The Boy Who Loved the Stars

A few days ago I was waiting to meet Aub, so I walked over to the GW Boutique for a few minutes.  I was basically window shopping and admiring the way all the blazers were put together and noticing how the styles of coats over the past thirty years were all hanging in one spot on the outerwear rack.

I was walking by the rack with jackets and vests when I spied a grey hoodie. A grey NON-zip up hoodie.  Y’all know how I love me some hoodies, so it won’t surprise you that I was drawn in, and I pulled it out to look at it.  When I saw the horse on there in a rag quilt style (which impresses me all kinds of ways), I figured someone had put a lot of time and love into making such a unique creation.

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And then I thought about that horse.

I was once a little girl who loved horses.  Everything horses.  For my birthday, I had a carousel cake and Mama made me a book bag with an appliqued horse in it and a book about the rodeo was tucked inside.  Every time the Scholastic book order form came home with me I scoured it for horse stories and equine books.  When one was the 95 cent special that month, I was the first to turn in my order form.  I asked for Breyer horses for Christmas and birthdays; they sat on my bookshelf in a particular order when I didn’t have them down naming and appreciating the qualities of each one.  I loved shirts with horses and when I was in the third grade, my dream came true.  My Daddy got me a horse.

Her name was Betsy given by me, because it was close to Bess, and Good Queen Bess had been Daddy’s horse he had loved so much.  I also loved Betsy Ross, so it was a tribute to her too.  I learned to take care of our horse and I rode bareback and I talked to her about all kinds of things.

I was a little girl who loved horses.

The little girl who loved horses had a friend who loved science fiction and books by Tolkien.  He spoke of worlds not yet seen except in the imagination of great people, and he was funny and kind.  He even loaned her one of his science fiction books, and she tried to read it.  She really did.  He was a good friend, and never once did the girl I once was question her love of horses or the friendship she had with the one who talked of hobbits and adventures and a future that was beyond comprehension.

Somewhere along the way that little girl forgot she loved horses so much.  She grew up to real life responsibilities and adventures and hard and beautiful things.  She forgot a lot of things from way back then, but she didn’t forget the boy who was funny and imaginative and smart and kind.

Who grew to be a kind man.

The other day at the GW I took the horse hoodie to the counter and I paid for it and brought it home.  After I tossed it in the washer I drove to the hospital to see my friend whom I haven’t seen in a long, long time.  I didn’t know until I got there that I was really there to say goodbye.

Today the boy who loved the planets and thinking about all the what if’s left us to soar among the stars he loved and to hug folks he loves whom he hasn’t seen in a long, long time.  Today the boy who was so kind and whose story was intertwined in mine for all of our school years left the pain and brokenness and is finally home.

I am sad.  But as I sat here thinking and taking all of this in, I came upon the girl who loved horses, sitting by herself, weeping into her hands, unable to contain the grief she feels at stories that have ended way too soon.  The horses forgotten, the hopes and dreams that used to lull her to sleep at night, and the friend whom she will never see again in this life.  Who I am now is very sad, feeling this in my own “I suppose I have to get used to grief and losing people I love” way.  She, however, is 9 again, and the empty shelf where the horses once sat and the empty place where her friend lived is baffling and breaking her heart.

Tonight I’m thankful for a reminder of who I used to be.  How the joys of good and long friendships and horses’ tails flying in the wind used to give me peace and comfort and make me smile and so happy.  I’m thankful for the reminder, as hard as it is, that life is short so we need to grab hold of who and what matters to us and let them know that.

Tell someone you love them today.  If that’s too much, tell them they matter.  Thank them for being a part of your story.  Sit down and ask them what they dreamed about when they were 9.  Or last night.  Share a book with them, or let them borrow your pencil.  Toss out a thread to intertwine your life to another’s, because in the end, that’s where beauty comes from–the reflection of our hearts in the eyes of someone who cares.

RIP, BBC.  You will be missed.  Thanks for helping me see the stars way back then.  And today.

Love to all.

 

 

The One About Learning to Get Along

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This is Luvvy.  As in Mrs. Howell.  See her fur muff?  So yes, Luvvy.  And she can be a love.  As much as any cat can, I guess.  She came to live with us the third week in August.  She enjoys her outdoor adventures, but she likes coming in out of the weather when it gets cold.  Because of our allergies, she has a special warm spot in the garage.  She is quite happy with it too.  She comes in when she’s ready, and she can check out first thing in the morning.  Or not.  She’s pretty set with all the amenities right there in her cozy home.

Miss Sophie is not quite sure what to do with Mrs. Howell.  She has gone from straining to run after her to barking at her to merely sniffing around her and timidly getting closer and closer each time they are around each other.  It is sweet to see.  Miss Sophie has reached a level of comfort and trust over time. She no longer thinks that this creature who is so different from her and who moved into her “neighborhood” is a threat.  It took time and curiosity and a sweet spirit and, let’s face it, much encouragement for her to accept this feline companion, but it has happened.

Every night, Miss Sophie curls up on the couch against my right thigh–the same one she waddled over to and dropped her head on when I first met her.  She sits and snoozes a little and sometimes watches TV or “helps” me write.  But she is always waiting.  She is the one who lets me know when her friend is ready to come inside.  Luvvy will climb up onto the windowsill outside and wait.  I can’t see her out there in the dark, and I can’t hear her meows.

But Miss Sophie can.

And she won’t settle down her barking and worrying about her friend until I open the door for Luvvy to come in and get in her bed.  Sometimes they even have a moment together at the door–a greeting of sorts with noses and sniffing and and somehow conveying how much they care about each other.  It’s precious.

And it gives me so much hope.  Because if a dog and cat can learn to get past their differences and welcome each other with open…..paws, then maybe just maybe…..

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Mrs. Howell joins us on our evening constitutionals some nights.

I’m hopeful.

Love to all.

Where Was Her Biffle?

This afternoon I had the pleasure of being a part of a girls’ outing.  Aub, our Princess, a dear friend, and I went to see “Cinderella” together.  Cooter didn’t want to go, not because it was a Princess movie, but because he had heard about the “Frozen” short film that was to precede the main feature.  He’s so over Frozen, the thought of watching that short was downright off-putting.

We gathered in the lobby and headed down the hall to the third door on the right.  The previews started shortly after we arrived.  And still folks came in and wound their way to find seats in a nearly packed theater.  By the time “Frozen Fever” started, we were ready.

The short was actually cute and entertaining, and I can predict what Disney’s new stuffed critter item will be (spoiler alert–baby snowmen).  Then Cinderella started.  I watched the old and comfortably familiar story; yet I still found myself on edge, wondering what would happen.  Which part would they change, and which part of the story was so sacred that it could not be touched?

Photo via eonline.com

Photo via eonline.com

I enjoyed the movie, once I employed suspension of disbelief.  I think that the enthusiasm of my friend who is the mother of a son was infectious, and I was able to forget about the overall message and fall in love with the beauty and romance and magic.  Our Princess was enchanted, and her eyes shone brightly all through the movie.  She missed nothing.

A time or two during the movie a particular thought tried to surface, but it never quite made it.

Until the movie was over and I was sitting quietly with my thoughts.

Then it hit me.

Where were the people who knew Ella and her family?  Where were her friends?  Their friends?  Surely there was someone who, at some point, thought to him or herself, “Hey, wonder where Ella’s been?  I haven’t seen much of her since her Father passed on. I should really check in on her.”

I wondered where the people were who would feel inclined to pay their respects after his death.  Bring a casserole.  Drop by for a visit. Why was there no one to realize that this girl was being mistreated by the very ones to whom her care was entrusted?

Why didn’t someone notice and do something?

My friend who joined us reached out to me two weeks ago with a message: “Hey, if y’all are going to do a girls’ outing to see ‘Cinderella’ and I wouldn’t be intruding, could I join y’all?”

Absolutely.  It would be our pleasure.  And it was.

It was so good to see her, to sit and laugh over the hideous dresses of the stepsisters and gasp at the wickedness of some in the movie and to agree that we like to sit until the credits are pretty much over.  Most of all, it was good to visit.  To catch up.  To share stories.  To check in with each other.

The greatest gift is that she wanted to be with us, and she said so.

That right there.

How would the story have been different if Ella (Cinderella) had been able to call up a friend and say, “Hey, I would really love to spend some time with you”?  Where was her tribe?  Her friends?  Her “biffle,” as my college girl calls her best friend?

And then the next question is begging to be asked:

Who am I supposed to be reaching out to?  Whom should I be checking in with?  Who has locked him or herself away, and needs a friend to help bring him/her out?

Tonight I’m thankful for my friend who reached out and made time to be with us.  For seeing an age-old story with new eyes and feelings, I am grateful.  In this world of busy-ness and to do lists and running here and there and yon with littles in tow, it is good to be reminded to be still.  Be quiet.  Listen and look.  To check in with those I care about, and help those who need to be free and loosened a little from their worries and woes.  To be a good friend.

Wishing you all someone who will do that for you.

Love to all.

 

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As I was wrapping up writing this post, I saw this shared by Love Wins Ministries, folks who know how important relationships are and work hard to get them right and make a positive difference.  I think this is spot on and wanted to share it with you.  

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Cinderella could have survived locked in the attic, but what kind of survival would that have been?  

Just a thought.  

 

 

 

Saying Their Names

Our Princess loves to check the mail.

I don’t blame her.  It was my thing once upon a time too.

Yesterday she brought in a stack of mail.  A bill, unsolicited advertisements, a catalog, a magazine, and a package.

An unexpected package, I should add, which sent tingles of delight and anticipation surging through us all.

Inside was a treasure.

Well, there were books, so yes, that was a treasure in and of itself, but there was also a letter.

But not just any letter.

This was from a dear soul who knew my Mama and my Daddy.  Daddy talked with her and listened and let her into his world, when everything seemed to be falling apart in his fight against Goliath.  She was such a comfort to us all in those days.  Especially for Mama.  I am convinced she is the reason Mama found her place after Daddy died.   Our friend invited Mama on an outing, and from that Mama found a place to be, a place to serve, and a place to love and be loved.

For all of the fifteen months she lived after losing her best friend.

And this dear soul was there when Mama took her last breath.  She was also there when our cousin, Miss B, took hers.  I don’t know what I would have done without her through all of those days.  A comfort to be sure.

This letter she took the time to write was no ordinary one.

It was a remembering, an honoring of the lives of the two people I love and miss so much.  I laughed and I cried as I read the two handwritten pages front and back.

What a gift.

Grief is an odd duck.  I’ve said it before, and this probably won’t be the last time.  The thing is I can go a day or a few without tears.  The missing them, the holes in my life, doesn’t go away, but I can cope.  I can function and I can go on.  (Which shocks me to be quite honest, I never thought I’d be able to.) Then a day will come and the thought of something I want to tell Mama about or a question I want to ask Daddy comes to mind, and I’m a weepy mess just as I was in the shower night after night those first few months.  The tidal wave washes over me, knocks me down, and I am LOST once again.

And in this, though there are so many others who loved them and miss them, wrong or not, I wonder if I am the only one still struggling like this.  It’s been two and three years since their passing on, and time heals, so they say, so maybe I’m the only one, so I don’t bring it up…..because I don’t want to upset anyone or because I figure I’m just crazy.  All depends on the day.

This letter was timely and purposefully so.  She remembered it was the anniversary of us saying goodbye to Mama.  And so she wrote.  And she called them. by. name.

I miss hearing their names.

Tonight I am thankful for the grief.

That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

But the thing is, I fear a day will come and I won’t have the tears.  The memories might fade such that I don’t weep with the pain of missing them.  I never want their passing to be just a thing in my past.  I want to remember.

And I give thanks for the others who remember.  Who tell me they do, and who share their memories.

That right there.

That’s a gift.  I clung to the phone as an older friend shared the story of my Daddy driving home from work as a young man, making the turn onto his road on two wheels.  That was it.  Nothing else to the story, but my knuckles were white and my heart listened to every detail and etched it into my memory.  Because she told me about Bill.  From long ago.

And the letter.  The paper is a little warped from the tears, but I won’t let them go willingly.  On it are the names of those I love.  And memories I don’t have, but that were shared with me. About Bill and Barbara.  I cling to those.

So if you’re ever wondering what you can do for someone who is missing someone they love, call them up, sit down over a cup of coffee or a glass of sweet tea, and call those folks by name.  Share your stories and listen to theirs.  Even if it’s been a year.  Two.  Ten.  Talk about the person.

Say their name.

May we all have someone who walks alongside us to remember and share stories with as we traverse this path of grief and loss and this whole journey of life.

Love to all.

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The Day I Went To Prison

It occurred to me yesterday after my visit with Mac that it has been about two years since he took the first step on his journey to recovery.  Once again. It began with a long ride after being released from prison in Macon to a town about three hours away, to a beautiful rehabilitation facility where he made good choices and friends and dreamed dreams again.

Sigh.

But this story began a few months before.

He had turned himself in to an officer that had stopped by the gas station store that he frequented.  I think that had been in January.  He was tired of running, tired of that way of living, and he knew there were warrants out for him for probation violation.  Probation for things like panhandling, loitering, you know–the major crimes.  Anyway, turning himself in got him a bed and three meals a day.  And had me worried he wasn’t showing up on Sundays until I saw his name on the sheriff’s website.  We started writing letters back and forth.  I loved hearing his stories and dreams and the jokes he liked to tell.  In those letters we got to know each other pretty well.  He knew the way my littles preferred play over learning, that I loved to bake better than cook, and that the Fella loves old classic cars.  He sent notes and drawings to all of us, and we sent back pictures he could draw, stories to read, and letters sharing the ins and outs of our days.

And then, in one letter, he mentioned the visiting hours.  And asked if I could come.

Wow.

I had never been to prison before.  I wanted to see this man whom I grew to call my brother.  I wanted to give him all the support he needed to make wise choices once he took that first step out of his cell as a free man.  He needed a good network of folks to walk with him, and I intended to be one of those folks.  But prison?

At the risk of being redundant, Wow.

As it turns out, different folks are assigned different visiting hours.  His was 1 p.m. on Sunday, along with several others.  He had to put my name and anyone else who might come on a list.  If you weren’t on the list, you weren’t getting in.  We decided that I would visit on this one particular Sunday, barring anything unforeseen happening.  All of this was communicated by letters, so there was a lot of room for miscommunication or total lack of.  That Sunday morning I got up, took care of the tea and coffee for the park’s Sunday night supper, and got ready to go.  What does one wear to visit prison?  A strange question, I know, but I was second guessing EVERYTHING.  I chose regular, casual clothes and worried over the shoes.  I had heard something about not wearing open-toed shoes, but I wasn’t sure.  I wore my flip flops and carried Aub’s boat shoes with me just in case.  I drove to downtown and found the tree-lined street on the back side of the jail where I’d be entering.  I parked the car on the street, and checked my clock.  12:45.  I was early.  I sat and took it all in for a few minutes.  Normal looking brick building with the exception of the painful looking wires at the top of the fence. And across the street?  A convenience store with “Lottery, Beer, Cigarettes” painted on the side.  Oh y’all, I nearly cried.  If Mac were released with no one to pick him up, I could be fairly certain that’s where he’d head.  After all, there was a phone outside there, if it even worked.  And the nearly three months of detoxing and not drinking he’d done would all  be for naught.  My heart broke, and I knew something had to be done.  How many leave that facility with no one to go home to and find themselves over at that store?  Its location was no coincidence, I felt sure.

I took a sip of water, rallied my spirit, grabbed my license and my keys, and headed in.  I had no idea what to do.  Everyone else waiting seemed to know exactly what they were doing.  I realize in hindsight that may not have been true, but at the time, I felt like I had a huge sticker on my head that screamed, “First Timer.”

I approached an officer who, it was obvious, was bored and didn’t have any warm fuzzies about folks coming to visit folks they cared about.  She looked on the card–the one that had my name and Mac’s Mama’s name and one other on it.  I almost wanted his Mama to come, so I could meet her and maybe there wouldn’t be a lull in the conversation.

Because it occurred to me–this would be the first time we’d talk in person with him sober.

I gave her my keys and license and prayed I wouldn’t set off any alarms with my belt or any metal pins I’d forgotten I had.  (One time in an MRI, I had a moment of panic–had nothing to do with claustrophobia and everything to do with worrying whether or not I had a pin put in when I broke my ankle.  In that moment, I forgot.  And I did again at the jail. FYI–No pin.)

At 1 p.m. on the dot, I was told which window to go to.  There were stools of sorts in front of the windows, but someone had blocked the bottom half of the window so you couldn’t see your friend unless you were standing up.  There was a phone to pick up and speak into and that was how we were to communicate.  After a couple of minutes of standing there, I saw a group of men in orange jumpsuits heading towards us.  I scanned the group, and there he was.  He grinned that grin of his, and I grinned back.  It was good to see him.  He had showered and looked well fed and well rested.  I was thankful.  He picked up the phone, and said hello.  Ah.

Only I couldn’t hear him.

At all.

I spoke and looked at him questioningly.  He shrugged and shook his head.  He nodded at the window two spots down.  Someone had come in, said two words to their person and left from that window.  I looked around for someone, anyone, to ask if that was okay.

Because let me tell you this.  If there is a place where one does not want to do ANYTHING wrong or upset ANYONE or cross ANY lines, it would be in prison.  They wouldn’t have far to haul me if they decided they didn’t like what I was doing.  Seriously.  I was worried.

But Mac had already moved down.  Why wasn’t there an officer supervising this?  What was I going to say–He made me do it?

After a moment of hesitation, I moved down and picked up the phone.  We could hear each other.  Finally.

Eventually I relaxed a little, once it became apparent no one cared that we had changed windows.  We visited and caught up from our latest letters.  He told me about his attorney visiting the day before.  About how sometimes he didn’t want to go to the meals, just wanted to rest.  I asked about him working on his novel, a western, and he said, no not right now.  Maybe later on he would.  We passed the time with stories and jokes and I can say for sure, an hour is a long time, when you are speaking into a phone and trying to find a comfortable way to lean/stand and staring through “glass” that has something running through it that makes focusing on the person on the other side really hard.

I loved the visit but as we hit the forty-five and fifty minute mark, I could tell that Mac was getting tired.  He has never had good balance, even stone cold sober, so this was wearing him out too.  We talked for a few more minutes and then said our goodbyes, with promises of writing and wishes for safety and good health.

I gathered my license and keys and thanked the bored officer and headed out into the fresh air of that overcast Sunday.  As I walked down the street to my car, free to drink the water in my own cup waiting for me in the vehicle I owned, I felt like I had a fresh pair of glasses to see through.  I had only spent an hour inside the facility, but it was enough to make me see and appreciate things a little differently.

Little did I know that day where life was taking us. That in less than a month I’d be walking back in that building to speak at Mac’s hearing, a suitcase full of what he needed in my car, waiting to take him to a place where he could heal and be with folks who could put tools in his kit for his journey ahead.  That just over a year later, he’d be sitting at the graduation for my oldest, having gotten permission to come back home for it from his transitional program.  That just two years later, he’d be sitting in almost the exact same spot he was the week before he went to prison, and he’d be grieving over his friend who died after being hit by a car while crossing the street, mad over his tent that was stolen from his “camp,” and worrying over another friend who “drinks 24/7.”

As I left him yesterday, I felt a push to give him two numbers I had in my purse in the car.  Two numbers of possible rehabilitation or transitional places.  I sat in the driver’s seat and copied them down.  When I walked back around to the opening in the gate, he had left his seat outside.  I went in and looked around.  I hoped I could find him.  And there he was.  In the technology room.  He came out when he saw me.

“Here,” I said.  “I think I’m supposed to give you these numbers.  They might not be the right places, but maybe they can lead you to one that is.”

He took the folded paper and started to tuck it in his pocket.  “Thank you.”

I looked him in the eyes. “And it’s okay, you know.  It’s okay.  No pressure.  Just for whenever you want to, you know, take that step.  Your decision.”

He was quiet for a second.  “I’m almost there.”  He nodded and looked at the paper again. “I am.  I called Joe the other day.”  Joe, who had run the transitional home he’d been in until last July.

“Did you?  Was that good?”

He nodded.  And he reached to give me a hug.  “Thank you.  I’ll be calling you.”

Tonight I’m thankful for this life that takes me outside my comfort zones and into places where I have to step up and love someone else.  It’s not easy, and I’m not always a willing participant.  But when I go, the rewards are phenomenal.  I meet folks whom I would never have met otherwise–people who bring richness and laughter into my life and stories that touch my heart.  I am thankful for the folks who raised me to listen and love all–it’s not easy but they set a good example to follow.  And a tough one.

And tonight I ask for us all to keep Mac and all of our brothers and sisters like him in our thoughts, prayers, hearts, and minds.  The ones who need someone to see them and hear them and love them through choices, good and bad. And when it comes down to it, isn’t that what we all need?

 

Love to all.

 

What Else Are You Gonna Do?

As I sat there tonight across from my dear Heartfriend from years past, I looked at her beautiful face that hasn’t changed one bit in the twenty-three years since we spent almost every day together.  The kindness, the wit, the heart–all still there.  But there was something else.  In her smile.

There was peace.

We were catching up on untold stories and laughing over shared memories.  Only this was no ordinary visit.  We were speaking in quieter tones than normal, so as not to disturb her resting husband.  From time to time medical staff came to his bedside to run tests, check numbers, and ask questions.

A hospital.

She’s no stranger to them.  She and her sweet Fella have been here before.  Several times.

And yet she had a smile on her face.  Same as all those years ago.

This girl was the kind of friend who came out with a baseball bat, swinging, “Where are they?  I got this.”  (Seriously.  I have stories to prove it.)  And she still is.

As she shared with me the ins and outs of all that is going on right now, and none of it is easy, I was amazed.  I finally had to say something.

“And yet you’re still smiling,” I said, half-questioning, pretty much amazed.

She shrugged and smiled again.  “What else are you gonna do?  It is what it is.”

Y’all.

What else are you gonna do?  Indeed.  How about wallow in it?  Throw stuff around?  Walk around so bogged down in all that is going on in your life right now that you just can’t get past it?  Yell at God, shake your fists, and ask why?

But not this beautiful person, not my friend.

In the case of better or bitter, my sweet Heartfriend has chosen better.  And I see it on her face.  She has peace.  Is she concerned?  I am sure.  Worn out.  I’m thinking that’s an affirmative.  But is she angry?  Borrowing trouble?  Making excuses? Cutting people off in traffic and making everyone around her pay for what she’s going through? Absolutely not.

That’s not how she is.

What else are you gonna do?  How about use your gifts and talents to bless those around you?  Plan for the future by crocheting for a baby that’s coming soon?  Laugh about the funny little things, find joy in the lives of those around you, and share stories and listen and ask “why didn’t you tell me sooner? I would have been there.”

This looking outward and loving those around her when she has every right to be focused inward on what is going on in her own life?

That right there.

I want to be just like her when I grow up.  (She is after all, I believe, six months older than me minus a day.)

Tonight I am thankful for the visit with my friend, despite the circumstances.  I give thanks for hers and her husband’s smiles and I am praying/fingers crossed/hoping that the doctors will figure out how to make him better soon, so they can grow to be the “old couple that walks through Wal-Mart holding hands as they walk along slowly” that she dreams of them being.  I’m thankful our paths intertwined all those years ago, the day I walked into an office that had been hers alone, and instead of turning away, she slid over, made room, and changed my life and blessed my heart forever.   Bottom line, I am thankful for her.  My Heartfriend.  Because in the wise words of a rather small fella:

From A. A. Milne's "Winnie the Pooh"

From A. A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh”

Amen.

Finding Strength in Moments of Weakness

As I sat on the hospital bed, the sun had begun to set.  The room, filled with light just a half hour before, began to darken.  How many sunsets had I sat through in this very hospital waiting for the darkness–with Daddy, with Mama, and with Miss B?  Too many.  Far too many.

Last night I went to the hospital to visit a friend I had never met.  We had a friend in common, my Writer Friend, who had led us to meet.  Lettie and I had been trying to plan a get together over the past couple of weeks. Work schedules and sick children kept delaying our plans.  She called me last Tuesday to tell me that she had today, Monday, off.  So we planned to meet.  Then I got the call on Saturday night–Lettie was in the hospital, had been since Thursday.  I told her I’d come see her on Sunday.  And so it was that we met for the first time in Room 431.  Just four doors down from where Mama was in August of last year.  For a ten days HospitalStay.

It was surreal being there, meeting this dear woman and her daughter and son-in-law from out of state.  It was an honor hearing her stories and sharing unspoken concerns through glances with her daughter as Lettie talked about her condition.  There was a lot of uncertainty, a little fear, and a whole lot of faith.  We talked about the beauty of sisterhood–the challenges and the rewards.  About how Lettie’s sister who is younger by 11 months took care of her when she had a hard time as a young girl, and how she sees it as her job to take care of her sister now.  (I completely understand that feeling.) We talked about how not even physical distance can separate sisters.  She made me laugh as she gave her honest opinion about hospital food–“You know it’s bad when even the staff says it’s not good.”  She was thankful her daughter and son-in-law had brought her some food from the house.  They left to go back home and eat.

My sweet friend took my hand and my heart and wrapped them both in warmth.

My sweet friend took my hand and my heart and wrapped them both in warmth.

I  continued to sit with Lettie as she took my hand and talked about what it’s like to have someone you love pass from this world to the next right there in front of your eyes.  With a squeeze I let her know that I understood.  It’s the most precious and holy moment in this life–being there as life comes into the world and as it goes out.

The quiet of the moment filled the room and our spirits.  She needed to get up, but she wasn’t supposed to do it without help.  The nurse came down.  One of Mama’s nurses, but of course she wouldn’t remember.  Too many people to care for between then and now.  She helped Lettie to the bathroom and took care of everything.  After we got Lettie settled back in her bed, I gave her a hug and told her I’d see her soon.  She took my hand again.  “I love you.  Thank you for coming.”

I love you too.

Oh my aching heart.

It was my honor to be there.  To hear her laughter.  Share her stories.  Have her share her worries and hopes with me.  Those very thin moments of one soul joining another along the journey.

Knowing you will never be quite the same again.

Tonight I am thankful for a new friendship that fell into place like it had always been there or was always meant to be.  My heart breaks for the uncertainty and tenuousness of her physical health.  And at the same time, it leaps with joy at the way she is facing what might come–with a smile and with faith.

She told me I could share anything about her story I wanted to.  She has an amazing story filled with pain and love and laughter and sadness, much as we all do.  But what I want most to share of her story is what I learned from her.  It’s okay to ask for help.  She has had to let her children and friends help her, and she is learning to accept that.  The other thing I learned was it’s okay to admit you are scared.  You can have faith and still be scared.  It reminds me of the line of a song by Rascal Flats, “I’m Moving On,” written by Phillip White and David Vincent Williams:

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“I’ve found you find strength in your moments of weakness.”

As I sat in that hospital that holds strong memories of my Daddy’s diagnosis of lymphoma four years ago–going to find him in a little room in the ER that first morning and again when he fell and broke his hip in spring of 2011, memories of Mama’s fear and faith working its way through her heart and mind and our lives over a year ago, and memories of Miss B telling me she wanted to have the surgery on her hip because she didn’t want to stay in a bed for the rest of her life.  I remember standing at Daddy’s window in the room upstairs and watching the sun go down over the town as the lights above the storefronts began twinkling.  Last year I sat in the chair next to Mama’s bed texting with my Writer Friend whose Mama was in the hospital at the same time; it breaks my heart that we’ve both since said goodbye to our sweet Mamas.  I could look out of Mama’s hospital room window and see my babies climb out of the Fella’s car as he pulled up to bring me something from home.  And last night I sat with a precious woman who gets that fear and faith can share the path and who squeezed my hand and said life is hard and smiled and filled the room with love.  It might sound crazy, but as I travelled down the elevator and to the parking lot, a trip I’ve made many, many times, I had peace in my heart.  Peace that came from a hand and from a heart and from a smile.  And a shared journey.  A peace that passes all understanding, and for that I give thanks.