Creak, scrape, creak, scrape; the repetitive sound makes its way down the florescent lit hallway as the walker slowly advances over the spit-polished hospital floor. The movement is slow but steady as each step is carefully maneuvered to keep the walker from zigzagging off course. The final destination is only about 15 feet away - a meandering tortoise might reach the door quicker, but nothing will get in the way of Jenn’s determination. She WILL walk into this room even if it takes her all day to do it! Creak, scrape, creak scrape; almost there! The smile on her face belies the struggle it takes to make this journey.
With each creak and scrape, I film the slow progress, and my heart feels as though it might burst with joy. I know this struggle all too well. I know how long it took to get here to this day, this hour...this moment.
Jenn’s struggle started almost two years ago. No one ever thought that the day would come when she would push her walker down the hall. Certainly no one thought it would be this soon! Creak, scrape, creak, scrape; her smile lights up her entire face. Jenn’s Aunt Patty is behind her - as always, the ever-present encourager.
On she goes. Her braced leg has a mind of its own; wayward and helter-skelter it tries to veer off course. Jenn doesn’t give in. Jenn doesn’t give up. Jenn doesn’t allow her impetuous leg to rue the day. This day is extraordinarily special!
The door to his room is just ahead. He doesn’t know she is coming. If he hears her, he probably suspects it’s just one of the many mechanical assistant machines almost everyone in this wing of the hospital uses. He would have no reason to suspect that the person operating the contraption was anyone of any specific interest.
I move to the door of his room. I’m shaking. The tears are flowing now - I can’t help it. I’m about to open the door to Gavin’s room. Courageous Gavin. Fearless Gavin. Audacious Gavin. Gavin the brave!
There’s no describing Gavin - Just like there’s no describing Jenn. In this cosmos, God found a way to put these two indomitable spirits together. Together, they each faced insurmountable odds and, together, each triumphed.
Gavin was Jenn’s first-grade student - her favorite (she always reminds me). He was born with Cerebral Palsy and faced many obstacles in his young life. I like to think that Jenn was chosen to be his teacher because of her special way with children who face challenging situations. I have no doubt that God's mighty hand was at work when Gavin became her special charge.
Although Gavin is now nine, he has kept in touch with Jenn over the years. Jenn taught with Gavin’s grandmother and he often visited Jenn in her room before and after school. When Jenn suffered her brain aneurysm, Gavin frequently came to the hospital. He always told me that someday he and Mrs. “P” would do physical therapy together.
There were days when we had doctors tell us that Jenn’s prognosis was very bleak - but Gavin the brave would always tell me that Mrs. “P” was going to get better and would walk again someday. He never wavered in his belief that he would one day walk side by side with his teacher.
Over this past year, Gavin has had some major surgeries. We learned that Gavin was going to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa for his most recent surgery. Since Jenn goes to Tampa General for her outpatient therapy, I called Gavin’s grandma and asked her if we could stop and see Gavin at St. Joseph’s on Monday. We were already on the road, and I expected that we could visit Gavin after Jenn was done with her therapy.
Imagine my surprise when Gavin’s grandma told me that he had been transferred to Tampa General Children’s wing for therapy! Jenn was so excited to learn that Gavin was right next door to the building where she does her therapy! Not only that, but Jenn had put on her “team Gavin” tee shirt that morning!
It’s a good thing that I called Gavin’s grandma on Monday because, in true Gavin fashion, he was already amazing all the doctors at Tampa General with his determination and grit. They were already talking about an early release since Gavin had made such tremendous progress. This last surgery was very serious because it involved his spine. He wasn’t expected to walk for at least three weeks. However, the day of his surgery, he stood. The day after his surgery, he walked.
Now, this day, this hour, this moment has come. I open the door. Gavin’s face lights up as Jenn appears in his doorway. She gradually makes her way step by step into his room. Gavin sits up. Slowly, painfully he moves to place both feet on the floor. Then, taking his father’s hand, Gavin stands.
Deliberately Gavin places one foot in front of the other and haltingly walks over to his teacher. Each of them has walked a path that few of us will ever have the privilege to experience. They have traversed rugged terrane not meant for the faint of heart. Many people grow weary from life's struggles, but Gavin and Jenn never become disheartened. Jenn’s favorite word is “perfect, ” and Gavin’s favorite saying is, “never give up.” They are the perfect never give up team. I’ve learned from them that facing trials is about the fight in your heart as well as the heart in your fight. As Gandhi so aptly put it: Strength does not come from physical capacity; it comes from indomitable will.