You are Here

Today marks the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Like each of you, I am sure, I will never forget the horror of that day, the sadness that followed, and the bravery of so many. It is one of those iconic events that every single person that was alive on that day can tell you exactly where they were when they learned the news.

This summer, I had the opportunity to attend a play, inspired by the events following the 9/11 attacks, that had a tremendous impact on me. It was beautiful. It was fabulous. It was inspiring. And its message felt awfully familiar. 

“Come From Away” is a one act Broadway musical based on the true story of Gander, Newfoundland in the days following the September 11th attacks.

The facts are (no spoilers, this is a true and well documented story) Gander, Newfoundland boasted the largest airport in the world that was THE place for airplanes to refuel as they crossed the Atlantic. When jet planes were invented, refueling became unnecessary and the airport became mostly obsolete. It is a “village” of approximately 9000 residents who have a unique sense of local pride. 

As the events of the morning of September 11th unfolded, the United States government shut down the U.S. air space in an unprecedented action.  All the planes currently in flight had to land somewhere, safely and quickly. 

Thirty-eight jet airplanes were diverted to land in Gander, Newfoundland. Thirty-eight jet planes full of 6700 passengers descended upon this community. 6700 men, women, and children, from around the world, who had no idea they would end up on this island and, for so many hours, no idea why.

It was an ordinary day for the people in Gander until they heard the news and time stopped. For the plane people, affectionately known as “come from aways” they were losing their minds being stuck on their planes for, in some cases, over 20 hours.  Many did not know what had happened at all. They were desperate to get off the planes until they realized they were in a dark and strange place that they never expected to be. One of the many beautiful songs in the show is “Lead Us out of the Darkness”, sung as the “come from aways” are disembarking and are greeted by Gander’s Salvation Army. In Gander International Airport, there is a TV with the showing the footage of the attack and there is a map that has a red circle and says, “You are here.”

You are here. Have you ever landed somewhere and been told “you are here” when you never imagined you would be? A diagnosis. A loss. You seem to be surrounded by strangers and you were desperate to learn what was happening, only to yearn for the five minutes before when you didn’t know. You are here. You have cancer. He is gone. There was an accident. 

You are here. 


Who will lead you out of the darkness?

In the case of the come from aways, they are greeted by compassion and warmth. The people in Gander anticipated needs and responded with kindness. And it didn’t take long for most of those who didn’t want to be “here” to acclimate.

Have you ever been to a chemo infusion center? A bereavement support group? An Al-anon meeting? These places are populated much like the town of Gander in those days in September 2001: half full of terrified come from aways but very often led and directed by people who understand and know how to help. 

The passengers on the plane were not able to get their luggage, so once in Gander, the townspeople lend them clothes and try to get to know their visitors. The come from aways sing about feeling like they are at a strange costume party. Nothing seems familiar and many things feel awkward in this strange place “Who am I if I don’t feel like the me from yesterday?”

Who am I now that I am here? Who am I without hair? Without a spouse? With a wheelchair?

The musical’s most beautiful scene, in my opinion, comes with a song called “Prayer”. One of the passengers recalls music that he heard in a dream that came to him on his cot in Gander. He sings, “Make me a channel of your peace, where there is hatred let me bring your love, where there is injury, your pardon, Lord, and where there is doubt, true faith in You.” He continues the song but is joined by a rabbi singing about Shalom in Hebrew and then a Muslim chanting along. 

“Where there is despair in life, let me bring hope…” Every day that I work in hospice and palliative care, meeting wonderful people in horrible circumstances, this is my prayer. When there is pain or fear from disease or grief, those of us that respond, personally or professionally share this sentiment. And for these displaced people surviving the days after the horrific terrorist attack, all faiths pray the same prayer. It reminds each of us that even in unthinkable circumstance, in places we never imagined we’d be, our needs are not so different at all. 

Finally, the come from aways are granted permission to return home. Due to the incoming hurricane (!), the 38 planes leave quickly and all passengers cheer when they cross the border into the USA. They celebrate with each other and share the amazing experiences they had in Gander. It is on one of the planes that a collection is begun to thank the people who hosted them. (That collection began what is now a large annual scholarship worth over a million dollars).

Meanwhile, in Gander, the mood is less jovial. Those who turned themselves inside out for the come from aways finally have a moment to think about what has happened and who they’ll deeply miss. More somber feelings are felt when the plane people actually get home and realize the world will never be the same again.

For one character, this is where she learns what she has feared. Her firefighter son was killed at the World Trade Center. There is chilling silence as she weeps. 

This portion of the play is a perfect depiction of survivorship. “We made it!” “That’s over” turns into “Not everybody was as fortunate”. Thankfully, many decide “let’s give back” and “let’s never forget” and then quietly they learn that this episode is a permanent part of their life story.  Surviving this ordeal, enduring the hardship they faced, will continue to shape the narrative of their lives going forward. 

The play concludes with a fabulous joyful scene celebrating the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks in Gander. The “come from aways” return and are greeted warmly by their old friends with whom they’ve kept in close touch. It is on this day that the city of Gander is gifted with the only piece of steel from the World Trade Center for a memorial.  One of the plane people announces that every year on September 11th he closes his office and gives each of his employees $100 to use for random acts of kindness. It is his way of remembering. 

The mayor of Gander, in closing, states, “Tonight, we honor what was lost but we also commemorate what we found.”

Can I get an Amen?

Today, #neverforget is trending- appropriately so. We can never EVER forget the attacks of this day 18 years ago, but we should also never forget the uprising of humanity and outpouring of kindness that occured in the days following. Too often, each one of us can be a “come from away” asking to be led out of the darkness. We find ourself in a place we never thought we’d be, trying to assimilate, and learning that our world is now forever changed. We can also be the islanders who offer kindness and empathy. We can be channels of peace for those in need. And if we never forget those plain truths, I think we do honor the victims of 9/11. 



Voicelessness...

I can’t speak.

I literally cannot talk. A few hoarse words before my vocal cords totally give out and there is no sound above a faint whisper.

I’ve been this way for just over 48 hours and I can’t believe it. 

I very rarely get sick (god bless my stellar immune system) and when I do, I might get hoarse, but I cannot recall a case of laryngitis this severe- ever. 

Advil. Mucinex. Gargling. Resting. Steaming. No improvement. Talk for more than 10 minutes and we are back to no sound at all. 

I’m going out of my mind because I have a lot to do, a lot to say. Empathy is my trade and words are my currency.  I need to talk because I have important things to explain. This isn’t a good time, sickness Gods. Please afflict me with something else or save this for another time. Remember… ahem… what I do….

COME ON! I minister to the terminally ill, I speak about their choices and I talk about ways to navigate their circumstances. I don’t sing, I don’t dance, but I talk. Of course I try to spend a lot of time listening, but if my job is to provide the benefit of my experience, I need to use my voice!

And yet, I’m old enough to know that when self important thoughts fill one’s head, there is a lesson trying to be taught. Certainly, this is no different.

So I’ve contemplated my silence and I think I have been reminded of a few things. Perhaps if I share them, those aforementioned sickness Gods might restore my speech.

  1. Maybe stuff just happens and that is that. Strong possibility, no doubt.

In my line of work that contains so much spirituality and meaning, one can often discount the possibility - or reality- that sometimes “it is what it is” “shit happens” and “what will be will be”.

  1. My speech has been silenced because I am trying to teach a lesson someone has to learn for themselves.

Spoiler alert to gentle readers who don’t know me personally: I am a control freak. Especially in palliative and hospice care, I have seen enough things “go badly” at end of life that I can get - admittedly- hyper focused on orchestrating things to not “go badly”. Fact: that is not always my call. Sometimes things have to play out in a way for that particular person in that particular situation to see or learn what they need to see or learn. Every time I get frustrated with this, it brings me back to my own sons wanting to buckle themselves in their car seats. As their desire for independence grew, both Ryan and Sean would swat my hands away as I reached in to fasten their buckles securely. I would stand by and TRY to say nothing, not interfere, all the while screaming inside with the knowledge that I could do it better and quicker and this was WAY too important to mess up. You know what? Given enough time, they did it right. In hindsight, those would have been perfect moments to exercise trust and faith, LOSE MY VOICE and allow them to figure out what they could do for themselves. 

  1. Could it be that my lack of self care practice has come back to bite me in a way that stings?

Alright, I’m not going down alone on this one. Friends, we ALL burn the candle at both ends. Some of us, myself included, will enter a season committed to self care and boundary setting but more often than not, we slip back into old ways and pay less attention to our own needs. I honestly tried this summer to keep up with all my physical and mental needs-and my family’s needs- and my patient’s needs. I made it, literally until the Friday before the first day of school. So close. But laryngitis and this crud caught me by the tail and reminded me that no one- NO ONE- is exempt from taking care of one’s self. The irony is I wasn’t afflicted with a sore shoulder or even an upset stomach. I was sidelined with something I couldn’t power through to keep doing what I thought I needed to do - my job. Given my schedule this week, only voicelessness would have kept me home today with my phone turned off. Coincidence? I kind of doubt it. Ultimately, the body keeps the score.

  1. Do I need to better understand the struggles of my patients who feel - or who actually have- no voice/ no ability to verbalize their needs/ fears/ goals?

So yesterday I woke up not feeling great, but thinking I could power through and see the patients I needed to see. My first patient was a 71 year old very kind man with ALS that is rapidly progressing. How ironic that I was the one in the conversation that was hard to hear/ understand. In his particular situation, there was a lot of information to cover and questions to answer. 75 minutes into the meeting, this sweet gentleman stopped the meeting and said, “It has been a long time since I have been able to take care of someone else. Please let me take care of you by asking you to stop talking. We can get back together when you feel better.” Being with the gentleman not only reminded me how frustrating and frightening it will be for him when he loses his speech, but he also taught me how important it is for people to whom we provide care be allowed to provide care to others. 

My second patient was one I’ve come to consider a friend- my age with an advanced cancer. We met at her oncologist’s office, with her husband and mother, to discuss the possibility of continuing chemotherapy. Her doctor has already stated that this cancer is not going to go into remission and the chemotherapy, will only continue to debilitate her. This young woman, however, has two young daughters and is simply not ready to stop. There was SO much I wanted to say at this appointment and yet my voice literally wasn’t strong enough: “what are we hoping to achieve with this next round of treatment” “what parameters are we using to define the patient can tolerate this next round” “can we have a conversation about prognosis so that we don’t spend precious time “sicker” secondary to treatment?” I don’t have the answers to those questions but I have the certainty they needed to be asked. I couldn’t because my voice was literally gone.  I made some indiscernible noises and lots of facial expressions that made a lot of sense to me, but no one else in the room understood that. I was also increasingly sensitive to the body language of every one else in the room which was unanimous in: “let’s not talk anymore, OK?” How many patients and families fail to discuss those things because their voices have been figuratively lost? It can be hard to speak up when the questions and potential answers are, very likely, unspeakable. 


Sooner than my family is probably ready, my actual voice is going to come back. I know how this goes. Some time around tomorrow, my cough is going to loosen up and my ability to speak my mind will be back. More than likely, my cold medicine induced ramblings will subside. But for the next little while, I am going to love my voice like a hero back from war- an absence that has made my heart grow fonder and more appreciative. I must continue to use it with purpose for my passion, but remember to care for it, now realizing its fragility. 


I invite you, HOPEspotters, to think of what you use most to deliver your special gifts and implore you to take very special care of it.  I find this time of year to be an intense season: heat, back to school resolutions, families reestablishing routines. Be kind to yourselves and each other. There,  I said it.



Good byes and Good Friday

I was born on Good Friday.

In 1971, Good Friday fell on April 9th, which was the day I was born.  For this reason, even before I understood the beauty and the message of the Easter season, I was intrigued by Good Friday. And by the time I was 13 or 14, I finally stopped making the joke, “you know why they call Good Friday good? ‘Cause I was born on that day”.

Yup. I was hilarious.

But even when the laughter died, I still asked myself what makes Good Friday good? It’s like the saddest day ever, right? Taken at face value, it is the remembrance of Christ’s crucifixion and death- not even remotely ‘good’. More like Horrible Friday!

(Disclaimer: I am aware that theologians have long explained the assignment of the name Good Friday. I am also aware that no one reads this blog for theology- or even facts, for that matter.)

Driving around seeing patients today, I was thinking a lot about Good Friday and Easter and all that its message does to restore me. The rain, and the acute sicknesses of todays’ patients, however, had put me in quite the Good Friday funk. Looking for a perk, I scanned Spotify and put on John Denver’s “Sunshine on My Shoulder”- an all time favorite that makes me feel warm. After singing along loudly, the playlist moved on to another John Denver classic, “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” (Also famously sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary...coincidence, I think not!)

“Leaving on a Jet Plane” is one of those songs that will send tears to my eyes and put an immediate lump in my throat after just the first few bars. Ever since it was popular when I was very young, and up until now, I can sing all the words but it will always ALWAYS make me sad.

When I was growing up, my beloved grandparents lived in Arizona and we only got to see them twice per year. “Gummy and Pop-pop” would fly east to visit us at Christmastime and the four Lanes would travel west to visit their home for April break. Gummy and Pop-pop were the absolute best- loving, giving, fun- and they would, bless their hearts, turn themselves inside out for our visits. It was my ABSOLUTE favorite time of year. From the moment we landed at Sky Harbor in Phoenix and Katie and I would SPRINT off the jetway to tackle them with hugs, I would have a permanent smile on my face for the entire visit. I can not remember ever being happier than I was on those trips.

My smile would, however, immediately and dramatically disappear on departure day. The routine included getting out the suitcases, packing our airplane “fun bags”, stripping the sheets and cleaning up the bathroom as Gummy insisted we not bother. Mom would make sure Katie and I were dressed in appropriate “flying outfits” (my how times have changed) and Gummy would spray one of our stuffed animals with her “Youth Dew” perfume so we could drink in her scent during our months apart. And through this entire routine, I would be battling to not cry. I hated- absolutely HATED- leaving Gummy and Pop-pop’s house.

Inevitably, every year, I would lose the battle to not cry just as we would get close to the airport. Big tears would start to spill over as my Dad would double check his sport coat for our boarding passes. In those days, anyone could go right up to the gate, which Gummy and Pop would, of course, do and they would even wait until the plane took off so they could wave through the window. And I would cry and cry. Not a “waaah waaah waaah” kind of cry like a baby, just a silent and sad hiccuppy cry that usually subsided somewhere over New Mexico.

So I am not sure if “Leaving on a Jet Plane” would play on the car radio in my grandparents’ Tornado (tore-nah-dough) or the Jet plane part reminded me of the annual Phoenix back to Newark flight, but the melancholy song is still an arrow through my forty-eight year old heart.

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go,

I’m standin here outside your door

I hate to wake you up to say goodbye…”

For me, whether John Denver or Mary from Peter, Paul and Mary is singing, the image of the singer standing at the threshold of the bedroom next to their packed suitcase brings me right to the feeling of deeply regretting an obligation that is making me leave this comfortable place.

But the dawn is breakin, it’s early morn

The taxi’s waiting

He’s blowin’ his horn

Already I’m so lonesome

I could die.”

The taxi. That damned beckoning taxi. Don’t you know the singer doesn’t want to leave?!  ENOUGH WITH THE HORN ALREADY!

And it was in that verse, sung by someone deeply in love who doesn’t want to leave the one they love, but answering obligation despite the tax on his heart, was what brought me back to Good Friday.

Easter has songs. Christmas has songs. And yeah, yeah Good Friday has a famous song, but I submit that “Leaving on a Jet Plane” is a song with the Good Friday message.

(And I mean NO disrespect or sacrilege by comparing dying on a cross to a business trip- really, I get it.)

Imagine for a minute if the singer of “Leaving on a Jet Plane” is Jesus. Jesus, at the time of his death, was a young man with a deep love for his people. Scripture tells us that even though he accepted his fate, he was afraid. Jesus took time to say goodbye to his friends and let them know how much he loved them. Jesus implored them to stay focused on the future he had promised them, despite the sadness they might feel from being separated from him.

Now the time has come to leave you,

One more time, let me kiss you,

Then close your eyes

I’ll be on my way…

Dream about the days to come,

When I won’t have to leave alone

About the times, I won’t have to say…..”

Obligation and necessity push the singer’s goodbye, but there is no question where his heart remains.

Oh, Babe.. I hate to go….”

Just like I hated leaving Gummy and Pop-pop’s house, just like parents hate leaving their too soon adult children at college or just like my hospice patients hate saying goodbye to their loved ones and vice versa, Jesus’s heart broke as he took up the cross and began his trek to Calvary.

Saying goodbye to someone you love can be the hardest thing we ever have to do in life. Sad. Painful. Gut wrenching. Heart breaking.

So I am back to the question, What in the “heck” makes Good Friday good?

Of course, people that remember Good Friday know about Easter Sunday. Jesus’s “goodbye” was short, not permanent and transformed into a magical and everlasting “hello again” that is the greatest story ever told.

Resurrection is cool. Way cool. And you can’t have Easter and what it gives without Good Friday, right? But is that enough to make it ‘good’? Because I still can’t stop thinking about the man- on the cross- who died- and was wrapped and buried in a tomb- that was blocked by a large stone.

We didn’t want to say goodbye to what went into that tomb.

Or did we?

Scripture tells us Jesus died for our sins. He died so that we, his beloved people, could have everlasting life.

In the season of Lent, the forty days leading up to Easter, followers of Jesus are asked to make sacrifices during this time. Give up something or give of yourself in a way that brings you closer to God and more mindful of his sacrifice. Some people give up broccoli like that matters at all. Some people give up meat on Fridays during Lent which is cool if you consider tilapia, salmon or lobster a sacrifice. Others, however, are more deeply called to embrace the spirit of the season: they may give up something that tries to hold power over them like an addiction, a compulsion or a resentment.

And I believe it is in those sacrifices, those offerings, those gestures that move us closer to Jesus, that we find the good in Good Friday.  When Christ died for our sins and was buried but on the third day rose again, guess what didn’t follow him out?


All. That. Stuff.


I’ve written before about the virtues of Holy Saturday, the day in between hope lost and hope restored that mirrors where so many of us live every day. Between diagnosis and treatment, devastation and relief, Holy Saturday is where we hold space. And of course I’ve written about Easter- my blog is called HOPEspot, after all. I’ve praised its gifts and reminded us that they’re there for us only if we roll back the stone in front of our own tomb and rejoice for what we’ve been given.

For those that have spent Lent praying and striving to be a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend, or a better person in ways that made them get uncomfortable and dig deep within themselves, Good Friday is for you, my friends. Good Friday invites us to throw it all up there with Jesus- put your sin, your weakness, your anger, your burden up on that cross and let it die. Jesus is resurrected but your sins are not. They die today. On a cross. In Calgary. With a man who was willing to assume them all so that you could be saved.


That, to me, sounds pretty good.




Help in Humboldt

Why do I spend my Sunday mornings like this?

HOPEspotters, most of you know I am a devout lover of sports. I follow all the major leagues and teams at both the college and pro level and really put the “fanatic” in the fan for the teams I love. And while I may not be an expert at the X’s and O’s for each game, I study all the players and the coaches in order to keep current.

I am genuinely not a competitive person, by nature, which is probably good since my own career in sports forced me to get pretty familiar with the “L” column. Sure, I like to win, maybe even love it, but the thrill of the kill isn’t the thing that sports feeds me.

Following sports, from pee-wee softball to the NFL, fulfills my love of stories. Stories that provide the most fascinating allegories for life. So many stories, so many lessons.

And no one- I mean no one- tells those stories better than the team at ESPN that produces “E:60”.

On the busiest of days, I have found myself stopped in my tracks, suddenly captivated by the tale of a legless wrestler, a deaf football team, a college basketball player who survived TWO plane crashes, presented by Jeremy Schapp and Bob Ley.  And at the end of each story, I’m usually crying, often breathless, and always reminded of the resiliency of the human spirit. There’s gifts, there’s hardships, there’s redemption and there’s inspiration. Sometimes, it is better than church.

I had the chance to meet Jeremy Schaap at an ALS Fundraising Gala in Atlanta two years ago and  I went kind of ‘fan girl’ on him. He was a true gentleman and asked why I was attending the event. When I told him I was generously asked by a family who lost a loved one to the awful disease, and I had participated in her care, he was effusive with praise for the role of the hospice nurse. A table turn I did not expect. What we agreed upon in the course of our conversation was this: we loved our jobs. The people we meet inspire us and their stories never leave us. Sometimes it can be very emotional to listen to their stories, but when we allow ourselves to be open to them, there is always beauty.

So me and Jeremy… ya… peas and carrots…

Anyhoo, Mr. Schaap and his team just produced another doozy, “Humboldt Strong”. While unloading the dishwasher this morning, I turned on the TV which was already tuned to ESPN from last night’s Final Four games.

“Humboldt Strong” is narrated by Wayne Gretzky and tells the unbelievably tragic story of the horrific bus crash involving the Junior Hockey team, the Humboldt Broncos, from Humboldt, Saskatchewan. On April 6, 2018, on the way to a play- off game, the Broncos’ bus was hit by a semi- truck that ran a stop sign. This catastrophic and devastating event led to 16 deaths. There were 13 survivors, two of whom were paralyzed and two with significant traumatic brain injuries. The number of hearts broken by the incident is immeasurable. The accident sent the community, the country, the hockey world reeling. It was the worst mass casualty auto accident in Canada’s history and it was another example of the unbelievable and incomprehensible fragility of life.

The story of the Humboldt Broncos can be dissected on so many different levels. There’s loss, there’s grief, there’s anger, there’s determination, there’s community spirit. There’s a lot in the mere 60 minutes allowed to the story. A story, I am sure, that only one year later, isn’t over yet.

But there was one detail, a fairly small one, in fact, that has stuck with me today- resonated, perhaps.  During this. season of Lent, this detail seemed to illuminate a timeless and often redundant question that has to do with feeling forsaken and seeking healing.

In classic E:60 fashion, the narration gets slower as the recounting of the inevitable accident approaches. The bus is shown traveling a two lane highway that seems to be in the middle of nowhere.

“At 4:58 PM, the charter bus carrying 29 Humboldt Broncos players and coaches, crossed the intersection of…. and was hit by a semi truck driving at….” “The top of the bus was literally ripped in two….” “The cargo that was carried by the truck had been spilled all over the landscape..”

“At 5:16, the first batch of emergency responders arrived…”


4:58.


5:16.

18 minutes.


1,080 seconds.

Impressively fast for the middle of nowhere. And yet… 18 minutes. E.I.G.H.T.E.E.N minutes. One thousand eighty seconds.

As I watched the rest of the documentary, I was utterly distracted, fairly haunted, by those eighteen minutes. What was it like for the people who survived the initial impact to wait 18 minutes? And I bet 18 minutes seems a lot longer when one doesn’t know if it will “only” be 18 minutes? And you’re in pain, and scared? And I think it is pretty cold in Saskatchewan, Canada in April, eh?

Eighteen Minutes.

And then I started to think less about the length of time those poor young men, and a few women, had to wait for help and more about if they wondered if it was coming at all. When your life gets literally blown apart by a semi truck going at full speed, I would imagine it would be normal, understandable, in fact, to question or even lose faith. Maybe in their panic and pain, they felt forsaken.

And then, of course, I started to think of all of us, who at times have been lying in a cold field, in pain and scared, and wondering when help is coming and if it will come at all. And sometimes, in the metaphor, we sit in that cold and in that pain for a hell of a lot longer than eighteen minutes.

“Mr. Jones, there were some unusual findings in your colonoscopy. We’d like you to schedule an MRI but it looks like the next available appointment isn’t available until next month.”

“There are clearly some abnormalities on the fetal ultrasound but things might change throughout the course of the pregnancy and the severity won’t really be clear until…”

“We won’t know how quickly this is going to progress and while there are some medications that might slow things down, statistics generally show that at Stage IV…”

“You’re leaving? Just like that? You’re leaving me?”

What about the people who love someone with an addiction and wonder if he or she will ever get “clean” (I hate that term, by the way) and sober?  Or the poor people who have a loved one that has gone missing, been taken, run away- and they lay on that metaphorical field in Canada wondering when the HELL help is ever going to come? Waiting out the storm can seem unbearable…

And maybe, sometimes, the wait is so painful, the thought of just surrendering to death seems inviting. Case in point, the recent suicides by the Parkland shooting survivors or the father of the Sandy Hook shooting victim. That man, Jeremy Richman, lay in that cold Canadian field, in apparent acute pain, so profound that the help he waited for for 6 years and 3 months, seemed for him to never come. And he couldn’t wait anymore.

And that, is terribly sad.

Just like some of the Humboldt Broncos, some bodies cannot stand the injury any longer and they cannot survive the wait. I pray that help has arrived for him, and others who’ve suffered like him, in a more peaceful and less tormented place.

My faith, my life experience and everything I stand for has taught me that help will always come- some way, somehow, some day a first responder will arrive. Sometimes it takes an excruciatingly long time. Maybe we’re not ready for them when it does arrive. Often times it isn’t in the form we expect, but I believe to the core of my soul that help always comes.

16 Humboldt Broncos died that day, but 13 survived. And after seeing the footage from the actual wreckage, that is 13 undeniable miracles. Because help showed up. It got there and it did what it needed to do.

Last year, I was giving a few remarks at our annual hospice bereavement service- an hour of remembrance for the loved ones of those who died in our program the previous year. My remarks included my “go to” phrase “I know it is never anyone’s best day when I, the “hospice girl”, shows up.” I understand the gravity of the situation if I have been called in. I was pleasantly surprised, however, at the end of the service, when a family member of a former patient came up and told me, “You should stop saying that. I was thrilled when you came. I felt like we were finally at a place where Mom wasn’t going to suffer anymore. I was so relieved. Throughout the course of her terrible illness, I think it was my best day.”  

Huh. Help- in a form other than expected- but help, nonetheless.

In my limited experience talking with people who’ve battled addictions, they are often very open about their rock bottom day. In trusted conversations, they share the circumstances that caused them to throw up their arms and cry, “Mercy” and most bless that day, because when they courageously surrendered their substance abusing ways, that was when the help came. And that was when they let the help in.

Ryan Leaf, former NFL quarterback, known for being a big time ‘bust’ with a bad attitude fell deeply into substance abuse after his career ended prematurely and he wound up in prison. His life is now turned around completely and he is devoted to helping others battle addiction and prevent drug abuse, through regular speaking engagements and one on one counseling. He’s taken his painful past and given it grace by sharing his experiences with others so that they may avoid similar pitfalls. On April 1, 2019, he tweeted, “7 years ago today I woke up on the floor of a prison cell.. I had nothing to live for, or so I thought. If I had known the size of the blessing that was coming, I would have understood the magnitude of the battle I was fighting. I got up, there is Hope!! #7yearssober”

Ryan’s 18 minutes played out of the course of a very scary and lonely and painful decade, but help did come. (And look at that, I am back to sports…)

And, oh yeah, there is another really good story about fear and pain, waiting and praying, wreckage, loss and redemption. Some people call it, in fact, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” and it’s final chapter is coming to churches near you in just two short weeks.

Spoiler alert: help comes. Not before sadness, not in the absence of fear, but it shows up BIG TIME.

Back in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, there is a large memorial at the site of the crash that occurred just over a year ago. The documentary shows how each of the featured ‘victims’ and their families are getting on with their lives. Clearly, there is still a lot of grief work to be done. No one is lying by the side of the road anymore, but there is still a lot of pain. The wounds are deep and large and the fractured hearts and hope and dreams are extensive. It is clear as the survivors and the family members of those that didn’t survive speak, there is a longing for help- or better said for healing- to arrive.

I hope they know that it will.


It absolutely will.