The Next Couple of Days

And so it’s time for the pages on the calendar that carry me away to a paradoxical place for a couple of days.

The days that are so full of emotion and good and hard things that it’s difficult to reconcile them all together in my one heart and mind.

February 10, 2007  My baby, my third and last baby–first son, was born.

February 9, 2013 I took my oldest, Aub, to my alma mater for Scholarship Day.  The beginning of her college life.

February 9, 2013 My Mama’s 24th day in the hospital and the date of her third emergency surgery.

February 10, 2013 I celebrated my baby boy’s 6th birthday with him for about thirty minutes.  The rest of the day I was at the hospital.  That night I signed the papers to let my Mama go.  And sometime after 10:30 p.m. she left this earth and headed on up to the House.

The precious church and cemetery out at Little Union.

The precious church and cemetery out at Little Union.

The paradox of welcoming (my baby) and letting go (my first born).

The paradox of life (my baby boy) and of death (my sweet Mama).

Yeah, it’s a lot to take in.

On the day that my baby boy came into this world, as they wheeled the two of us to our own room they stopped my bed.  There was a button on the wall that the nurse asked me to push.  When I did, a beautiful little tune played all over the hospital.  I remember hearing that same tune many times while staying with Mama at that very same hospital.  Though she wasn’t conscious, I still smiled and told her, “Mama, a new baby!”  I know she was smiling in her heart too.  Babies and little ones were her very favorite people in the world.

There was no button on the wall to press when Mama took her last breath.  Only more papers to sign.  And tears to shed.

On the same day six years apart, these hands of mine stroked the face of one so loved–first my little guy and then my Mama.  One hello, one goodbye.

I wondered if the Universe had a lesson for me when my Daddy’s battle with his Giant ended the day after our Princess’ seventh birthday in 2011.  To go from joy to sorrow so quickly as we remember and celebrate and honor is hard–but it’s something we do.   Every year.

And then this–to lose and gain all on the same day, years apart.

Oh, my heart.

And though it seems paradoxical and hard, it is actually also very beautiful in its brokenness.  This is my fragile time of year.  I am beginning to give myself grace and not set any expectations on what I should do or feel or think.  I just do.  Am.  Be.  And really, these days of love and loss and laughter and tears are the epitome of what Life is–joy and sorrow, life and death, tears and laughter.  And hugs.  Hugs of joy and hugs of sympathy.

And oh my, all of the stories.

As the ones who loved Mama so very much gathered around her bed that night, stories were shared.  Laughter was heard, and tears were shed. But most of all, the love in the room was palpable–so much so that if there had been an instrument to measure it, I am certain it would have set off all kinds of alarms.  Nurses would have come running, and oh, what they would have seen!  Love like that, the reflection of the love Mama gave to each one of us, doesn’t come along very often.

Earlier today I read this, part of today’s sermon given by Hugh Hollowell at Love Wins:

“It isn’t the man’s actions or even his faith that bring him healing – it is the actions and faith of the man’s friends. We don’t even know if the man has any faith of his own. We don’t know if the guy is even conscious. Was he a good man? A bad man? We don’t know. All we know is he has friends with faith, and that that is enough. And it is there that I find hope in the story.” – From today’s sermon on Mark 2

This story and Hugh’s thoughts have stayed with me today.  There have been times on this journey of letting my parents go that the ONLY thing that has kept me going, the ONLY healing thing in my life, has been the faith of my family and my friends.  They have carried me and given me hope, and for that I offer my gratitude.  My faith has waxed and waned over the past few years, even more so in the past two.  That my babies have lost the people who loved them so much–that breaks my heart.  Each time I think on it.  That there is a gravestone in the cemetery with my child’s birthday on it–there are days I just.  can’t.  even.

But there are those who love me who can.  And who have.  And that’s how I’ve kept going.

Tonight I’m thankful for all of it.  Every single “feel” I had then.  And every single one I’m having now.  I’m just as comfortable with the weeping as I am with the laughter. And I think that’s okay.  I miss my Mama and my Daddy every single day.  I look around me at those who know the story and still listen as I tell it over and over as many times, in as many different ways, as I need to–and I am thankful beyond measure.

And so tonight I’ve told it one more time.  One more way.  The story of saying hello and saying goodbye and the years between them that were way too few.  And I thank you for reading and hearing it.  Tonight I had to write this, because I need to let it all out–the wracking sobs and the heartache.  Because on Tuesday, I will make it all about my baby boy. Who isn’t so much of a baby anymore.

Because I know if I don’t, I will be disappointing my Mama.  My Mama, who never would have chosen to leave when she did, and who adored that little guy like he was the best thing since sliced bread.  Or chocolate milk.  She loved all of her grandchildren that way, and I’ve felt her pushing me the past few days to go on and get this out.  So that we can party on Tuesday–and all the rest of the month.  Because that’s how she celebrated the day that those she loved came into the world–long and hard.  When she loved, she loved fiercely and with a love that was (and still is) unsurpassed.

Tonight I leave you with a song that my sisterfriend shared with me about a month ago.  This song is my heart right now.  I hope that Mama, Daddy, and all the others who have gone before us are dancing in the sky…..

that brings me comfort and makes me smile.

Because my Mama sure did love to dance.

Love to all.

 

My Shark Tank Worthy Idea

Today I was folding clothes.

Nothing different about that.  Most days find me folding a load or two.

But today as I was taking on Mt. Washmore, I had a revelation–a business idea.

Somebody sign me up for Shark Tank.  I’m going to be an entrepreneur.

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I was folding these two shirts that we got on Monday when Aub and I attended the workshop with Hugh Hollowell and David LaMotte.  I smiled at the memories of the day and all the great discussions, and I realized that would likely happen each time I wore or folded these shirts.

And maybe, really, that was why I got them?

I thought about the shirt my oldest got at the Miranda Lambert concert.  Did she get it because, more than anything in this life, she wanted to wear Miranda Lambert’s face across her chest?  I don’t think so.  I think she got caught up in the moment and wanted to have something–a t-shirt–to remember it by.

Same thing with the Jonas Brothers concert, the trip to Disney, and the field trip to see Wicked at the Fox–something to wear to remember those feelings and emotions and the experience.

And so here’s where my business idea comes in.

An app (because, obviously) that you can hit a button and the moment is “captured” and a unique, custom-made t-shirt to commemorate the moment is immediately designed and you receive it in 24-48 hours.  Happy Wearing!  And Remembering.

I mean, when you attend these big events, the shirts and hoodies and whatnot are all already there.  But what about those times when there are no souvenir sellers?

When you cook a meal that everyone raves about…..*click*  “Mama’s cooking RULES” shirt at your door the very next day

When you make it to your appointment on time despite all the bad traffic…..*click* “Keep Calm and Let Mama Drive”

When you have solved the problem of how to fit all of the dirty dishes in the dishwasher AT ONE TIME…..*click* “Because #cleandishescleansink”

When you breathe in the smell of freshly washed hair when your little one comes in to hug you…..*click* “Mamahood–Best. Job. Ever.”

When you are reading a really good book and you hear your children calling you and so you tell them you’re playing hide and seek…..*click* “This is not the Mama you are looking for” (sorry, had to have the token Star Wars reference)

All of those precious, small moments that you just wish could last a moment or two or an eternity longer happen, you would be able to capture them and have a t-shirt to remember it by.

How cool would that be?

Tonight I’m thankful for the reminder that not every precious moment in this life is a big “live one night only show” one–that there are those small quiet and not so quiet ones that mean everything and we wish could last forever that are beautiful too.

Wishing you all a t-shirt wearing, slogan worthy day.

Love to all.

 

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In all seriousness, I will wear these shirts we got on Monday because I believe in their message and because the purchase of them went to help with their mission.  I do believe Love Wins, and it is my hope that we will all see the person beyond the homelessness and find what we have in common and celebrate THAT.  If you’d like to support the mission of Love Wins and/or wear a really cool shirt just like me–you can click here and order your own.  Now that’s something to smile about.

 

On what Compassion really is

So this has been messing with my mind.

Created by Love Wins Ministries www.lovewinsministries.org

Created by Love Wins Ministries http://www.lovewinsministries.org

Many thanks to Love Wins Ministries for posting this quote by Pema Chodron.  I had never heard of this woman, and so with a little digging, I found that she is a notable American figure in Tibetan Buddhism.  She is also a prolific writer.  She is a thinker and a mind blower.

At least she has blown mine.

See, she’s speaking to me on a couple of different levels here.  First of all, trying to fully wrap my brain around this–the darkness I have walked through, still find myself in at times, it all helps me to be with someone else who is struggling.  Because I’ve been there. Maybe not on the same path, but I’ve been lost, hurt, confused, overwhelmed.  I get it.  And this suggests that I need to know my darkness well, not just rush through it, looking for the quickest way out of the pain, the grief, the loss, the hurt.  I must acknowledge it, process it, and work through it, or it’s of no good to me or anyone else.  Darkness worked through can shine light into the lives of others.  It brings with it hope and the knowledge that it can be done.

And that part about compassion being between equals?  I love it.  I can sit and offer a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, not because I have a degree in therapy or because I’ve been trained to do so, but because I care.  One is not looking down at another, holding on to all the compassion, doling it out as though bestowing a gift to the less fortunate.  Instead it’s an equal playing field between two people who each needs the other.

It IS about recognizing our shared humanity, isn’t it?  I mean what else is there?  It’s why we love, why we care, why we are motivated to step outside of our little boxes of comfort everyday and risk our hearts at all.  Because we are all on this journey together.

All day when I have thought of that quote, I’ve had this vision in my head.  I think my Cousin put it there, but for a totally different reason.

Remember that moment in “The Wizard of Oz” when the Wizard “head” makes them all tremble and ask for what they need?  He is so mighty and powerful, looking down upon them, telling them what they must do to find their way into his favor to get his assistance.

But then, we all remember what happens later, don’t we?  Daring little Toto pulling the curtain back to reveal that instead of a great and powerful “being,” the Wizard is a person just like Dorothy, and actually he needs her as much as she needs him.

And that’s it in a nutshell, right?

We need each other.

Relationships.

When we recognize what we have in common–the darkness, brokenness, hope-filled hearts, our need to be loved–and what we share–this world, dreams, plans, our humanity–we can truly be present for each other.  Offering love, forgiveness, a hand to hold, a friend to sit with–compassion.

This week has been Spring break for the children in our neighborhood.  We have pushed through for the most part.  We’re smelling the barn, seeing that light at the end of the tunnel, you might say if you didn’t mind mixing metaphors.  However this week, after our experience on Sunday when I realized we needed more togetherness in our own family, I have added in a new course of study.

Exactly that.

Compassion.

Bonus points and praise and a big hug from Mama when I catch someone being compassionate.  (Okay, just kidding about the points.) Doing something kind for someone else.  Showing understanding and grace.  Using loving words.  And *whispering* I think it might be working.  Yesterday Cooter carried in his sister’s loom bands without anyone asking at all.  He saw them and just thought of doing it.  I almost cried.  I did clap my hands.  And he beamed.

When we accept what we have in common and what we don’t, we are in a better position to love and understand and offer those things to another.  We aren’t going to make the world a better place by trying to change others to be like us, to share our views.  We will make it a better place when we allow others to be exactly who they are and love them all the more for it.

It’s just too short to settle for anything less.

Love to all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just One Thing

When I was deciding whether or not to join Facebook three years ago, I went to the one whom I knew would shoot straight with me.  My Daddy.  As we sat together, I told him that I was thinking about signing up, but I wondered what kind of Pandora’s box I was opening.  I felt more compelled to join as my oldest was involved in activities that used Facebook as its main way of communicating.

Daddy sat for a minute and then answered, “Well, as long as you make it work for you, and you don’t work for it…..it should be all right.”

From the beginning I have kept his words in mind.  They apply to all sorts of situations.  But regarding Facebook, I’ve worked to keep myself from sitting in front of the computer for hours, keeping up with my friends’ and acquaintances’ comings, goings, breakfast menus, and all kinds of drama. I’ve learned not to obsess over what the vaguebookers are talking about.  I’ve tried to be conscientious about my “likes.”  I have to admit that because of Facebook I have found out about and been touched by all sorts of organizations and people who are doing amazing things to make this world a better place.  It has opened my eyes to so many ways to serve our world and be a good steward of all around us.  There’s so much brokenness in our world, but there are so many folks trying to help.  That gives me hope.

So this evening when I sat down for a few minutes and logged in, this was waiting on me:

pic of becca stevens quote

Rev. Becca Stevens is the founder of Thistle Farms and Magdalene.  From their Facebook page, here is their mission, beautifully put:

Magdalene is a two-year residential community founded in Nashville, TN in 1997 for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. Magdalene was founded not just to help a sub-culture of women, but to help change the culture itself. We stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from sexual abuse, violence, and life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that buys and sells women like commodities.

Thistle Farms is a non-profit business operated by the women of Magdalene. By hand, the women create natural bath and body products that are as kind to the environment as they are to the body. All sales proceeds go back into the program.

Rev. Stevens knows these women.  She’s talked with them, cried with them, and most importantly, she’s listened.  She KNOWS why these women are on the streets.  When she says a community has failed them, I know she is right.  And I find myself tearful, because I am one of that community.  I am one of the many reasons these women are on the streets.  “…..a culture that buys and sells women like commodities.”  That.  Breaks.  My.  Heart.  We have to stop this.

And there are so many other heartbreaking ways that we, as a community, have failed.  There are children who are hungry every weekend, when their weekday programs are closed.  Too often I shop for my own groceries and forget to pick up something for their weekend backpacks until I am home and it’s too late.  *whispering* I am so ashamed.  There are programs that take care of the hard stuff.  All I have to do is throw some extra groceries in my cart.  And I can’t even do that as often as I should.

A couple of days ago I was talking with my friend who works with a ministry that helps people who are homeless and in need with all kinds of resources–health, education, emotional support, job training and so much more.  We were lamenting about our friend who is now in a transitional program a couple of hours away.  He needs friends there.  Who are NOT in his program.  Who can visit him and take him to lunch and just let him know he’s important to them.  It’s a little hard to do from three hours away.  Phone calls can only do so much.  He needs to be looked in the eyes and to see that he’s Someone in the eyes of others.   My friend sighed and said she sees the same thing locally.  So many people come to her and want to “help,” but unfortunately, this means they have well-intentioned suggestions about how to do things or they come once and never come back.  There have been far too few who have wanted to offer what is needed most.  Relationships.  These people who have been failed already by the system, their families, their communities, by us–what they need most is a relationship.  To matter to someone.  To have someone to cheer them along.  To care for someone and be cared for in return  To have someone to love them when they fall.  Because they will at some point.  We all do.  This is what Jesus of the Good Book was all about.  Why aren’t more folks, especially those who follow him, jumping at the chance to be a part of something like this?

Some kind people offer prayers for these kinds of situations–these people without homes, these women who can barely eke out an existence on the streets, these hungry children and so many other broken and raw circumstances.  They ask God for an answer, for healing, for a solution.

Well, just a couple of posts behind Rev. Stevens’, I saw this one from a wonderful program that serves folks in need in North Carolina:

pic of love wins quote

Oh dear.  I was afraid it was something like that.

Because if God’s plan is us, that means I have to do more than read a Facebook post and think good thoughts for those folks.  I have to do more than be sad.  I have to get mad and get busy.  I have to find my passion and work for change.  And this is the kind of change I can actually get on board with.  And today, I did get mad.  Again.

My seventeen year old was looking at something that shows big sales on different websites.  She had clicked on a website that sold purses.  She has a thing for bags, and as most of hers come from the GW Boutique, therefore helping folks, I’ve decided to find it endearing.  (And it might be genetic.  Ahem.)  As she looked on the site, “window shopping”, I heard her sharp intake of breath.

“One of these purses is $10,000,” she said quite indignantly.  “Now that makes me wanna just slap somebody.”

Amen.

Y’all, I am not perfect.  My cup (and my closet and my pantry) overfloweth and much of it is my own fault, and I know I need to cut back.  So much of this frustration is with myself too. That I have so much when there are folks with less than nothing…..it feels so wrong.  When we live in a world, in a country, where women and men are living on the streets, subjecting themselves to all kinds of abuse and non-human ways of existing, no matter if it’s because of addiction or loss of income or what–IT. IS. WRONG.  Their voices were silenced along the way.  We don’t know their story before they became addicted, so how can we possibly condemn them for it?  All I know is I am so lucky that I had a home and family to go to when my world fell apart many years ago.  Not everyone has that.  We should not be in the business of pointing fingers but rather about the business of opening our arms.  In love.  In welcome.  In acceptance.

To all.

That means to those who are low in spirit, whether in jail, on the streets, or living next door.  It also means to the children who are ahead of us in line at the grocery store as well as the children who never see a grocery store…..or enough food in their own homes. It means taking time to figure out what makes us mad.  And working to change it.  No single person can fix it all or can even help in every broken situation.  But if each one of us did just one thing–built a relationship with just one person who was in need–I don’t know that it would fix everything, but I do know that we’d be able to see a difference.  And offer hope and set an example for those behind us.  To do just one thing.

I don’t pretend to know what your one thing is.  I’m not even sure what mine is yet.  But I do know that we need to start living like we mean it, and that we each need to have that one thing, that one relational thing.  Maybe it’s checking on a friend who’s having a hard time, offering to help a new mom who is overwhelmed, maybe it’s talking with someone in a doctor’s waiting room or using your gifts and talents to create something for someone in need.  I have no idea what your “one thing” could be.  But I do know this–it will feel right.  It might take you outside of your comfort zone for a bit, but it won’t be painful.  As the great theologian and writer Frederick Buechner wrote:  “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”  It will look different for each one of us.

I also know that when you and I each do our one thing, it will not end there.  We must be brave and intent in our mission, giving generously and loving fiercely.  For as Mr. Buechner also wrote, “The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”

Just one thing.  It’s a start.

We Are All One

So I saw this video today…..

Hugh Hollowell, who runs Love Wins Ministry in Raleigh, North Carolina, shared it and his thoughts along with it.  You can read what he wrote here.

I’ve had this on my mind a lot today.

I get what this young man is trying to do.  I respect that he has a problem with how A&F feels and what they are doing.  Being outside their desired demographic (I have never been nor will I ever be one of the “cool kids,” and we won’t even talk about their sizing), I don’t like what they are trying to do either.  I really cannot fathom burning clothes.  Especially ones that don’t have rips or broken zippers.  Ahem.  (I mean, I have a Repurposing board on Pinterest, for goodness’ sake–we just don’t throw clothes away.)

I have only been in one of their stores once.  It was dark, and the music was way too loud, and we were stared down as we walked through.  We were there to exchange a gift that was the wrong size.  I left there with a headache and a general lack of being impressed at all.  I won’t ever go back in there.  I don’t need that kind of stress again.

Here’s the deal.  I don’t know why their clothes are “The Thing.”  I don’t get it.  Just like I don’t get why other brands of jeans without the comfort waistband or the ones that ride so low that when I bend over that I could get arrested are considered hip.  But whatever.  It’s his company, he can do as he pleases, as can I.  I vote with my dollar.  I can refuse to give him any of my money.  Which I do.  For many reasons, not the least of which is that his merchandise is way over-priced and they have had questionable labor practices.  (Do NOT get me started on fair trade issues tonight.)

So I guess I get that this young man is protesting.  He is asking us to vote with our actions.  I don’t think he meant any harm.  I just think he picked the wrong action.  Did you notice in the video that the people he is handing the clothes to are not sure of what is going on?  They seem hesitant?  I wonder if he got permission to share their faces all across the internet.  Because here’s the important thing to remember–

They are people.  Just like me.  And you.  There is no us and them.  We are all one.

If someone videoed me and showed it all over the place without checking with me first, I’d be really ticked off.  It feels like he is using them as props in his video and that really makes me sad.

In the past three years, I have had the opportunity to build relationships with folks, some of whom I call family, who have found themselves homeless at one point or another.  The reasons why vary as much as they themselves.  It is not a situation anyone chooses for him/herself.   And usually it’s not something that happens overnight.  But there it is.  And they have to live with it.  No, wait.  We all have to live with it.

I have learned a lot during these three years.  I have learned, among other things, that handing out “stuff” creates a have/have not relationship–and that’s not a healthy basis for any relationship.  I’m ashamed to say I know this from experience.

The director of the program we volunteer with has taught me a lot, and the stories I’ve heard would curl your hair.  There is one sweet lady who wanders around downtown with a shopping cart loaded down with full suitcases and other items.  One day when I was leaving the hospital from seeing Mama, the lady was trying to cross the street.  She started to push her cart ahead of her and then realized the light had changed.  She tried to stop it, but the cart was so heavy it pulled her into the street a few feet.  The last thing she needs is an A&F sweater to add to her load.   There was another lady who had a chance to stay in a shelter.  She was offered a ride there, but she insisted that she had to go back to the park and get her bags of stuff first.  She wouldn’t hear of anything else.  In doing so, she lost her spot at the shelter.  And the “stuff?”  Turns out much of it was baby or children’s clothing–and she has no children.  For quite a few of our friends in these circumstances, it is difficult for them to let go of things.

I guess some of what troubles me about the video is the nonchalance in his handing out the clothes…..there is no assessing need.  I mean, the man with the guitar on his back?  Did he really seem like he was going to hang on to it beyond the next corner?  It just hit me.  What hurts the most here is that there is NO RELATIONSHIP.  He is walking around handing out A&F clothes to people willy-nilly.  In trying to make a point to the A&F CEO, he’s making a point to the people he’s walking among.  If YOU wear this, it will really upset them.  Because you are not cool, you are not important, you are not good enough–not even good enough for me to do more than pull something out of my stack here and hand over whatever my hand touches to the next person I come across.

It’s based on his message, not the needs of those he’s “reaching out” to.

Ouch.

I heard the story about someone driving through the park tossing sandwiches out of their car at the folks sitting scattered through the park.  People, this breaks my heart.  We are called to feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, clothe those who are in need.  These are active verbs.  As in action.  As in, engaging the other person and assessing.  Are they hungry?  Thirsty?  In need?  THE ONLY WAY to know this is to know the person.  Talk to them.  Build a relationship.  If we just hand out STUFF, we are only meeting one person’s need–our own.

I don’t mean to suggest that donating food and clothes to missions is wrong.  Not at all.  Missions have game plans and procedures for assessing needs and distributing accordingly.  Most of them do this well.  What I am saying is that when we come across people who are different, people without homes, from different faiths, from different cultures, with different beliefs–we need to see that we are one.  All differences aside–One people.  If even one is suffering, we are all suffering.  If one is objectified, we all are.  If one is downtrodden…..well, you get my point.  It’s simply not an us-them.

pic of liberation quote

So if the information shared in the video and the policies of A&F trouble you, think about it.  Consider how your voice can be heard.   And then Act.  That’s important.  But consider, before you act, whom your actions are affecting.   For in the end, we are all one, and what we do to one of us, we are doing to all of us.  And if even one of us is hurt by it…..it’s just not worth it.

The Three Gifts

Twenty-four hours into the HospitalStay with Mama, she and I rode in an ambulance from Warner Robins to Macon, a very painful ride for Mama, only made more so by the driver blasting Q106–Classic Rock.  Yeah, there’s another letter to write.  I’ll add it to my to-do list.

Forty-eight hours in, I had spent a night in the CVICU waiting room, been home the next morning for a few hours, and then returned mid-afternoon to hang out with Mama again.  The game plan was for me to stay until visiting hours were over for the night at 9 p.m.  Mama and I talked some, she dozed some, and we sat in companionable silence too.  One of the care techs came in and shared her story with Mama, while holding her hand and trying to take her mind off the pain.  Mama was like that–folks were always sharing their stories with her.  She was a great listener.

As the evening wore on, Mama was getting tired, but the pain kept her from getting good rest.  It was about 8:15 when she said, “Why don’t you head on home? It’s almost time, and I’ll be fine.”  I told her no.  I just didn’t feel like I could leave yet.  I am thankful for that still, small voice that told me to stay.  It was only a few minutes later when I noticed a flurry of activity at the nurses’ station.  Doctors and other staff were gathered and looking towards our room and then moving with purpose towards us.  I knew something big was about to happen.

There was a very kind doctor who had a great smile–remember Enos from Dukes of Hazzard?  Yeah, that kind of smile.  He came in and explained that the latest MRI confirmed what they had suspected, and that Mama would need emergency surgery within the hour.  We were both in shock.  Mama did not want to have surgery.  When my brain started functioning again, I thought about Sandy, my sister who had been there earlier that day for several hours.  She had probably only been home for a couple of hours actually.  I called her and put her on speaker phone.  She talked to Mama about the surgery and listened to what the doctor had to say.  She told Mama, “I don’t think we have a choice.  I’m coming Mama.  I’m leaving now.”

I looked at Mama and she looked at me.  I knew her fears on this, but we really had no choice.  She finally nodded and said, “Go ahead.  Sign it.”  She was in so much pain she hadn’t been able to sign anything for herself since being admitted.  “If it will make this pain go away…..I’ll do anything.”

There was a rush of getting things together and then wheeling Mama down.  One of the last things she told me was, “Don’t let Sandy do anything foolish.”  Meaning what, Mama?  Mama was worried about her making the two hour drive late at night by herself and wasn’t sure Sandy should come.  I tried to reassure her, but I knew it was on her mind.

After meeting the surgeons and anesthesiologist, I was led out to a waiting area.  To sit by myself.  And wait.  I had called my other sister and my brother and let them know.  I talked to my aunt again.  While I was talking to her, she said to be sure to check my cell phone, that my cousin had texted me.  I told her I would, and we said goodbye.

And there was the first gift of the night.

The gift of presence

The gift of presence

My cousin and his wife had come down to stay with his folks for the weekend.  When they heard what was happening, they decided to come and sit with me.  When I read this I shed the first tears of the night.  That they would make their lives interruptible, travel a half hour up that late in the evening, that they didn’t want me to be alone–have I mentioned how incredible my people are?  And they brought me a bottle of water and homemade peach cobbler.  There is that too.

In the meantime I had texted my dear friend and minister, who also said she was coming.  Bless her heart, I was tucked away in a waiting area that no one knew about apparently, so she wound up wandering the hallways of this enormous hospital complex, until she was rescued by a kind soul who led her to where we were.  And then I got the second gift:

The gift of comfort

The gift of comfort

My sweet friend had heard all about my experience of spending the night in the waiting area the night before without the comfort of pillow and blanket.  On her way out her door, she grabbed these blankets and a pillow for me and my sister to have as we sat through the night in the surgery waiting area.  Bless her.  Yes, they were as cuddly as they look.

What a gift she is! Wouldn't you be happy to see that face too?  Here she is saying, "Are you serious?" when a dear friend offered to bring us the Best.  Coffee.  Ever.  (She was, thank goodness.)

What a gift she is! Wouldn’t you be happy to see that face too? Here she is saying, “Are you serious?” when a dear friend offered to bring us the Best. Coffee. Ever. (She was, thank goodness.)

My third gift arrived in a bit of comic relief.  My sister was trying to figure out how to get to the right parking deck.  We could SEE her from the windows in the waiting area.  It was pitch black out, but there she was, trying to get around one way and closed streets to where I was telling her to go.  Finally my sweet cousin pulled out her phone and used the GPS to lead Sandy in.  I was so relieved and thankful when she was finally sitting next to me.  And I looked around.  Sitting around us were people who loved us, who made time to be with us during a very dark and scary time.  And there were so many more who were holding us in their hearts who couldn’t be physically present.  So thankful for them all.

One of my heroes, Hugh Hollowell, who runs Love Wins Ministry in North Carolina tells the story of one of his friends in need asking him for help with her utilities.  She became quite upset when he told her he just didn’t have it.  “I thought you were my friend,” she said.  And Hugh told her he was.  And that though he couldn’t keep her lights from going off, he would come and sit with her in the dark…..because that’s what he thinks Jesus does.  Sits with us in the dark.*

Tonight I am thankful for family and friends who sit with us in the dark.  Who hold our hands and tell us it’s okay to be afraid, it’s okay not to want to do this again.  So soon.  And who bring us comfort in the form of warmth and a most delicious peach cobbler.  Most of all, I am thankful for folks who show up.  They may not be able to fix things–things may not even be fixable.  But in the midst of the darkness, they show up.  In whatever way they are able to–bringing meals, sending messages, making phone calls, dropping off goody bags, delivering cups of coffee, offering hugs in a hallway, listening,  sharing muffins on a Wednesday aftenoon, through all of this–sitting with us in the dark.  And that is one of the greatest things any of us can do for each other.

*This story can be read in the chapter “The Marine,” in Karen Spears Zacharias’ book “Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide?: ‘Cause I Need More Room for my Plasma TV“.  Or you can meet Hugh Hollowell here http://lovewins.info/ or here (yes, it’s 18 minutes long, but I’m pretty sure you will love him):