We arrived just before lunch time, honking away in their driveway. Maddie and Sydney were playing in the yard and looked very confused as to who on earth was making all the commotion. As soon as Micah stepped out of the van, however, confusion turned to a huge smile on Maddie's face followed by a quick run over for a big hug. It was purely delightful to see her excited to have us there. The next moment was my sister coming out of the house with tears streaming down her face and embracing me...again, pure delight to know we could physically come up there and wrap our arms around them. I love surprises!
Much of the afternoon revolved around the older cousins playing together with Easter egg hunts, iPad and Leap Pad games, as well as a restful movie time, while the younger cousins took naps so they wouldn't be grumpy at the benefit. The adults spent the time visiting or taking photos like these of the kids...it was a typical relaxing and enjoyable afternoon.
Then came time for the main event. We all drove over to the high school auditorium to find almost 700 people gathered to celebrate Maddie, worship our God, and pray for healing. It was an amazing turnout!
The evening opened with a slide show of various pictures of Maddie while a family friend sang a beautiful song she wrote specifically for Maddie...I honestly doubt there was a dry eye in the whole place. The evening continued on with a time of worship songs, reflections from two area pastors, heart-felt sharing from Dan, Amy, and Maddie, a free will offering that brought in an overwhelming amount of money for their needs, a tap dancer dancing for the Lord to a praise song, prayers from various pastors, a rep from the bone marrow registry giving directions and encouragement for everyone to sign up, a choir of people singing a last song together, and a cookie reception afterwards in the lobby. It really was so well put together and a blessing to be a part of.
My favorite moment of the evening really came down to my sweet niece's own sharing time at the microphone. This brave, 8 year old fighter took that stage like it was nothing--no nerves, no fears, just a young girl with a message of gratitude and hope for all who were listening. She spoke of the reality of life--the good, the bad, the "bummers", and the blessings. She talked of laughter despite the hard times and the importance of knowing there is a team of people supporting her along those hard times. It was a beautiful, simple, and refreshing way of looking at this ugly reality of going through cancer for the second time in her young life. Those little moments of seeing the silly little Maddie we have loved since the beginning of her life shining through were priceless. There is really no way I can do her speech justice without having you simply listen to it for yourself....
I am so blessed to be a part of a family who loves each other dearly. I am so blessed to have Maddie as an example for my children to look up to and love not only as a cousin, but as a friend. We continue to pray for Maddie's healing...specifically, for a donor to come on the bone marrow list in the next few weeks who would be a 100% match for Maddie's transplant. They have two 90% cord blood donations they can use, but we are praying for God to miraculously bring a 100% match through a donor yet. God is able and we put our trust in Him! Thank you, Maddie, for the example of faith and trust in the God who created you to be just who you are...He loves you, He hears your prayers, and He is good!