Approximately seven months ago, I offered to chaperone four girls on their senior trip after overhearing them talking about it. It actually started out that I would go to the beach with them. As I began to think about a condo in Florida, I realized you can take a cruise just as cheap. So started my plan. (And CONTRARY to what many think and what rumors have flown, the Erwin family did NOT pay for the entire trip for everyone. The End.)
I love to travel. I live to plan my next trip. As the planning process began, we had to choose a date. Because of high school camp with GBC and college orientation, we chose June 29-July 5. I even received flack from people because I was going to be away from my husband on July 5. Uh, don’t you think my husband and I talk? He and Collin took a trip to Dollywood for a week the week before we left. Their first man trip together and they had a blast. It was a great bonding time for them.
Julianne Shiles (Trey’s girlfriend), Leighton Newman, Madison Young, Katie Beth Hopkins, and I hopped a plane to Miami on Saturday, June 29 for two days prior to getting on the Majesty of the Seas for the Bahamas. Just to sum up our personal time on the trip – we laughed until we could laugh no more. I was even grabbing the hand rail walking down the hall so I wouldn’t pee we were laughing so hard! We were not ashamed to pray at dinner with our dinner companions (a family of three). And I am proud to say the girls conducted themselves in a manner that their parents would be proud. They knew I held no rope around their neck and they could come and go as they pleased, but they were respectful and courteous.
Before we left, I gave them all journals. I told them that I wanted them to write and/or think about what God had showed them that day and what they had done for God. We would talk about it later. I would catch Madison going at it in her journal. It was theirs to keep and read, not for anyone else. And I had one too. Many personal feelings spilled in those journals, I’m sure. We didn’t talk about it too much, but Trey was on our minds.
On formal night, the family at our table brought us all roses. It was the sweetest thing. We each had a red rose. When I got back to our room, the girls had bought me a half dozen roses and the card said “From Trey and his Girls, We love you”. What the girls didn’t realize till later is that the florist gave them 8 roses. We decided to add our roses in with what they had bought. I stood there just amazed and said girls, you won’t believe this, but there are 13 roses here. We all just went WHOA!!!! It was a good moment for all of us.
Jumping back a bit, the first day we spent in the Bahamas, we went to Atlantis. Everywhere we went, people would ask, “Are these your daughters?” As much as I would have loved to say yes and claim all of them, it gave us the opportunity to tell why we were on the trip. We told the story over and over again. I would introduce Julianne and explain about Trey and the girls being Trey’s girls who stood by him during his illness and it opened the door to how God worked in Trey’s life. We were on the lazy river (which is not lazy) at Atlantis and we were waiting to go on a hill and a man complimented my tattoo. We began to talk and it led to me explaining the reason behind the tattoo. JUST THE REASON WHY I GOT IT – SEE!!!!! His face became very down and he began to talk about his divorce, etc. and it opened a door for me to be encouraging to him about God and forgiveness.
Our next island was Coco Cay. While we were shopping, I was asked the same question about the girls by a Bahamian lady. She immediately said her son would be 17 this year. She explained her story and how she could not have survived without the Lord. When she mentioned the Lord, I began to inquire about her salvation. She said, Oh, Yes, Jesus is my savior. Her name is Bernadette and we said that we would pray for each other as the years are hard. Her son died at 7 weeks 3 days. She said she cried until two years ago when he came to her in a dream and spoke to her and told her to stop crying, that he is fine and brushed her tears away. She said she has not cried since. We hugged and talked more about walking with the Lord during the time of loss. I’m glad Madison was standing there to hear both of us talk. It can be so easy and I didn’t realize how easy, to begin a conversation about Christ. I will never forget that moment.
I think the moment that all of us will remember is when we all returned from walking around Key West and we were lounging on the deck. Leighton accidentally knocked plates and pizza crumbs went everywhere. (She did that a lot this trip! Ha ha Leighton!) A Haitian man with a broom came up to sweep the crumbs. We began to talk and one of the girls asked him if he liked his job. He said he did not like his job but he liked having a job because he has something else he wants to do. I asked him what that was. He said it was a secret and he pointed to his chest. He said, if I tell you, it will not be a secret anymore and words have ears. I liked that – WORDS HAVE EARS. I began to realize it probably had something to do with his culture. I did tell him that even though our tongue can be like a two-edged sword, we should look to God for our guidance and He will lead us. To our surprise he grinned and kind of stuttered and said – like is says in Proverbs – and he could not remember the chapter and verse – but he quoted “I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.” He kept saying seek, seek and you will find. I grabbed my phone and brought the bible up and his eyes got big and he said “YOU HAVE THE BIBLE ON YOUR PHONE!” I said yes. We found the verse – Prov. 8:17. He said “One day, I will have the bible on my phone.” I asked him why he didn’t carry a small bible in his back pocket. He said OHHH, it would get crumbled and bent. If we ONLY cared that much about our own bible. We kept talking to him and he said he was so glad we spilled the crumbs because it gave him a chance to talk to someone that talks about his Lord too. WHAT A GOD MOMENT. He would sweep a few chairs away and come back and keep talking. It was so cool.
We flew back to Memphis on July 5. Yes, that was the anniversary of Trey’s death. I’ve never been so exhausted. We had kids from Collierville High and kids from church come to the house that I had asked specifically to share in the evening. I was able to share some of the stories from above and they were able to share funny stories about Trey like the white napkin, him being told to gain weight and his reply with a straight face, “Ma’am, I have cancer” and walking out and bursting into laughter. That kid. Even stories of him crossing the street and trucks honking at him and him yelling, “Don’t you know I have cancer!” He truly lived up to the phrase – Hakuna Matata. Then, we all piled up and watched Lion King. Such a fitting way to honor Trey. Laugh at things he would laugh at and watch his favorite movie.
Lord, thank you for being with us and so ever present on this trip. Thank you for giving me four GREAT girls to share a time that could have been spent in tears. Thank you for giving us laughter, and yes, even tears together sometimes, but for good reasons. Thank you for boldness to speak your name. I pray that the words we spread will not come back void and blessings will return to the girls for being obedient to your word. I thank you for all the sweet children, yes precious souls, that gathered at our house on Friday to remember the legacy of Trey. I pray that you would prick their hearts to remember him, his story, and to tell it often of his love for you, his bravery, his courage, and his wisdom, all gained from reading your word and being obedient even till death. Lord, these words come to mind because I know this is what Trey would say – I will not boast in anything. No gifts, no power, no wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection. Why should I gain from His reward, I cannot give an answer. For this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom! Thank you Lord for paying MY ransom and the ransom for my son. Hug him for me, for his Dad, for his brother, for his girls. Amen.