I am one of those members who enjoy talking with the pastor about his sermon after the service. I know Mike has had a breath of release as I have not been able to walk out; so I don’t hold up others in line to speak to him. One Sunday in the late fall of 2010 he had just preached a beautiful message on hope. I was touched by his thought provoking sermon. As I left I said,”Mike, faith, hope, and love. Which is the greatest of these?” He laughingly said, “Love, of course.” Then I asked him to preach a sermon on love and whether he thought our church was filled with love.

As 2011 began, Marshall and I started our traveling plans. I played at Tuckahoe Woman’s Club, took three wonderful lady friends to lunch, and then we left for Florida Sarasota opera and to visit our family in Tampa. A heart attack came my way. I had just had a checkup in Richmond and was fine; so it was quite a surprise. The surgeon in Tampa performed bypass surgery and prescribed Heparin as a blood thinner. I was allergic to it. The hospital did not check the platelets close enough to see that I was allergic; my blood clotted instead of thinning. In just a few days, my legs were black. They said I had to have them amputated. All this happened, but after I had accepted the news, I felt a hand on my shoulder which I know was the hand of God. He said, “Now child, I will show you what real love is.”

I made a quick decision and asked Marshall to fly me home. I would not stay in Tampa hospital with strangers. Then I said, “Take me to Conway, SC.” He did. A wonderful internist who was a friend met me at the ambulance and with loving hands he put me in the hospital and guided the surgeons for the amputation. Friends from two churches where I had directed their music, Coastal Carolina University colleagues, family, and colleagues surrounded me with love and prayers that I did not think could be possible. From Richmond came friends, the love and prayers of this church, seventy Heartstring girls I sang with, and love from other places. God’s love would not let me go. “Love Lifted Me.” It was hard to fathom such love. I knew God was going to heal me and give me a new life. Many doors would be closed for a double amputee, but as one Heartstringer said, “Joyce, God has packed your suitcase with just what you need to go forward. He has special plans for you.” And, I believe He does. I just pray that I will obey His will and love the way He has taught me about love in the last year.

We had a “Love Lifted Me” party at Raintree Swim and Racquet Club with about 200 people. Everyone there felt God’s love that night, lifting us all up. May we all feel God’s love and give that kind of love wherever we are. 2011 was a year about love. I am still feeling that kind of love and prayers as I learn to walk.

by Joyce Parker