Today I’m sharing the inspirational story of a mother named Brittany Spence. Though Brittany and I have never met, we share a dear friend, Ashley, who has told me her story. I could never get it out of my mind, and I knew in drafting this series that I wanted Brittany a part of it.
Brittany’s story begins like many of ours…young, married, pregnant…she delivered a baby boy whom they named Forrest. Shortly after birth, Forest experienced complications and was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care. Forrest had undetected Strep B. Brittany and her husband spent 55 days in the hospital with their sweet baby before he passed away.
I’m sure this process was every bit as gut-wrenching and tragic as we can imagine it being. And yet, Brittany and her husband were so overwhelmed by the support and love they received from their family, friends, hospital staff, nurses, and even perfect strangers – that they were moved to action after Forrest’s death.
Our friend Ashley shared with me something Brittany told her. Brittany said, “I remember this moment. I actually remember looking out the window of the car in the funeral procession, and I remember thinking, you can go two ways with this. You can be bitter, or you can choose to do something. ”
She did something.
At first, it started simply. Forrest loved his little cuddle “Angel Dear” blanket, so they began providing them to babes in the NICU where Forrest had been a patient. They started providing care packets for families who had little ones in the hospital. (Personal note: let me tell you – this is REAL MINISTRY, PEOPLE. I remember being in the hospital for two days, and having to shampoo my hair and wash my face with baby bath soap, and put on the same underwear…It is a REAL THING to minister to the physical needs of families stuck in the hospital.)
Eventually the Forrest Spence Fund has grown and evolved and provides an incredible offering of services, including:
- personal help for families (buying them cribs, providing meals, Christmas gifts, housecleaning…)
- investing in the actual hospitals (they built an entire “sibling play room” for the healthy siblings in a local hospital!)
- covering 100% for families of critically ill children to go to Christian counseling if they wish
- providing grants for families (anywhere from $500 to $5000)
Nearly ten years later, Brittany and her husband David will visit the NICU, introduce themselves to the parents of ill children, and just offer words of encouragement, letting them know they are not alone.
Much of this is funded by a HUGE 5K event held in the Memphis, TN Area (The Forrest Spence 5K) and other fundraising events. The Forrest Spence Fund is now a HUGE THING. Brittany is the executive director and works quite a bit to keep this award-winning non-profit organization going.
What I admire so deeply is that choice. Brittany underwent perhaps the most horrific event any of us could imagine, in the loss of a child. She made a conscious decision – and not just once, but over and over again – to choose compassion instead of bitterness. To be others-focused instead of self-focused. To be hopeful, and not hopeless.
God, in our struggles, may you grant us grace to do the same.
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