It’s Not Just a Phone.

I started my new job with HOPE about a week and a half ago—and can I just tell you how thankful I am? Y’all, I am SO THANKFUL for early morning alarms and messy rooms and backed up laundry and stacks and stacks of reading. [Kellan is slightly less thankful. ;)] The thought of getting to be a real part of ending poverty makes my heart race, and we’re going to be talking about that a lot around here!

But today, I’m going to tell you about a phone. My phone, actually.

About a year ago now, Kellan flew to North Carolina to be with me as I watched my world begin to unravel. He’d moved to New York a week to the day after we’d gotten engaged, and had left his newly-minted bride-to-be beaming and elatedly scribbling wedding plans into a little black binder. He returned to bleary red eyes and quivering lips, sterile rooms and a very sick little brother.

Kellan felt helpless. The man who would hand me the moon if he could just figure out how to get his hands on it desperately wanted to fix it, and he couldn’t. He stood helplessly by as I crumbled, powerless to give me the only thing in the whole world that I wanted. He could not fix it.

My ancient cell phone was barely holding a charge anymore, which posed a herculean problem given that I needed my family to be able to reach me any time that I wasn’t at the hospital. Something in Kellan’s mind snapped, and the next afternoon he stuffed me into the car and drove me straight to the AT&T store. My protests fell on deaf ears as he put me on his cell phone plan and bought me my very first iPhone. He could not fix my little brother, but come hell or high water he was going to fix the phone.

I’ve never been so grateful for a piece of technology in my entire life. It was by far the most timely, practical gift that I’ve ever been given. I used the GPS to find the different hospitals that Ian was admitted to—I used it almost every single day. I snapped random pictures of Ian and I—pictures of coffee dates, wedding errands, and me curled up next to him in his hospital bed. And months later, one very last picture–a picture of my hand holding his. All of them, pictures that I never would have had if not for that fancy phone.

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I took videos. I took a video of his a cappella  group singing to him in the ICU. It was a video that I held up to his ear and played a thousand times—and I’m almost sure that one day I saw him try to smile. I took a video of him lying in his hospital bed as the steady rush of the ventilator helped him breathe in and out—and I would watch it over and over again at night right before I fell asleep, begging God to please let him still be breathing when I woke up. It was the phone I looked at in a frozen panic the second my eyes fluttered open each new morning, praying that all was calm. The phone that I held up to Ian’s ear and played music off of. The phone that lit up in a dark ICU room as thousands of texts and emails from praying friends and family and strangers poured in while I held Ian’s hand. I read him every single one.

When I started at HOPE, a kind employee graciously informed me that I would be sent a new phone, and transitioning to the company phone plan. My heart stopped as a thousand memories flooded my mind. I cringed, thinking about the archived pictures of the second to last coffee date that Ian took me on. He’d enthusiastically jumped behind the counter at his coffee shop to brew me a latte and impress me with his foam designs, and I’d laughed and snapped a picture.

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I thought of the day that Ian, Mom and I had been waiting in the hallway for yet another painful test. I’d breezed in with my wedding invitations, and in an effort to make Ian smile I’d spread all of my materials all over him and used him as a table. [Address stamps were delivered using his forehead as a level surface. :)] There was a picture of that, too.

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Then there was the picture on the yellow couch, of watching Emily’s ballet recital together, of cake-tasting entirely too many wedding cupcakes.

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I could save them all, of course—but inevitably my new phone would become cluttered with pictures of a life that had no choice but to carry on without Ian, and I hated that.

Grief means that it’s never just a phone.

The memories on my phone remind me that I am not home. That the world is broken, and that God’s heart shatters right along with ours as we stand and tearfully survey the wreckage. Last night, as I carefully saved every precious picture and video, I longed for heaven. I longed for no more broken hearts and broken lives, for the promise of no more tears to finally be ours. And until that day, if there’s one thing that I’d like my life to be hallmarked by, it’s fighting to redeem what has been broken. That is God’s heart, and I want it to be mine as well.

God is enough. He is enough for new phones and new pictures and even for a new life without my brother in it. Oh, it doesn’t feel like it in the midst of this broken Thursday morning—but I choose to cling to the undeniable truth of it.

He is enough for you, too.

Comments

  1. Praying for you today. This is a beautiful post.

  2. (so, um, yes, I would endorse your books in a heartbeat) says:

    “We think of visionaries as those who scale the mountains and gaze out grandly as they beckon others into in the alpine air of overcoming. That, however, is just a small portion of a visionary’s journey. By far the greater part is her clinging to the certainty of the sweeping vista amidst the squinting and straining through brackish swamps of pain and haggard gulps of brokenness. God has given Ashley grace to be a visionary in both senses. Let the one who has ears to hear catch the resolute proclamation—the VISION—from the dazzling peaks of exuberance all the way to the darkest hollows of grief, of the goodness of a Jesus who simply cannot be otherwise.”

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