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Humbled From Afar

August 5, 2010

After high school, I took a year off from school and worked with a missions organization.  During that time, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with Chad & Cristine Arnold (husband & wife – newlyweds at the time) and Chad’s brother Rod worked there too (I also got to know Rod’s wife Michelle and she has blessed my life more than I even realized at the time but I’ll save that for another time) and was the head of the department.  The Arnolds are good people.  The kind of people who you want to work for.  People that will never ask you to do something they wouldn’t jump in and do themselves.  People who lead with joy and integrity.  People who, if you get to work under them at the green age of 18, will shape your life for the better.

At some point, maybe 8-10 years ago, Chad developed a liver disease.  I’m not sure the details on that but just trust me when I say he did.

Fast forward to last Thursday.  Chad, who was nearing the end stages of his liver disease, graciously received 2/3rds of his younger brother, Ryan’s (who I’ve never met) liver in an effort to save & prolong Chad’s life.  The family reported that a physical change in Chad could be seen almost immediately and the surgery was a success.  A few days later, in the midst of recovery, Chad’s younger brother, Ryan, the liver donor, coded and eventually died.  I’ll just let that sink in for a minute…

I have been around death for a good part of my life.  I have lost more people than I care to recall including my Dad, step dad, all my grandparents, a sweet woman who was like another Mom to me growing up and the list goes on and on.  At no point, have any of these deaths ever been “easy” or made sense to me.  My heart always cried out “why” to my heavenly Dad in an attempt to make sense of the hurt from the loss at hand.

I can honestly say that I have never been so stunned or befuddled by a death as I am Ryan’s.  To say that the news of Ryan’s death, as I followed the progress of the surgery , left me speechless, is an understatement.  I had just come back from a final trip home and to say my heart was raw and tender would also be an understatement.  Joel and I had listened to Pete Wilson’s Plan B on our drive from CT to MO and after hearing news of Ryan’s death, I clung to the words I had just listened to but couldn’t help to feel that this was a Plan B like none I’d heard of.

Chad, in the time I worked with him, was always a fun, smart and most importantly, a humble person.  I can’t imagine the conversations that must have taken place to get to the point of his younger brother donating a portion of his liver to Chad.   I, from my outside position, am so humbled by the love Chad’s brother displayed by this act.  I’m sure he knew the risks – hospitals have a way of laying out the worst case scenario 10-15x before a procedure – and yet still, he was compelled to give of himself, literally, to Chad.  And that kind of  love humbles and inspires me.

As I’ve read through the notes of prayer and support people have offered to the family, I have read over and over how people talk about Ryan as a hero for his selfless act.  He is indeed a hero in the complete sense of the word.  However I can’t help but think of the valor of his wife, Shannon in this decision.  For Ryan, it may have been a “no brainer” decision – this was his brother and he wanted to save him.  But he must have had to get the blessing of his wife who, should the worst case scenario play out (as it has) is left to parent their young children together and live in the void of his absence.  The valor of Shannon to trust God in this situation, no matter what the outcome, humbles and leaves me in awe of her character.  I can’t even wrap my mind around the loving sacrifice she has made in all of this too.  I can’t imagine her intense loss and shock in all of this.  I can (and do) pray that God shows up for her in a way that meets her exact needs at every moment.  That God’s grace and love overwhelm her and hold her tender heart close.  That she is assured of God’s love in all of this – as dark as things may seem at times.

I am so thankful that Chad’s body has accepted the portion of his brother’s liver successfully.  I pray that in the midst of this extreme trauma, that Chad’s body continues to heal and to work as God designed it.  I can’t fathom the impact that this story of love will have in the days and years to come.  I don’t think anyone could deny that there is a very real and specific purpose for Chad’s life and story.  I’m thankful for that hope in the midst of this dark time.  And I can’t help but feel a little gleam of hope way off in the distance.  Knowing Chad and his passion – that this won’t just be a story he shares at parties but something that God will use in his life in a great way.  I have no idea how.  But I’m confident that, even in this, God will receive the glory.

Ryan’s sacrifice amazes me.  He knew the inherent risk of the surgery and still trusted that God would be there with them both.  His gift of love to his brother humbles me.  The hope that is undeniable in this sorrow encourages me.  I can’t comprehend the grief and the confusion that the Arnold family must feel at this time.  My prayer is that they will be overwhelmed by love from those who know them and those that have only heard this story of Ryan and Chad.  The legacy of Ryan’s love is a powerful one – it will be lived out by Chad in the years to come.  And as I sit back and try to make that sink into my brain, I am humbled from afar of this magnificent example of selfless  love.

Please join me in praying for Chad.  That his body continues to thrive.  That he is carried through these next days, weeks, months.  Pray for Ryan’s wife, Shannon.  That she finds a new a greater grace than she has ever known.  That the love God would guide and comfort her as the minutes and hours tick by.  And please pray for the entire Arnold family.  As they  mourn the loss of a husband, brother, son,  father, uncle and friend and struggle to not get caught up in the why of it all but to look to God, even in this.  Please share the story of Ryan and Chad.  Honor Ryan and encourage Chad by sharing this story of selfless love with others.  So that their shared  faith and love will be an encouragement to all that hear of it.

No greater love.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Marci permalink
    August 5, 2010 8:40 pm

    Ingrid – you just summed up what I has been racing around in my head and heart. I have talked through this scenario with many a friends, I think more to process it all than anything. I wondered at the conversations that must have taken place between Ryan and Shannon leading up to the decision and how she loved Ryan so much that she trusted his ability to hear God on such a matter and then trust God and him that it was the right decision regardless of the outcome. Interesting how something is so close to our hearts, yet so far away in the fact that we have never met Ryan, but knowing Rod and Chad allows us to feel so deeply for a brother we never met. Thanks for sharing and capturing your thoughts and outlook on it all. May the legacy of selfless love live on in this amazing sacrifice.

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