A Loving Tribute

As you all know I am intense about about fascia, maintenance and prevention, and pursuing alternatives for health care that serve us best in the long run. As important as these are, this past week I have been severely reminded that they are not the ultimate priority.

On Tuesday, June 7, 2022, Stephanie Van Nortwick, the sweet wife of our dear friend and co-worker, Adam, was involved in a devastating car wreck. Our prayer vigil for her recovery began then, but her injuries were too severe and she was released from this earth on Thursday, June 9. She would have been 38 on Sunday, June 12. She leaves behind her loving husband, two precious children, extended family, and an army of friends, families, and co-workers impacted by her years of teaching elementary school. Adam composed a touching salute to her on Facebook which you can read here. You may also leave your comments and wishes there, or send a card to his home address: Adam Van Nortwick (children Gavin, Avery), 9840 Koontz Corner Rd, Rockingham ,VA 22802. There will be a celebration of life for Steph on Saturday, June 18, 4:00 p.m., at the home of her sister and brother-in-law at 13778 Dyke Rd, Stanardsville, VA 22973. No RSVP needed, all are welcome to come and share stories and memories.

I remember the last time I saw my Dad on earth. I was visiting him and Mom at home in Michigan, around January of 2002. I had been driving from Virginia to Michigan as often as I could to visit while he was not well. Mom worked heroically to honor his wish to keep him at home, and she succeeded although the cost was high for her. Family went in as often as we could, and I struggled with feeling torn between my two distant worlds. But these precious trips gave me the opportunity to sit with Dad and just be with him. I don’t remember heavy conversations about death, dying, regrets, confessions, or any of that stuff, although I had plenty of stuff he never knew about to confess (or maybe I underestimated him….). Sometimes we just sat together, cracking peanuts and reading the paper or watching TV. On my last night there on that January trip Mom gave me a heads up that he was failing and that it might be my last time with him.

I was leaving early the next morning for the long drive back to Virginia. I tiptoed into my brothers’ old bedroom where Dad was sitting in the recliner, absorbed in watching TV and bundled up in multiple layers for warmth. He was probably cracking peanuts but I don’t remember that detail. I sat with him for a while, trying to figure out what to say. Nothing profound came to mind, and we just made small talk and watched the show. Time came to go to bed, and I still hadn’t had any deep exchanges with him. I gave him a kiss, told him I loved him, and heard him echo the sentiment back to me, never taking his eyes off the TV. It was a bit less than I would have envisioned, but I didn’t know what else to do with it.

Celebrating my 1984 graduation from Saint Louis University School of Physical Therapy with my Mom and Dad. Photo by Mary Murphy Sutton.

My brother called two months later to tell me Dad was dying. They put me on the phone for a stilted one-sided conversation where all I knew to say was I loved him. I left for Michigan and drove as fast as I could, wanting to have one more chance to be there with him. I didn’t make it, and he died before I could get there. At his funeral and beyond I was comforted to recall that it didn’t all ride on one final, concentrated conversation. Rather, there was a lifetime of caring and loving each other that said it all when the last hours couldn’t.

Events like this can rock us to the core, as they should. Sometimes we need to stop our hectic pace and ponder our mortality and our priorities in life. For me I am fostering a new appreciation for the people I have around me, especially my soul mate and husband, Bill. There are too many times I am impatient, in a hurry, busy with so many important things to do, not living in the present, and missing moments with people around me, short-selling relationships. Many of you that know me probably see this far clearer than I do. Thank you for putting up with me and loving me anyway, especially Bill. I am intense and goal oriented, and while that can serve me and others well, as with any asset it can also be a liability if not managed. The relationships we have on this earth are precious gifts from God and the most important aspect of our lives. We need to be constantly affirming and loving those He has given us.

Please keep Adam and all the family and friends in your hearts and prayers. All concerned need a heavy dose of God’s grace and love to bring healing and peace. 

In closing, I want to share this old song of Wayne Watson’s that has been inexplicably on my mind all week. I haven’t heard this in a good 15 or more years, but I can’t get it out of my head.  It opens with a beautiful guitar solo that I can imagine Adam playing – he loves the guitar and is good at it! Please take a moment to listen, and I encourage you to ponder important stuff that we don’t talk about often – like our mortality, our faith, and our relationship with our Creator. 

Home Free

I’m trying hard not to think you unkind
But Heavenly Father
If You know my heart
Surely You can read my mind
Good people underneath a sea of grief
Some get up and walk away
Some will find ultimate relief

Home free, eventually
At the ultimate healing
We will be home free
Home free, oh I’ve got a feeling
At the ultimate healing
We will be home free

Out in the corridors, we pray for life
A mother for her baby
A husband for his wife
Oh, sometimes the good die young
It’s sad but true
And while we pray for one more heartbeat
The real comfort is with You

You know pain has little mercy
Suffering’s no respecter of age
Of race or position
I know every prayer gets answered
But the hardest one to pray is slow to come
Oh Lord! Not mine! But your will be done

Home free, eventually
At the ultimate healing
We will be home free
Home free, oh I’ve got a feeling
At the ultimate healing
We will be home free

Wishing you health and joy,


Published by Colleen Murphy Whiteford

I am a physiotherapist, graduate of Saint Louis University Class of 1984. I married my best friend and business partner, Bill, who is also a physiotherapist, in 1988. We have worked together all these years - an example of God's grace! Together we started Appalachian Physical Therapy which continues to thrive. I am a big believer in the power of touch, the manual therapies, and treating holistically. There are many alternatives to medications, surgeries, and testing, but people are often uninformed. My perspective emphasizes the role of the connective tissues including the fascia. Lack of attention to this structure is the source of many physical ailments - our bodies are truly fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)! I am passionate about helping people of all ages and diagnoses maximize their health, and empowering them to understand their role in management and prevention of problems.

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