Walking Home

This morning, I got to spend an hour cradling, rocking, and singing to a most precious newborn bundle of joy. Less than a week old, he is the foster child of one of the families in my church. And though I know nothing of the circumstances of this little love-bug’s short life up to this point, it was such an honor, a privilege, and a blessing to spend some time pouring love, comfort, peace, and prayers into his life. Swaddled tight and cradled against my heart, I sang over him as he heaved a little sigh or two, and then drifted comfortably to sleep, safe and loved in my arms.

I didn’t just get to be a blessing to a child this morning. This little fellow ministered deeply to my heart.  Looking down into his sweet little face, I had a revelation of the love that God has for us. And where I’d driven to church this morning expecting to walk in and be overwhelmed with sadness for my dear friend who is dying of cancer and my grief as I prepare to lose him, suddenly I was faced with a realization of the love that God has for each of us, and how God longs to have us home in His arms.

In January, when my friend Rick called me to say, “I’ve got stage IV small-cell carcinoma. It’s inoperable; considered terminal,” I went numb. I listened to the details with a clinical ear and analytical mind. We were going to fight this cancer together, and we were going to beat it. Because I was just not willing to lose my friend. I wasn’t willing to let go of this person who has walked me through some of the darkest, deepest valleys of my life. This person who has loved me so unconditionally and so without-strings. When he came into my life, he promised me that I had never met anyone like him before, and he’s lived up to that promise, but it also means that once he has left this world, his absence will be felt most deeply. But that night, as I sat at another friend’s bedside, as she slept the drugged sleep of having just had surgery, and my heart and mind tried to reconcile this news about Rick, the Holy Spirit nudged my heart and said something that I wasn’t ready to hear then: “I’m ready to have him home with Me.” Part of my heart was comforted that God loves Rick that much. But most of my heart just couldn’t hear that little voice. I pushed it away and steeled myself to face a battle to save my friend’s life.

It’s only been about five months, but it’s been a hard five months. A round of radiation. Four rounds of chemo. Multiple hospitalizations. A handful of ER trips. Blood transfusions. Losing hair. Losing weight. Losing energy. Losing ground. And over the space of the last two weeks, my denial has lifted as the cancer has stopped responding to the chemo, started mutating and spreading, and my friend and his sweet, wonderful wife have begun planning a wake and a funeral. At this point, how could I be of any help if my denial were to continue?

This morning, I held this sweet little baby boy – a new life just come into the world, and I felt the swell of love in my heart, and I recognized it as what it is – God’s love. And today, when the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, “Rick’s coming home to me. Your amazing earthly friend is coming to live with your Heavenly best friend. I’ve missed him. I love him. And after his hard life, full of pain and abuse, I’m ready to reward him.” I responded with, “Okay. Jesus, thank You for the profound honor of helping Rick to walk home to You.”

It’s not going to be easy to say this temporary good-bye to my friend. I’m praying for the chance to get to hug him again before he goes, and to kiss his sweet face. But God is good. God is love. And even during this hard time, God will hold us to His heart, just as I held that sweet baby to my heart this morning.

PS – The photo above was swiped from Rick’s wife, Joy. (Though I’m sure she’ll forgive me for swiping it.)

PS2 – Because Rick has no life insurance to help defray his final expenses, Rick’s sister-in-law has set up a Go Fund Me campaign. If you’re interested in sharing with that fund, please click here.

About Sarah Salter


  1. Papa Bear says:

    The greatest joy I have is knowing just how much you love Jesus! Through all of your life, the hurts, the highs, the lows, and all you’ve experienced–you still love Jesus and because of that love you love others–even those who have hurt you deeply and let you down when you didn’t deserve to be let down. Thank you for sharing this post. I had a wonderful experience today of sitting and listening for about fifty minutes to someone else instead of my own preaching and what God said to me during that message has been re-echoed by your sharing this story today. Thank you for being you, Sarah. I love you and how much you are loved by others that God uses you to reach for HIM. Thank you for reminding us that God will never let us down.

  2. Barbara says:

    Well, God is good all the time and all the time God is good.. I am glad that He gave you this glimpse that you have so much needed….As Papa Bear said no matter what you have always loved Jesus.. And not only that I might add you are an encouragement to others… no mater what you go through… That is a gift.. What would we do without you.. I think you are a “chip off the block”, both of your Heaven Father and your Earthly Father.. Love you Sista Sarah..

  3. Sarah, this post if fitting for Rick, the man I only know through his blog. You carry his testimony in your heart for he has personally help walk closer to the Lord. I love his humor, his honesty, his willingness to tackle hard issues yet bring clarity to them with words written from his life of pain. Bless you for writing this.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Betty, thank you for coming by and sharing. Going through this with Rick and Joy has taught me one thing if it’s taught me nothing else — it’s taught me how to squeeze love and life and laughter into every conscious moment. And to be thankful for every moment. And I’m glad I get to share those lessons with others, too.

  5. I obviously don’t know Rick as well as you do, but he’s been a blessing to me nonetheless through our interactions. Man, I hate cancer. Thankful, like you said, it’s only a temporary good-bye. What a hope that is in the midst of the grief.

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