After spending two months undergoing a bone marrow transplant, Catie returned home with a suppressed immune system. Any encounter with an angry virus or aggressive bacteria could be disastrous. She enjoyed some freedom, but we mainly kept to ourselves. Life was a little boring, cooped up with two old parents and a too-young sister. But avoiding crowds was a high priority, so Catie played at home and remained isolated from her friends.
She wanted to see her classmates and neighbors, and they wanted to see her too. Parents brought children to the house to wave through the window. That was wonderful, but she wanted to say “hello” as well.
After a few visits filled with waving and shouting through the window, we purchased three simple walkie talkies – one radio for Catie and two for friends who visited. Connections blossomed as walkie-talkie conversations ensued. Communication was sometimes halting and other times fluid. There were long pauses and then times when they talked on top of each other. But the connection was priceless.
Solomon said, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24) It certainly was pleasant to me as I watched and listened to the children prattling on and on.
Catie needed connections and conversations and so did Cay and I, with each other and with friends. For us, connection and conversations took place in four significant ways.
Date Night – For many years, Thursday night was reserved for Cay and me. We had a regular babysitter who knew Catie and Haley well and filled their evenings with special events. Most dates nights were simple – burgers and walks through the mall. Sometimes a concert or movie but mostly, conversations. Those few hours on Thursday evenings were crucial as we enjoyed uninterrupted discussion about us, the girls, and our peculiar circumstances.
Small Group – Our small group from church provided stability. Twice a month we met, shared concerns, laughed, prayed, and at times cried together. The support was spiritual, emotional, and often practical: errands run, meals cooked, or flowers delivered.
Faithful Family and Friends – Our family and friends during that season will be our pallbearers someday. Those friends are friends for life. Their support and concern were overwhelming. They cared for Haley, mowed our lawn, cleaned our refrigerator, covered my responsibilities at camp, and prayed diligently for Catie and us.
Quiet Comforters – Job of the Bible dealt with immense pain: the loss of his family, fortune, and health. The friends who came to comfort him did their best work when they sat nearby and said nothing. They practiced the ministry of presence. Dear friends sat for hours in the hospital waiting room, just to let us know they loved us. Their willingness to stay close and remain available said more than words ever could.
Connecting and communicating were huge for Catie, and they are invaluable for us today. Relationships with family and friends can take many forms, but the value of time and conversation are lessons we learned from walkie talkies at a window.
Refueling in Flight Ministries, Inc