If I close my eyes, I can still hear the sound of the rustling leaves; the meandering trickle of the waterfall; the melodious chirp of the songbirds; the crunching sound of pebbles under my feet; and, I can feel the midday sun’s warmth in my hair. The tranquil grounds outside of the hospice house offer sanctuary and respite for caregivers and families. Comprised through monetary donations and gifts-in-kind, the hospice house and campus grant terminally ill patients and their loved ones a time to reflect and connect with each other before saying goodbye.
I remember my father-in-law saying when he was diagnosed with lung cancer, that none of us are meant to stay here forever. My mother-in-law, at the announcement of her cancer diagnoses, felt blessed to be 89 years old. “I’ve lived a good life,” she said. She also acknowledged God with gratitude for granting her with the means to raise two respectful, responsible sons and she confirmed her love for her daughter-in-laws, too.
“I’m ready to go,” she said and left it at that.
Since her funeral, I’ve thought about her life, her courage at facing the end of her life, and the impact that her life had on so many. Before she slipped into her final sleep, she told us to be good to each other and to take care of her grandson and his children— her great-grandchildren. Even in her last coherent moments, she thought of others.
We await the healing balm of time. But for those of us who are left to endure life without our mother, the sting of her death, the void of her presence, seems unbearable. We will move forward, and we will honor her memory by being kind to each other, just as she instructed.
One week later we come to terms with the passing of our mother. Sad, though we are, we rejoice, because one more precious soul rests in the arms of her Lord!
Today we say ‘goodbye’ to my mother-in-law. What a special lady she was in my life. Most people cannot say they are blessed to have two mothers, but I can. My mother-in-law loved unconditionally, gave unconditionally, and asked for nothing in return. When my father-in-law passed away, I sat beside her while friends and church family brought in food. I’ll never forget how uncomfortable this made her. She said, “I don’t like this, I don’t like this at all . . . I don’t like being the receiver; I’d rather be the giver.” To which I replied, “Sometimes we have to be the receiver.”
This afternoon we are the receiver, again. We prepare ourselves to receive condolences after the funeral. Hard as this may be, I am so thankful that God is already ahead of us, waiting to comfort us through those who loved our dear mother. But isn’t that how our God works? Always one step ahead of us? Always patient? Always loyal? Always ready to comfort with outstretched, loving arms?
Today we say, “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord! Because His grace is sufficient, our cup runneth over.”
Dear Gracious and Loving Father,
Thank you for your never ceasing presence. But more than anything, thank you for the blessed gift of eternity. Oh, how each of us will rejoice when we reunite with our precious loved ones!
In all of my years of haircutting, I have never been more appreciative of God’s presence than I was on January 2, 2015.
We reopened, feeling refreshed after enjoying two days off to celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, to a standing-room-only crowd. I just knew we had cut everyone the week before Christmas and that this would be a slow, but steady day. I was wrong. By two that afternoon my back was screaming, “Sit down, please!” No chance of that as the mass of patrons kept coming.
God has always blessed my barber shop with loyal families who say that they would go nowhere else. This type of loyalty speaks volumes, pertaining to the level of friendly, competent service our clients feel we provide. We know most of our clients on a first-name basis, and this makes our work day feel less like work and more like a family reunion. As barber shops go, there are always funny stories being shared, and an overabundance of handshakes and hugs, and sometimes tears when we pause to pay our heartfelt condolences on behalf of a client’s family member who has passed into the more immediate presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The loss of pets are also heavily grieved, because they are God’s creations, too. It’s what our little community barber shop is all about: Sharing and Caring.
But on January 2, at approximately 3:00pm, time stopped, and so did the buzzing of our clippers.
I am comfortable cutting children’s hair, any size, any age. Experience brings confidence in handling little ones, especially when they grow impatient, using their body language to let you know that they are ready to be finished. It’s not uncommon for a child to suddenly start twitching—legs moving, shoulders scrunching up and down, head bobbing, etc., so when my little six-year-old buddy started his twitching, I calmly reminded him that I was “almost finished,” and to “hang on.”
Little did I know, or realize, that he was not having typical child wiggles.
My little buddy, Trent, was having a seizure!
At first I thought he had fallen asleep when he began to slide to the left side of my barber chair, which is not uncommon; I have had children fall asleep many times during a haircut. I caught him and repositioned him back to the center. When I did, his little head fell back and I was able to catch his head with my hands. Then, he began to slowly slide from the chair, head still cupped in my hands. This is when I yelled to his dad that I needed help. Now, Trent’s daddy is a big man, tall and very capable of handling his six-year-old son, but the terror of Trent’s situation showed evident in his dad’s face when Trent’s seizure began. I pulled the hair cape from Trent and, with his dad’s help, we laid him on his side on the floor away from the pile of his fallen hair. I am still cupping Trent’s head in my hands. Towels were placed under Trent’s head and 911 was called. With Trent’s dad and I kneeling at his side, we relayed Trent’s status back to another employee, speaking to the 911 operator. Trent was sweating. His pulse was weak. His breathing was shallow. We were scared. I rubbed a cool towel over Trent’s face in hopes that it might help. When Trent tried to get up we moved him to a more comfortable wicker love seat. I sat with Trent, held his hand, as his dad and another employee greeted EMS. Trent stared into nothingness.
Quickly, EMS evaluated Trent’s condition. They took his temperature; we were relieved when it showed a normal 98.6. His blood pressure was a little low and they immediately transported him to the hospital. Later that evening I received a text that Trent was fine and he would see a specialist, later. I was relieved for Trent and also for his family.
To my surprise, Trent, his daddy, and his sister came back to see us the next day! I grabbed him up and hugged him tight. “Trent! I’m so happy to see you,” I said. “Are you back for the rest of your haircut?” We laughed when his daddy handed us a box of Dunkin Doughnut holes.
“Thank you,” he said. “I’m glad we were here when Trent had his seizure. You guys are like family. I was scared,” he said.
“I know you were,” I said. “We were, too.”
Even though we may not understand why things, like Trent’s seizure, happen, we can always rely on God’s presence to bring us through the storm. I have thought a lot about Trent’s situation and how my staff worked together to remain calm and focused. And, I have thought about Trent’s daddy. What if he were driving, unaware of Trent’s sudden seizure? That scenario is too frightening to imagine.
We don’t always know and understand why things happen the way they do, but we can rest assured that God does, and he will be there to calm us and bring us through all of life’s storms.
Thank you for providing help and comfort to Trent and his daddy on what could have been a very different outcome.
Thank you for allowing my small community barber shop to be a safe haven, providing compassion and strength to a father who was afraid for his son.
Thank you for being the calm in our storm.
Mom, August 2014, on our most recent Mother/Daughter trip
I never thought of Mom as “elderly,” until now.
Recently, reality sucker-punched me hard in the form of sheer terror and helplessness.
Mom and I are two peas in one pod, so to speak. We are best friends.
Every year we take a mother and daughter trip. Mostly we shop and giggle at the silliest things, just like little girls. Once, at Walmart, we each bought a massive amount of Charmin. It was on sale, plus we had coupons.
Looking back, I guess we did go a little overboard.
Anyway, while we waited in the checkout line, I started laughing. When Mom ask what was funny, I said, “Look at what we’re buying.” She never missed a beat, looked in her cart, and said, “If anybody asks, let’s tell them we’re having a prune eating contest.”
We looked at each other and laughed, hysterically, without a care in the world.
To this day, that memory still makes me smile.
When we travel now, I look for destinations that afford the easiest access for Mom. I seek lodging with handicap assessable features, and I always let Mom out at the front door before I park. I hold her hand when we walk, and I embrace her arm when she steps onto the sidewalk. I am vigilant when it comes to her health and her safety, a mother overseeing her child.
But recently, I became careless and failed her.
Mom and I have ridden the mall escalator many times. No problem.
She always wants me to “go first,” insisting that she’s right behind me.
I never question her, because she’s Mom.
I go first, as instructed.
But on a recent shopping trip, everything changed.
I got on the escalator and was several steps above her. When I looked back to check on Mom, she stood watching the steps. She took her time, waited for the right moment to step on.
Finally, she made her move.
Everything that happened next happened literally in s-l-o-w motion.
I watched as Mom stepped on too soon. Her feet straddled two flat steps; she stood on the crack between the two steps.
As the steps rose to form another step, her feet were three-fourths on one step while the remaining quarter hung off the back.
I watched as she inched her feet backward. Had she just stepped forward a little more, her feet would have been firmly placed on a whole step.
She became confused.
I saw it on her face, trying to figure out what to do.
We are now over halfway up the escalator.
Then it happened.
I screamed, “Mom!”
And ran down the moving steps.
She inched her way off the step, dropped to the step below, and fell backward.
I heard her head hit.
I screamed, again.
Somewhere in the distance, I heard someone yell,”Shut down the escalator!”
When I reached her, I fell to my knees, escalator still moving, and
cupped her head in my hands.
Lightening fear ran through me, but I managed to remain calm.
The escalator jerked and stopped, and three angels stood around us:
One man and two women.
The man lifted Mom upright as the two women stood on each side of her.
I walked behind them, and together, we walked Mom to the top.
The department store manager and another store employee sat Mom in a chair.
I looked for the man and the two women who came to our rescue, but they were nowhere to be found.
I never saw them again.
EMS arrived and thought it best to transport Mom to the ER, where she could be better evaluated.
During our time in the ER, Mom complained because our shopping trip had been interrupted.
I assured her we would schedule another shopping day.
Miraculously, her CT scan showed no sign of head trauma.
I’m still in awe that the only “real” injury Mom received was a scrape to her ankle and a small cut on her elbow. Her head never bled, but only revealed a large red goose egg.
She received a tetanus shot and instructions on what to do should headaches, blurred vision, etc. occur.
She was released, and we left.
Never have I felt so helpless.
Never have I felt so heartbroken.
Never have I felt so ashamed.
Never have I felt so GUILTY!
The guilt that haunted me later that evening, and even now, still burns red hot inside.
What if Mom’s fall killed her?
It was possible.
I heard her head hit, after all!
What if she broke her back?
It was possible.
Instead, Mom received only a “bump” on her head, as she calls it.
Since this horrible accident, I vow that she will never again ride another escalator.
From now on we are taking the elevator, together. Side by side.
I am so grateful and blessed beyond any words that I can pen to paper for the help of the three strangers, and for God’s grace.
I think about the three who rescued and aided my mom.
I wish I knew who they are, where they are.
I may never know, but God certainly does.
My mother is alive and well.
Thank you for your grace, during my time of distress.
Thank you for keeping me calm in what could have been my darkest hour.
I look at my mother and see her in a whole new light.
I will cherish, even now more than ever, our time together.
Forgive me for not being more attentive to her and to her needs.
Forgive my complacency, my assumption that she is the strong person that she was just a few short years ago.
Lead me whenever I lead her.
But, mostly, forgive me for allowing her pain and suffering.
Forgive me because I am unable to forgive myself.
Shortly before my dad passed away, he said, “I never thought I’d be like this.” I watched as he struggled to breathe, even though oxygen aided him. With his zest for life used up like a holiday candle, and his wick of life all but gone, God continued to bless him. Not many men that work in a coal mine for over forty-years live well into their eighties. Dad was three month’s shy of his eighty-sixth birthday when he passed. In the days, and now years that follow, I’m still grateful for his life—the years on both sides of his dash. I pray that God bestows this same grace and longevity upon me.
At fifty-one-years-old, I feel blessed, being a half-century into my dash. Although I don’t like the signs of aging: joint pain, morning stiffness, gray hair, menopause, wrinkles, less-than-perfect eyesight, etc., they illustrate a rite of passage that leads me to the next stepping stone in life. Most folks know the idiom, “If I knew then what I knew now,” what? You fill in the rest. For me, if I knew then what I knew now, would I have chosen a different path? Would I have made different decisions? Perhaps. But, I cannot go back. I can only go forward. So, with that said, I will strive and be the person that God wants. My principles are solid. I have excellent mentors, namely my parents, who taught by example. Of course, none of us is perfect. But I can try, anyway. I will be kind to others when they are not kind to me. I will forgive when I do not want to. And, I will ask for forgiveness before it is too late. One of my favorite poems is The Dash by Linda Ellis. (www.linda-ellis.com/the-dash-the-dash-poem-by-linda-ellis-.html) Thousands use her beloved poem to eulogize friends and family. I admire others’ gift of words, which causes me to ponder upon their meaning. Whenever I read The Dash, clarity emerges; not only from thinking about my dad’s life, but also my life. It encourages me to consider my life’s choices. All in all, I feel good about my life’s journey. God has been good to me and to my family, and I am truly blessed.
You promise never to forsake.
Even though you are always there, situations arise that cause fear and doubt.
Thank you for guiding, leading, loving and forgiving me in my life’s beginning and in my life’s end;
and, especially, during the time in between.