Saturday, September 13, 2008

God of the Little Things

It is hard to believe that it has been three weeks since Joseph left us. It feels like yesterday and at the same time like it was years ago. So much has changed. I decided to make a very small list of the ways God was there for us in the last few days in how the little decisions that we made correctly turned out to be huge. He is the God of the little things.

So here goes:

1. We brought Holly with us to Memphis: this was her first return trip since we moved out of the Barr's house in Feb. Every other time that we came for checkups and scans we left her with grandparents. Gillian and I were both growing concerned that she was beginning to feel left out and forgotten. Also Joseph specifically asked for her to go this time which was unusual. She got to be there with him for his last day of conciousness and although it was a little hectic getting her back here (thanks uncle Matt) it was such a blessing for us and for Joe P that she was there on his birthday.

2. We decided to stay with the Barrs: usually when we returned to Memphis we wanted to stay in the St. Jude hotel (the Grizzly House) because it was close and his appointment were always in the morning. Also we wanted some privacy to be able to discuss things if needed. But Jennifer and Matt were living in Matt's dad's house because of a catastrophic hot water heater explosion in their house which meant that they had lots of room for all of us. So we decided that it would be easier to stay with them even though they were thirty minutes from St. Jude. So we got the blessing of being with family after hearing the horrible news, and we got to celebrate his birthday with cousin WK who Joseph loves so much. We also got to see the dogs and one of the last pictures we took of Joseph was him snuggling on the couch with millie his favorite dog. It also helped us to make our quick exit from Memphis and allowed Jennifer to drive Gill, Joe and me home. If I had been driving on that trip, we would have most likely crashed.

3. I think this is the biggest; we changed one of his appointments: This is going to take a while to explain, so bear with me. I had grown so angry over the course of our time in and out of St. Jude at how long we had to wait for everything. It is an amazing place, but there is so much waiting for everything that it eventually grinds on you. They also schedule appointments in a seemingly random way. When we arrived we got his schedule for the week. It had appointments from Tuesday through Thursday. On Thursday we only had one appointment and it was with the Quality of life team. We considered skipping it since we didn't really know what it was, but I decided to see if they could change it so we could leave on Wednesday. Normally they are never able to change appointments because of all the patients they have, but she was able to schedule it Wednesday after his MRI. After I got it changed, I told Gillian and she reminded me that we had to be there Thursday and Friday anyway to start the new chemo, but I had forgotten since it wasn't yet on the schedule. Anyways, we just left it for Wednesday. So we met with a doctor from the Quality of Life team while Joseph was waking up from his MRI. The conversation was about his last days and was meant to get us thinking about what we wanted. We decided that hospice care would be best and we spent a lot of time talking about everything including what those last days would look like for him and for us. It was a great meeting and it really helped us deal with a lot of issues. At the end of the meeting he started to call around and was about to get us enrolled in the hospice care. I stopped him and said that we're not there yet. We're about to start a new chemo and we don't even know what this new MRI showed yet. Then he asked us if he could go look at it now and we emphatically said yes. Normally when he had MRIs we wouldn't hear the results until his next appointment, usually on the next day. Anyways, he came back the terrible news and we immediately got him into a hospice care. Joseph went into a coma that night and died the following day. If we had not changed that appointment, we probably would not have heard about his MRI that day and would have shown up the next day with him in a coma and his last hours would be in a hospital far away from his extended family. Instead we got to rush home and everyone got to see him and talk to him one last time.

4. Joseph made it back to Franklin: We decided to spend that night in Memphis and leave for home the next morning. On the morning he died, a hospice nurse in Memphis came to see him and told us that he didn't have very long. We didn't even know that he had slipped into a coma overnight. He had been awake from around 1-3 that morning and was talking and eating and refusing to go back to sleep. Deep down I doubted that the doctors would be able to correctly say that he only had a few days left and thought that maybe we'd have a couple of weeks, so I guess I didn't think that the end would come so quickly. When the nurse told us that he had hours, we decided to sprint home to be with everyone. Jennifer drove Gillian, Joe and me while Matt had the two girls in another car. Gillian and I held Joseph the whole time in the back seat. It was an awful drive. On two occasions he stopped breathing for over a minute and I couldn't feel a pulse and we thought he had gone. But then he would gasp and start breathing and pumping blood again. That was so painful to go through more than once, but I had been praying all morning that he would make it back home. It was like he was refusing to quit; we kept telling him that Mimi and Nana and everyone else was waiting for him back at the house with lots more birthday presents. Anyways, we made it home and was able to be with everyone again. It was totally an answer to prayer.

So there's a short list of the little ways God was with us in the end. It's amazing how so many small decisions turn out to be really big ones. He has also been with us in the big decisions and prayer requests over the past year providing physical and spiritual needs, but I can't stop thinking about how things could have turned out had He not been there for us at the end. As horrible as it all was, it was the best it could have been.


Anonymous said...

Thank you God, that you are in the midst of the big things and the small things. These small things don't seem so small to those of us who loved Joe P with all our being...they are huge...and we are so thankful to God for working in and through them. We continue to pray for healing and comfort for you, our dear son, and Gillian, our dear daughter, and Holly, the light of laughter that brightens up the day in the midst of such pain.
We love you, Mimi and Big Daddy

Craig and Gwen said...

Wow - just wow - amazed at how God can bring peace - praying for ya'll all the time!

Much love - Gwen

Tiffany said...

Thanks for sharing that with us.
You are all still in our hearts and prayers.

Nana said...

Our God is an Awesome God and we are so thankful that we were able to see him one more time.What a precious provision God made for Holly-Bear to be with her best friend on his 4th Birthday Joe P. wanted Holly with him.I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the past few months that we were able to see Joseph and Holly daily.We all miss Joe P. so much.Allen youre right it dos seem like yesterday but we have him with us in our hearts at all times and funny and great happy memories keep you going.Thank you Allen for sharing your pain.We love you and Gillian and Holly-bear more than words can say and Guess who loves you even more ?Jesus..I remember you saying that to Joseph when he was about 1 and a half.Isaiah 40;11 says "He tends his flock like a sheperd:He gather the lambs in his arms and carries them close to His heart;He gently leads those that have young..Nana Grandad and DAvey

Sarah Partain said...

What an awesome post--a testimony to God's faithfulness even through such a dark valley.
When we share the story of Amos' early birth, we focus on the little things God did for us, one of which is also timing of appointments. We could have made appointments on Friday to have stress testing done, but our midwife wanted us to go sooner than later. Thursday ended up being a slower than thought day for Nathan, so he was able to go with me to the appointment and it was on the way to the hospital that I began feeling regular feelings. When we got there, we found out that I was in labor and that Amos' heartrate was decreasing with each contraction. A few hours later, he was born and we found out that the placenta was detaching from the uterus, which if we had gone in any later, we would have had a much different outcome. And I probably wouldn't have known what was going on until it was too late.
It's the little things that do add up and show us later of God's great plan, his love and care for us. It's encouraging to look back and see that and hopefully, gives us faith for the next unsure time.
My mom called to tell me you were driving home and to pray that you would make it. I am so glad that God heard our prayers and gave you that special time together with your family.
I also have been thinking about what great birthday gifts Joe P has had in heaven and how for all of us, it will be better than anything we could receive on earth.
You all are still on our hearts and in our prayers.

Q's NEWS said...

I am so glad that Joseph's last days were so perfect. My brother, who is a missionary, has always told me "God is seldom early, but never late". Everytime I hear another story of perfect timing, I see how that is ALWAYS the truth.

I am so blessed that you guys are still writing - every update is great to read and also to know how to pray for you. You are never far from my thoughts and always in my prayers.

Susan in WV

*the Jones family* said...

How amazing....thank you for sharing these stories! God dwells in the heavens, but He certainly dwells among us as well. And He goes before us as your stories so clearly show. We will continue to pray for you guys.

Anonymous said...

This is my first time to write, but I am a long time reader of your blog. I still check daily for news. Even though I never met Joseph I miss him. My husband and I prayed for Joseph daily at our evening meals.I remember waking one night with a heavy heart and praying for your Family.
Thank you for sharing Your Sweet Joseph with all of us.
Cindy in Lebanon Tn.

Jennifer said...

You forgot one of the little things that God took care of for you - I was supposed to leave on Wednesday to go to Nashville to visit with Grandma. I wouldn't have been there to drive you. Of course Matt would have done it, but then Holly would have been in the car too, which would not have been good. God protected her from that trauma and allowed you and Gill to hold him with no distractions (except my crazy driving). Also, I truly believe God guided my hands on that steering wheel, (though not as first as I banged our car on the way out - did that leave a mark on the van anyway? Sorry!). But seriously, I was scared I would crash! The fact that we got there safely was truly God watching over us all. I'm so, so thankful we were able to spend that time together during Joseph's last days. Even though the news was horrible that Wed. night and Joseph was barely moving, it still had that special feel of us all being together. It felt like a slumber party. I love you and I'm proud to call you my brother (and sister).

Kellie Hutchins said...

Allen and Gillian,
I wanted to thank you for sharing your written thoughts on a computer screen. I never have followed a blog but I felt compelled to check in "One more time" as so many others have done all along this journey. I have returned so many times to see how I could pray for Joseph and then all of you. What a blessing it was to return today and see your hearts extended out for all to see.
The little things in our everyday lives are a reminder of His unfailing love for us.(Psalm 136)
I hate that you have to write it...but the sweetness of all your love for Joseph shines so perfectly. It is allowing all of us to be changed for the better.
Much Love from my family to yours,

Anonymous said...

God is Good!

Christy said...

Thanks y'all for sharing these. I hope that the blessings and perspective you are giving all of us by sharing these thoughts will be restored to you a thousand times over. God is doing amazing things through your blog and your willingness to share your unfolding family story, thank you for your faithfulness to update it and share your lives with us. Love, Christy Wright and family

kelly robinson said...

I am weeping at my desk. So grateful that you have eyes to see the grace of God. So often we focus on the perceived failures of God and yet if we look there is miraculous grace. I thank God for your vision---your ability to see the profound provision is heartening. I am lifted, thank you. I continue to pray for your family. May you turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of this earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace. Thank you God for the Peabody family.

Christy said...

Beautiful thoughts in the midst of horror - thank you so much for sharing those.

Randi said...

Hi Allen,
Thank you for opening up to us with those thankful things. I think of your son every single day and will probably do so every day of my life.
The thing that stuck out to me most was that Joseph wanted his dear sister to be with him during that day- God knew and was working through Joseph so that those best friends would have each other. They will always be best friends. When I see Holly in photos, I am astounded by how much she reflects her brother. How blessed they were to have each other; Joseph will always be her big brother.
Thinking and praying for you all every day.
Randi Booth

Jody (atlanta) said...

Crying and filled with love for you all and God and how those little things are HUGE and made a big difference for all of you. You ALL are truly amazing family unit.....extended and immediate. I thank God for having Jennifer/Matt there as support and drivers. I remember talking with Gill the week before about bringing Holly or not...Joseph knew to ask for his sister to be there with her. Things/God happen for a reason. I just keep reading this over and over...thanks Allen so much for putting it all in writing. It definately makes me feel closer to you all.

I admit I am still angry and frustrated at times that you all had to go through that horrible pain and heartache especially that last 24 hrs, but your faith and amazing outlook is influencing me big time (another God thing as Gill and her mom would tell me).

My heart always thinking of you all and praying.

PS - Abigail was pretending today she was a puppy turning 2 and she built a birthday cake and candle out of leggos/plastic fruit/veggies (you all can tell I am NO cook). I sang 'Happy Birthday' and she made a wish. I asked her what she wished for and she said "That I can hang with Joseph and Winnie in heaven tonight in my dreams and see them whenever I want." She has been asking lots about Heaven and learning from you all has taught me how important to truly teach my girls about faith.


Anonymous said...

Hi, you don't know me, but I am a sister in Christ. Just wanted you to know that your post lifted my hopes this evening, that God is still in control of the "little things." I am praying for you and your family. Praise God for who He is and that our strength comes from His never-changing joy.

Anonymous said...

I am always amazed at the "little things" God does for all of us. Thanks for reminding us to look for them. Continuing to pray for your sweet family.

Kate Etue said...

"Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . . you are with me." He also promises in that passage to "restore our souls." Praying this for you guys. You are an inspiration and a blessing to us.


Anonymous said...

This is my second comment tonight--(my other is a link to a great series on helping a friend through grief--I posted it under Gillian's post about Christy's story and the article link) I am a bit wordy, yes...but I had to tell you this story. My son, who is in Kathy's class, was missing his grandmother the other night (she died about 15 months ago). He said, "When I get to heaven, the first thing I'll do is talk to all the really important ones, like God and Jesus and all of those people, and then I'm going straight to hug CoCo (his name for his grandma). After that, I'll play with Joseph and have fun." I wanted you to know that your precious son is not forgotten--and I imagine that there will be a lot of us who want to play with him in heaven! Praying for peace tonight for all of you (I love you, Kathy!).

Alison Fontenot

Our Family said...

Thank you for continuing to share your hearts. I agree with Cindy from Lebanon, TN - I never met Joseph, but I miss him.

Thank you Gillian for your post about being a mom. As a stay-at-home mom to two small children with a husband who works a lot I could completely relate and your observations from both before and after Joseph's diagnosis really put the normal, everyday struggles into perspective. I felt like you spoke directly to me at a time when I needed it so thank you.

You all continue to be in my prayers. Thank you again for continuing to share your story. Tonights post made me cry all over again.

God bless you all.

Kelly & Matt's sister-in-law)

Sarah-Jane said...

Thanks Allen. I am so thankful God allowed you all to be in Franklin too. I was so thankful to be able to say goodbye in person and I think my kids were too. Thanks for sharing all that. I know it was a hellish time, but I remember just being so thankful that Holly was there and that you all decided to bring her.
love you guys so much.
also, gill, I remember distinctly you telling me about christy and the soda. I laughed so hard.

Anita J. said...

It is beautiful that you are able to praise God for these things. He did some wonderful things for us when we lost my brother, but I have not been able to write publicly about much. Your strength is amazing. The way He is carrying you is amazing. Thank you for testifying to His goodness. May He continue to hold you very close.

Anonymous said...

That was an amazing post! I am crying with joy at how we can all see God's hand in the "little things". What a good reminder that although God allows us to go through horrible, truely horrible things sometimes, He has not left us, He is still there weeping with us and holding us so gently. Thank you for sharing such amazing details.

redeemedintohope said...

beautiful. something that a counselor suggested to me when I was going through a hard time and questioning God- she said that every time I questioned the Lord to sit down and write down everything that I KNOW to be true about Him in that moment. That even if its only two things to just continue to write those two things over and over until I believe and know there to be more. Hopefully this will bring some grounding to you all as well in the midst of questioning and doubt.


Anonymous said...

Your strength and faith is so inspiring. We continue to think about you and pray for you every day. Thank you so much for sharing these things.

Glen and Kelly Iannucci

courtney said...

That's an incredible blessing to be able recognize God's hand in the ways that you are able. I am so thankful that you and Gillian are the type of parents that you are to Joe and Holly. I don't think there is any greater gift than a parent who relies on their Father. Thanks for sharing this with us...

Anissa Mayhew said...

It truly blesses my heart to know that throughout your struggle, you're still finding God's hand in your life. It's harder some days than others, but he's always there, giving the strength and when the strength fails, giving the comfort.

You remain in my faithful prayers for healing and that Joseph's light continues to shine in your life.

Anonymous said...

Allen and Gill,

As i was reading your posts it started to hit me that while all these (not so) small decisions were being made and details worked out there were hundreds of people-your brothers and sisters in Christ- crying out to God on your behalf. God heard the prayers of his people.

paige cunningham

Anonymous said...

Allen - it's amazing to see the providence of God in those small things - seemingly small things, anyway.

It's also a powerful and poignant image to think about the image of you holding your son while he's dying, and the pain you went through. I'm sure that is like the Father holding his Son as he died.

Love you guys very much and will continue to pray for the Father to constantly be persuading you, and everyone around you (including those of us who read your blog constantly), of the truth of the gospel. That our Savior will one day raise our bodies from the dead to spend forever with the saints and with the holy Trinity in friendship and love. - scott cunningham

Anonymous said...

Thank you Allen and Gillian for sharing how God was in control in your darkest hours. Even in the depth of your pain we thank God for you seeing how He was at work in the small things. You have reminded us of how God really is at work all around us. He cares for our every need. Our prayers are with you always.
love, vann & norma

batmar said...

thanks for sharing with everyone, al. it was really encouraging when you told me these things the night of the funeral...glad to know you are still remembering the little blessings.

"see" you when i get back from denver. it's been an 4 or 5 nights.


Dee Dee said...

I have been following your painful story for quite some time. As a mom who has also lost a little one (quite differently) and had to spend hospital time interacting with a vast variety of doctors, all of whom cared, but some of whom lacked something in personal touch, I look at the pain you have been through and the profession I believe you have chosen: medicine. I am sure there have been times along this journey when you'd have preferred to NOT know what the terminologies and the statistics meant but to remain in ignorance. And yet I know that God can use this experience to make you a well-rounded doctor with a heart for hurting patients and hurting families. Although if I were you I'd still prefer to have my boy back, I am praying that God uses what He has etched in your heart to make you someone who can show great compassion in your professional walk.

Brea said...

Now you've got me crying again. Thank you for sharing the ways God provided for you, even until the end. I am amazed at the peace God is giving you and the ability to trust Him in the midst of such a horrific time. It gives me hope that He does provide what we need for what He asks us to walk through. We love you guys and are thinking of you and praying for your so much.

So Blessed said...

It is indeed precious that you recognize God's goodness and blessings in the midst of your sorrow...that is faithfulness. Prayers continue for your family as you travel this grief journey.

amberhess said...

We are praying for you and thanking our precious Lord for all that He is speaking to you in your pain. He is speaking to us as a result. May He continue to comfort you and give you peace.
The Hess Family

carolyn page said...

Thanks Allen. After reading your blog, Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice (Phil 4:4)came to mind. Thanks Allen for encouraging us to seek the goodness of the Lord despite the pain. Your maturity in the Lord is inspiring.


Anonymous said...

Please let us know how little Holly is doing with her loss.

Sarah-Jane said...

Hey Allen, just want you to know how much we love you and are praying for you.

Holly said...

Wow, guys! That's all I can say - is Wow! You guys continue to bless us all with your incredible faith and even gratitude to the Lord in a time that most people would be so bitter and angry. Thank you for sharing these blessings of the last days with Joseph. It is awesome that you are looking at the ways God intervened to make the last days more special and more what you wanted Joseph to experience in the end - particularly being with family. I am thankful that the Lord has ordained your steps the entire time!
Love ya,

margie moore said...

A friend sent me your blog, and I have been on my computer for several hours reading your entire story from beginning to end. I have wept for you and the tears won't stop. I have a 3 year old son and young daughter, and looking at your pictures and videos remind me so much of them. Just know I am praying for you tonite. I already know your story has changed me in so many good ways. Thank you for sharing your journey.

Anonymous said...

Amen! Those were God's provisions & He will richly bless you for praising Him through your circumstance. You will be richly rewarded. God bless you & yours. Your sweet Joseph is whole & perfect & in the place where Jesus prepared a room for him. Keep your eye on that prize to which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Abbie said...

Wow--the Quality of Life appointment change and then looking at the MRI results--that was an amazing blessing. I'm so grateful that the Lord orchestrated those details. Thank you for sharing about that. We're praying for your family.

notes from em said...

I am in tears... i dont know what to say.
i keep telling myself the words you used to minister to me.
God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.
thank you

Lynn T said...

Allen, thanks for sharing this. It is amazing to see how God worked out so many details and these decisions you made turned out to be huge. I love what Paige Cunningham wrote..while details and decisions were being worked out hundreds of people were crying out to God on your behalf and how God heard the prayers of His people. It truly increases my faith. I especially love the detail, the big detail- that Holly was in Memphis with you all. I love you all so much, Lynn

Chloe said...

There is certainly a lot that is beyond comprehension and defies rational thought in this life. I am glad to hear your posts, and know how you are doing. It's hard to be so far away, but the posts bring you all a little closer. love chloe

by Katharine Tynan Hinkson

The door of Heaven is on the latch
To-night, and many a one is fain
To go home for one's night's watch
With his love again.

Oh, where the father and mother sit
There's a drift of dead leaves at the door
Like pitter-patter of little feet
That come no more.

Their thoughts are in the night and cold,
Their tears are heavier than the clay,
But who is this at the threshold
So young and gay?

They are come from the land o' the young,
They have forgotten how to weep;
Words of comfort on the tongue,
And a kiss to keep.

They sit down and they stay awhile,
Kisses and comfort none shall lack;
At morn they steal forth with a smile
And a long look back.

Jaime said...

I am so very thankful for these as well. Thank you for sharing these with us.

Lauren Klein said...

I'm so glad you are able to find comfort in these blessings.

Anonymous said...

What an AWESOME God we have!