chad's illness. He's more serious, not as silly and goofy as he once was. Because he is the baby, we all worry and fuss over him, but he is a strong and capable man...this journey will only make him stronger throughout his life. Alex is no quitter, just like his big brother. I sense God working in Alex's life, and I am grateful and rest in His strength, provision, and timing where my baby brother is concerned.

The change in my mom has been the most challenging for me personally. My mother was a very hands-on mom as we grew up. She stayed at home with us, and she was strong and capable as well...she was wise and discerning and very controlled in her parenting. She rarely if ever cried and, although we all knew she was crazy over us, she rarely hugged us or doted over us very much. My dad was the affectionate one, my mother demonstrated her love for us in other ways which were not usually emotional in nature...time, sacrifice, creativity, and absolute loyalty to the call over her life which was to be a wife and mother. She was the best at that. I grew up with godly parents, and not a day goes by that I am not reminded and thankful for it.

My mother has probably changed the most since our journey with Chad, and it has been an adjustment for me. That day in the waiting room was the first time I had seen her demonstrate such raw emotion, and I have witnessed it many times since then. That day, I had to leave the room . That sort of emotion is not what I was accustomed to in regards to her, I have many times made the mistake of becoming frustrated and even angry at her over it. I don't like for her to cry or grieve in front of me. Even now. That's just me being terribly honest. I grew up with two parents in control and Christ-focused...the grief I have seen my family endure has been completely new and by far the hardest piece of this journey. Not only because it pains me to see those I love the most suffering, but because I was simply not accustomed to the level of emotion and abandon it has required of us.

I was wrong. I've been too hard on her so many times. There is no greater sorrow on earth than a parent losing a child. She deserved more grace than I have given her at times...many times.

My mother now likes to hug me, hold my hand, tell me she loves me, and just pet on me in general. I have grown more accustomed to it, understanding...if at all possible...she loves me even more on this side of her tragedy. I have learned that I have to give her grace in ALL of her emotion, whether it be grief or affection. I have found I had to be comfortable with the change that took place in her. My mother has been wounded terribly in the journey, but she is not destroyed. God has shown me that just because I am not always comfortable with the change, does not mean it was wrong of her. I will admit...I was most often the one in the wrong. I have found the more grace I give her, the more her grief eases.

My family has changed. I have had a hard time swallowing that, because I loved and cherished every bit of my family and our time together. The Sullivans knew how to have a good time! Pastor Roger Thomas said at Chad's funeral the we were a family that seemed not only to love each other, but to like each other as well. It was a perfect description of a blessed family. I have to tell you...I miss them. Just recently, after having a minor meltdown about the changes that have come upon us and the new dynamics of our family without Chad, my mother said to me, "Baby girl, you can't make us what we were. No matter how hard you try, we're not the same. You have to let us be what we are now."

She's a good mama.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." -2 Cor. 4:7-9

Monday, October 12, 2009

Look for Him...

March 11, 2004
11:53 AM

...I want to take a moment to thank all of you for the amazing support. People have been coming out of the woodwork! We have truly felt your prayers carrying us. You all know me (and my Drama Queen tendencies) and I have really been pretty calm so far. We have a long road ahead of us, however, so I ask that the prayers continue. God has spoken to me in ways that He never has before the last couple of weeks. And, as horrible as this situation may seem, I feel blessed to have experienced Him in a way that I never have before. I plead with each of you to continue to lift us up. Pray that God will guide us in selecting a treatment schedule for Chad. Pray that his body will be receptive to the treatments. Pray for healing as soon as He would allow. Pray, as well, for strength for Chad and our family. My mother is feeling encouraged (after Chad's recent pathology results), but we all acknowledge this will be a long road.

Thanks again. You guys are the best. Love to you all...

Have you ever really looked for God? Be honest.

During this time, I needed to see God. I needed affirmation that He was real, even if I had bowed to Him all my life...all of sudden I needed proof. Just between me and Him, I needed to lay eyes on Him, feel Him...experience Him. If I was going to trust my brother into His care in this matter...right or wrong...I needed to know He was there beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end...the Maker of all Creation. Somehow, in my desperation, I found the humpha to ask the great I AM to show Himself to me. Amazing. Even more amazing?

I think it tickled Him.

As I began to "look for God" I found Him all around me. This is a frustrating entry to write, because there is just no way I could possibly describe how He ministered to me in the physical world..so sweet...so precious...so personal...

It was during this time that I began to understand what we mean when we say "a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." It was personal...this blossoming relationship over Lover and loved, and soon, between lover and Loved. Do you understand? He showed Himself to me in ways that only He could have known. He really cared! He really knew! He really hurt..for me. It all really mattered to Him...a great deal, in fact. As I cried and poured over His Word, as I saw His Hand move to comfort me as panic sought me all hours of the day, as I prayed and begged...only to look to Him and experience the strangest calm and even, dare I say it...joy. Joy at the work being accomplished in our suffering. I realized in all of this how crazy He was over me, and yet if He still deemed it necessary to allow this suffering over my life and the lives of those I loved...it must be for a great purpose indeed.

Trust. Rest.

I don't remember when I began to do this, but I saw redbirds as God's sign to me of His care and faithfulness to Chad. I saw them EVERYWHERE. It just wasn't normal how many cardinals I saw...almost daily. I would sometimes laugh out loud at their unusual appearances...He seemed to even have fun with it, as He saw the delight it gave me when I spotted those lovely creatures. My family adopted this tradition, and we enjoyed it together as we shared stories of who saw redbirds when. It continues to this day.

The Christmas after Chad passed, he had only been gone a few months. It was...difficult beyond words, to speak truthfully. Some of you know exactly what I mean. Traditions that have for so many years been cherished, all of the sudden become painful and dreaded in an inescapable way. We decided to bunk tradition and spend the Holiday in the mountains, at a cabin in Linville, NC. The season was bittersweet, but God laid His hand of protection and blessing heavy upon us, and we managed to survive it amidst tears and laughter, and an awkward cloud of pain that hung over us. I found an abandoned puppy, a tiny little thing, near Blowing Rock. An engaged couple I met on the street there wanted to take him home, but asked me to keep him overnight until they could pick him up on the way home. We had such fun with that puppy! The perfect and precious diversion...straight from the King of Kings. My sweet Comforter.

Christmas morning we woke up to a fresh snowfall...just enough to cover the ground. That in and of itself thrilled my soul, but He didn't stop there. Mid-morning, as we were readying ourselves for a Christmas brunch, my father called quietly for me to come over to a near window...

There, in the snow, was the fattest and most beautiful redbird I had ever seen. He tarried on the lawn, enjoying the snow. We wept.

What a precious Savior we serve. Don't miss Him. Full of might...and full of mush over His beloveds. He's my Sweetheart.

Ephraim indeed.

The picture at the top of the entry today was taken with my cell phone and was the last picture I took with Chad...on his boat at sunset on Lake Tillery...perfect peace on still waters...

Do you see Him? It's all about the Cross.

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
-Psalm 19:1

Look for Him today, beloved.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Today Is The Day...

Jonathan Chadwick Sullivan
2.19.74 - 10.1.06
Three years ago this morning it was a clear and beautiful Sunday. The sky was without a single cloud, and so bright and blue it almost hurt to gaze upon. A gorgeous Lord's Day...the day my brother went home to be with Jesus...
May I tell you a quick story, to honor him today?
Chad, late in his illness, had to have brain surgery to remove a tumor. After the surgery, he insisted on being at his house down on the lake, so we all had to take shifts in the weeks after he got home. He was not to be left unattended, doctor's orders. One evening, I was down at the lake taking a shift. I had been, for some time, feeling a tremendous burden to talk to Chad about the Lord. Pridefully, I had considered myself the more spiritually mature of the two of us, and I was just sure he needed my infinite wisdom...(gag). Now, remember, Chad is my older brother, and little sisters sometimes have a hard time confronting their big brothers on matters such as these. Chad bowed to receive Christ years before me, but his walk had been different than mine to some degree. It was changing, I sensed. So, I tread as lightly as I could and began to ask him some rather pressing questions about his relationship with Christ, and what He believed God was doing in the journey. As he saw where I was headed with the conversation, he quickly cut to the chase, as Chad was known to do. He looked me dead in the eye...
"Marti, there's something you need to know. God and I have an understanding. If He wants me to live, then I am ready to live. But, if He wants me to die, then I am ready to die."
I was furious.
How dare he give up? How dare he even consider accepting defeat? How dare he not muster up all the faith and conviction he could to save his own life? How dare he not shore himself up for the fight? How dare he not think of his family, and what he would leave behind? How dare he think of the Father above all else? How dare he commit his life unto death to our Savior? How dare he say "Have thine own way, Lord?" How dare he do exactly what the Lord asks of us each and every day by laying down his life and following Him? How dare he?
"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it;
but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."
-Matthew 16:25
That evening, unbeknownst to me, Chad gave me the greatest gift I have ever received aside from my salvation in Christ. I cling to that night almost daily, remembering in peace that Chad was ready to do what the Father called him to do.
Can I just share with you? I'm so proud.
I celebrate the life of Chad Sullivan today...all the wit...all the charm...all the brains...all the valour...all the courage...all the strength...all the grace...Only through Jesus...
I am better to have known and loved you, brother. See you soon...
Only through Jesus.