As Scott and I are thousands of feet above the ground, winging our way from Tampa to Chicago (and then on to Dayton), I will update here a bit and share highlights from our trip to Tampa.
We arrived in rainy Tampa Wednesday evening, January 27, and had the pleasure of sharing dinner with the brother and cousin of another young man who died on the ship with my brother in 1980. We spent several hours together and could easily have chatted for several more hours if time had allowed. We are all pretty bummed that we forgot to get any pictures that night.
Sadly, the rain continued on through Wednesday night and all through the day Thursday, which was the day of the annual Blackthorn Memorial Service. The rain forced the ceremony inside, causing some loss of the poignancy and beauty that is always present when the service can be held at the site of the monument in Blackthorn Memorial Park. We were told that in the thirty-five years of these annual services, this has only happened twice now. In spite of the change of venue, though, it was still a blessing to be there among so many people who continue gathering each year to honor and remember that tragic night and the many lives that were changed. We weren’t able to get many pictures that day, but we did mange to get a few.
We joined some of the other family members and survivors for lunch again, just as we did last year, and enjoyed that time of warm fellowship.
That evening the brother of one of the ship’s survivors kindly opened up his home and prepared a FL shrimp boil for the family members who were able to make it for that.
Thankfully, we awoke Friday morning to sunny skies. Scott and I had a very long phone conversation in our hotel room with a key person in MA who is providing some guidance as we continue searching for the right treatment for Scott’s cancer. We have been so encouraged to see how God is opening doors and guiding us through this already, and we feel like we are getting close to the right decision about this. We hope to have a more definite plan within the next couple of weeks now, and we will keep you posted. As I said, this was an encouraging phone conversation overall, but it was also emotionally draining.
Friday evening, we met with a small group of parents who have already adopted and wanted to just spend time together and discuss this life of parenting very broken children — its joys and its challenges. We were blessed and revived through this time with people of such like minds. Once again, we forgot to get any pictures.
Saturday was a great, but absolutely exhausting day. It began with a four-hour book-signing session at the Family Christian Bookstore in Lakeland, FL. Scott and I were privileged to meet quite a number of very interesting people with touching stories. One of these was an older man who had spent his childhood in a Catholic orphanage in the 1930’s, was kicked out onto the streets at the age of fourteen, spent many years “hobo-ing” across the country, and plummeted into a dark and depressing life before becoming a Christian in 1971. He has spent his life since, serving God through a number of Christian ministries. He and his wife talked with us for a long time before buying one of our books. We were so shocked when we realized that our four hours had passed and that it was time for us to pack up and move on to our next gathering. The manager of this store told us that they are the fourth biggest Family Christian in the nation, and that this had been their most successful book signing in a really long time. They also asked us to leave some books behind for them to stock on their shelves, and as we were leaving, one of those also sold. The whole day was a huge energy boost as we continue trying to learn what it means to be authors.
That evening, we were welcomed into the Lakeland home of Garry and Jan Seitz, TSC parents to at least 20 children (Sorry, Jan, I get confused about your numbers.) Almost all of their children are grown now, and they hosted another book signing in their family room and even provided dinner for everyone. We enjoyed our time there reconnecting with friends who have huge hearts for adoption, and it was a wonderful way to end our day. Sadly, we only got one picture of that time.
On Sunday, Scott and I spoke in a Hispanic church (with much English, thankfully) down in Tampa. Our time with this very warm and welcoming congregation reminded us so much of time spent worshiping with nationals in Bolivia (except in those cases, there was no English at all). And one more time — we didn’t get any pictures. Not sure why we had so much trouble remembering that piece this time.
We are so thankful that we were able to spend this time in Tampa, and now we are looking forward to getting back home. Our baby of the family, Jaden, turns six today, and we are anxious to be back with our children.
We still have many appointments coming at us this month, but we are slowly working our way through those. Lilyan’s spine surgeon had already heard about Scott’s cancer when we saw him last week, and he assured us that while he doesn’t want to postpone Lilyan’s major spine surgery too long, it would be okay for her to wait another six months to a year while we tackle this new piece of our lives. He expressed great concern for Scott and urged us to just put all of our focus on him for now.
We will continue to update you as we know more. Thank you all so much for your prayers.