The Passing of the Torch – a tale of two Doctors

Once upon a time, there was this kid from Muskegon (for those of you not from Michigan, that’s about 45 minutes northwest of Grand Rapids.)

As he grew up, he wanted to become a preacher.

So he did.

And it was good.

And he was good at it.

And God used him to serve and help many people.

And that kid went on to get additional education. After a while, he got another Master’s degree and then he got a doctorate.

But he never wanted to use that title. That’s just not what he was about. He was about helping people and serving God.

And it was good. It wasn’t easy but it was good.

Many times, it was hard but it was good.

And God used him to serve and help many people.

Four of those hard times came when his body was hit by cancer.

Those times impacted many people, touched many lives, encouraged many other people going through hard times.

In 1972, he beat the cancer.

In 1984, he beat the cancer.

In 1990, he beat the cancer.

And then it came back in 2017. A different type, a new battle, but still that “c” word.

By then, this kid from Muskegon was pushing close to 80 years old. That’s far enough along in years to have grandkids pursuing careers.

There was this girl from Jenison who wanted to become a nurse.

And she did.

And it was good.

And she was good at it.

And God used her to help people, particularly very sick kids and their families, in very difficult times.

It was hard, but it was good.

And then this girl from Jenison wanted to do more.

And God opened doors and she learned more and figured out more ways to help kids and their families.

And she taught college students who are learning to be nurses.

And she got more education.

After her grandpa was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, she said to her dad, “I think it’s too much to hope for, but I’d love it if Grandpa could be at my graduation.”

Dr. Vanderwell could attend Dr. Vanderwell’s graduation and be part of watching her become the next generation of Dr. Vanderwells.

But it wasn’t to be.

35 days. 

God called the first Dr. Vanderwell home 35 days ago.

For 35 days, there wasn’t a Dr. Vanderwell here on this earth.

But there is again.

In many ways, she’s a different Doctor.

But in many ways, she’s the same and has learned much from the first Dr. Vanderwell.

Do what you do to care for people.

Do what you do to make the world a better place.

Do what you do to spread the love of Jesus.

Today, we witnessed the passing of the torch.

From Grandpa to granddaughter.

While it hurts that he wasn’t able to be “here” to see the graduation, I know, we know, that he saw it from Heaven.

And it was good.

May God continue to bless the new Dr. Vanderwell and give her the continued passion to impact people and change lives like her Grandpa did – even though she’ll do it in her own special way.

And this Dad is proud of both generations today. Proud to be the first Dr. Vanderwell’s son and proud to be the second Dr. Vanderwell’s Dad.

God is good. (All the time)

All the time. (God is good)

Tom

McDonald’s Billboard – Really?

Okay, maybe I’m the only one who sees it.

Maybe it’s just a billboard run by local McDonalds restaurants.

But I doubt it.

In the environment that we are in, the political, racial and governmental environment, there isn’t a day that goes by where immigration isn’t in the news.

Temporary Protective Status

DACA

The Wall

Sanctuary Cities

Sanctuary Churches

Deportations

Rallies

Articles about how the United States allowed a grand total of 11 refugees from Syria to immigrate in 2017.

Eleven.

We had that many people for a relatively small breakfast birthday party on Saturday.

So what does McDonald’s do?

They run a series of billboards – I know there are at least two in West Michigan, probably more that have the McDonald’s logo on them. And they have pictures of a couple of the McDonald’s frozen drinks.

What words does it say?

“Have an ICE Day!”

You’re probably thinking, yeah, they are talking about frozen drinks and they want you to have an ICE day. In other words, get yourself one of our ice cold frozen drinks and your life will be better.

But given our current environment, ICE isn’t only about frozen water.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE is about a family from my son’s school who got separated because the dad isn’t allowed back in the United States.

ICE is about one of the pastors our church supports (here in Grand Rapids), having government people show up at his door one night asking to see papers and for him to prove that he is here legally. (He’s Hispanic and he’s a US citizen – so he’s fine).

ICE is about a church in Kalamazoo consulting with attorneys about how they can lawfully keep ICE out of their church because there are people staying in their church who are concerned for their safety at the hands of ICE.

ICE is about 60,000 Haitians who are afraid they will have to face the decision – “I have been here since 2010 and the earthquake that wiped out my city, under temporary protection status, my children who have been born since then are US citizens. What do I do?”

Words mean things.

In certain environments and certain times, words mean different things than they did at a different time. We are in a time where the current government has made ICE a word that means way more than just frozen water.

For thousands if not millions of people in the United States, ICE represents a government agency that can disrupt families, ruin lives, fracture communities.

At best, McDonald’s decision to wish you an ICE day is strictly an advertising choice that wasn’t thought through completely.

At worst, McDonald’s just might be telling us something more.

Come on, McDonald’s, you can do better. You know better.

TJV

Grief 2.0

If you’re on Facebook, you know how Facebook does that “memories” thing where each day it gives you the opportunity to look back on something you did, pictured, wrote about or whatever 1, 2 or however many years ago.

On April 16, 2014 – so 4 years and 3 days ago, I wrote this post about grief – http://tomvanderwell.net/2014/04/grief-its-not-only-about-dying/.

At that point, we were dealing with some big issues – my daughter’s heart condition, the loss of some of her dreams, her changing reality, our changing reality.   In addition to that, my career seemed to be at a crossroads – not a cross roads that we wanted or encouraged.

Now we’re in what I’m calling Grief 2.0.   What does that entail?

Life – I’ll be writing about him more in the future, but on March 23 of this year, my dad, Howard Vanderwell, passed from this life into eternal life in heaven.   He fought pancreatic cancer for 15 months, it was his fourth major battle with cancer, and in the end, it was complications from chemo and radiation (some from previous battles) that took him home.

I wrote a piece on his CaringBridge page that last week called “Painful Peace.”   That’s what this last month has been.   It’s been grief, it’s been pain but it’s also been peace.   Peace that in the end, he went home surrounded by his family and without struggle or pain.   Peace that he is now spending time and eternity with the One who he devoted his entire career and life to.   Peace that he is spending time with my grandparents and my younger sister.

But it’s also pain.   It’s a loss not only of a family member, but a church leader, a supporter, a friend, an encourager and a believer – a believer in Christ but also a believer in his kids and grandkids. 

Yesterday, my daughter defended her doctoral project and became the second Dr. Vanderwell in the history of the Vanderwell family.

And the first Dr. Vanderwell wasn’t there to share it with her and with us.

Next week Saturday, she’ll go through the actual graduation.   My dad wanted very much to be there – but God said, “Come home, Howie.  You’ve been faithful, your time on earth is done.”

And then there’s the grief of medical issues gone “not quite right.”   I’ve been battling a condition with the blood vessels in my left neck, shoulder and such called an Arterio Venous Malformation (Google AVM if you want to know more).   It’s been a part of my life and my reality for 40 years and I’ve had surgeries and treatments for it numerous times.  

January 30, 2018 was the most recent one.  The treatment was successful but it brought up some nasty side effects.   I lost most of the hearing in my left ear, I am now extremely sensitive to noise, especially loud noise and my left vocal cord is paralyzed so my voice is significantly impacted in terms of volume, clarity and, well, it sounds like I have a nasty case of laryngitis all of the time.

Grief 2.0

It’s different.

But it’s the same.

Dreams changed.

Plans altered.

Losses experienced.

Questions.

Pain.

But……

There’s also God 2.0

God is still here in our grief.

God is still here in our questions.

God is still here with our changed dreams.

Our unfocused dreams.

Our losses.

God is still here.

And just like we did 4 years ago, when we held faith that God was there (here), we do now too.   Some of the same issues carry over – my daughter’s heart condition hasn’t gone away, my career path is in many ways murkier than ever, and then there are new challenges.

God never said believing in Him would be easy.

But  he’s here.

In our grief.

In our sorrow.

In our blessings.

In our peace.

And so, I say, “God, I don’t get it.   I don’t understand.”

“But I’ve got you.”

And then focus on the peace rather than focusing on the pain.

God is good. (All the time)

All the time.  (God is good)

TJV