Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Tribute to My Daddy and His Legacy

When I wrote my last post a week ago, I had no idea I was about to lose my father. He appeared to be getting better, had begun pulling out from his post operative delirium and had begun talking again. He'd even begun telling others that he wanted my mother moved to his hospital room "to talk business."

Well, my Daddy's business now is spending time with Jesus and all the loved ones that beat him to heaven...

I wanted to write this post to share just a bit about my Dad and what he meant to me.

A dear friend said it so well in a text to me today... "He was a smart, loving, funny, warm and generous man. Oh and good looking!" 

Anyone who knew him would have used the same words to describe him. Even the hospital staff adored him. They called him "Mr. Carl", and in a Baltimore accent, it sounded more like "Mr. Cawl."

We all loved him.

But God loved him more. So He decided to take him Home.

I'm so grateful for the 45 years I had with my Dad. I'm so grateful for all the memories. The times as a little girl when I'd literally lay across my Daddy and watch "The Jeffersons" or "Sanford and Son" with him. The times that he'd have me tweeze those stubborn hairs out of his neck. When he'd drop me off every morning to my middle school. When he taught me to drive. When I worked at his gas station during my summer break from college. When he walked me down the aisle at my wedding.

The memories are precious. They are many. Too many to write here. But they are so sweet. They are of a very kind man. One who supported me until the end. Even laying in his hospital bed he talked of helping us "get that boy in college" -- my son Kalin. He'd cried the last time he said it. I think he knew he wouldn't make it that long...

I'm also grateful for the recent memories. Spending hours and hours with him beside my mother when she was in ICU. Hearing him tell everyone -- and I mean everyone -- at the hospital that he was 80-years-old. Loving the reaction they'd have -- that he didn't look nearly 80. 

I'm grateful that I could be there beside him when he was rushed to the hospital. To see him in the recovery room after surgery. To hold his hand. Kiss his forehead. Tell him I love him. I'm grateful for that opportunity.

When he passed away last Tuesday, I had returned to Arkansas. I missed his last moments alive. For that I'm sad.

But I'm so happy that my sisters Lori and Sherri were there for him. And I'm so glad God gave me four weeks with him right before he went home.

I'm sure of many things right now. I'll miss my Daddy like crazy, and life won't be the same without him. My Daddy left a beautiful legacy of love for God, his wife, his family and his community. His life encourages me and everyone else who knew him to love well.

And I know that in spite of all of life's hurts and difficulties -- God is good.

All the time.

And all the time...

God is good.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What My Parents Taught Me from Their Hospital Beds - Part VII

As I approach the last entry in this series, I'm amazed at what God has done.

The first time I sat down to begin this series, I thought, how in the world am I going to come up with at least five meaningful, practical things to share about the time I spent with my parents in the hospital?

I wasn't short on memories, funny moments, frightening moments and random musings. But what had I learned that I could pass on to others? What could I share that could speak to the issues and circumstances that you are dealing with?

Those questions weren't answered until I began writing.

It was like God opened my eyes and heart to the things my parents wanted to tell me, but couldn't. If my mother hadn't had that respirator placed in her mouth. If my father hadn't struggled with the post-operative delirium that confounded his mind.

They would have shared so much.

But it was up to me to pay attention. Take notice. Watch their every move. Listen to what they said through the silence and through the jumbled speech.

I just finished Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, which I began reading while in Maryland with my parents. This book speaks to the writing process. How to write with authenticity, honesty, clarity and emotion. How to use one's pain and transfer it into words on the page.

The book also speaks to the living process. How to live with authenticity, honesty, clarity and emotion. How to use all this pain and transfer it into wholehearted living.

Here's a sampling from Bird by Bird that spoke to me. Anne's sharing what she learned during the last months of her best friend Pammy's life.
"I remind myself nearly every day of something that a doctor told me six months before my friend Pammy died... She said something that changed my life. 'Watch her carefully right now,' she said, 'because she's teaching you how to live.' I remind myself of this when I cannot get any work done: to live as if I'm dying, because the truth is we're all terminal on this bus."
When we have the burden and privilege to sit beside a loved one's hospital bed, we need to watch carefully. Sick folks understand the brevity of life. They get how fleeting life really is. They understand what's most important in life.

And most importantly, when we watch those that are terribly ill, we are reminded that we too are "terminal on this bus." We're reminded that our lives will be brief too. We're reminded that we too are but dust. And to dust we shall return.

Today I'm grateful for so much. My parents are both improving. My Mom and I talked a long time last night, and she sounds much better. The doctors have said she is much better. My Dad is even returning to a normal mental state. He's telling the nurses his birthdate, his whole name, where he is. He just told my aunt today that he wants my Mom moved to his room. Carl Adair is coming back y'all...

I'm also grateful for this journey. This journey that has taught me so much.

And I'm grateful for the people who've walked with me along the way. My sisters Lori and Sherri. My family members. My friends-like-family. 

I'm grateful for nurses like Nurse Debbie who ran my mother's ICU room like a drill sergeant and had me throwing folks out. Who told me my mother was taking "baby steps" of improvement. Who also visited my mother once she left ICU and rejoiced over my mother's improvement, witnessing her sitting up in bed with a bright smile and bright eyes. Who told me, "Girl, she's taking a lot more than baby steps now. Look at her!"

The families that my sisters and I grew to love that also had loved ones in ICU. The families that I hoped with and prayed for. The families that I hugged every time I saw them. The ones whose family members have been discharged and sent home. The families who moved their loved ones to hospice or nursing homes. The families who had those infamous meetings with hospital social workers who pronounced their loved ones brain dead.

I'm grateful for each and every person who's walked this journey with me.  

This has been an amazing journey. 

And it's not over yet.

Thanks for walking this leg of it with me.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What My Parents Taught Me from Their Hospital Beds - Part VI

I'm nearing the end of this blog series, inspired by the time I spent with my courageous parents, who are currently battling serious medical conditions. I just decided that I would post today and tomorrow. So tomorrow will be my last.

The next two days I'll be brief.

After all, it's Saturday, and like you, I'm in the throes of family life. As a matter of fact, I'm in the middle of doing my daughter Joelle's hair. So while her moisturizing conditioner is getting absorbed and working its detangling magic, I wanted to share one more lesson my parents have taught me.

When I thought about the lesson today, I was reminded of a scene in the film Facing the Giants.* The scene takes place during football practice and the coach is pushing one of his biggest, most promising players to the limit, encouraging him to not give up.

I love this scene. The coach makes the player do a "death crawl" across the football field with another player mounted on his back. You can imagine the difficulty of crawling while carrying another guy on his back. While the big guy crawls, stopping and starting, struggling his poor heart out, the coach says over and over, "Don't quit! Your very best. Keep going. Don't quit on me. Keep driving. Don't quit! Don't give up!"

By the end of the scene, the player has amazed himself. He's death-crawled the entire length of the field.

He never gave up.

One of the biggest challenges in life is to keep going. To keep driving. To not quit.

I've been tempted to quit various times along the way. I bet you have too.

But as I watched my parents fight through their illnesses, being poked and prodded several times a day with needles and medical contraptions, I'm encouraged to push through the temptation to quit. My parents have been so strong through their trials, and they haven't given up yet.

There was a day while my Mom was in ICU that she had a scary setback. I entered her hospital room and her nurse informed me that my Mom had pulled out her respirator. No one could explain why. Perhaps she'd become disoriented or extremely anxious.

By the time my Dad joined me at the hospital, my mother had become increasingly distressed. She'd begun yelling in a raspy whisper, "Help me! I'm dying! Help me!"

The doctor had decided to test her lungs and keep her off the respirator for a while. But all my Mom could understand was no one would help her breathe.

This was extremely upsetting for my Dad and me to watch, but we knew she was in the best of hands. The medical staff never left her side, and she eventually had to be re-intubated.

When I relayed this scene to my husband Anthony, his words were very encouraging. "She doesn't sound like a dying woman to me," he said. "Sounds like your Mom really wants to live. Sounds like she's still fighting."

She was fighting.

And she still is.

My parents have always had this spirit about life. They've never given up during the challenges of life. They've never quit. They've always persevered. They still are.

And they've encouraged me to do the same through the challenges of my own life.

To not quit.

To always persevere.

To never, ever give up.

I hope you do the same.

* Here's a YouTube clip of the Facing the Giants scene I mentioned...

Friday, January 16, 2015

What My Parents Taught Me from Their Hospital Beds - Part V

When I began this blog series on Monday, I had no idea how many posts I'd write. As I began reminiscing over the four weeks I spent in Maryland beside my parents' hospital beds, I realized I could write an entire book.

Yet all things on this side of heaven come to an end. And it seems I'm writing my next to last post in this series. Tomorrow will be the last.

First, a quick recap for those joining me for the first time...

Eleven days before Christmas, I boarded a 6am flight to Maryland after hearing that my Mom had been rushed to ICU. She suffered a serious infection, her body went into septic shock and she spent 14 long days in ICU. 

Those days were long and trying, yet we began to see miracles unfold before our eyes. I've shared some of those miracles along the way. 

I've also shared the setbacks.

Like the fact that my Dad, who'd been planted beside my mother every single day, suffered a horrible fall, leading to the discovery of a degenerative spinal condition, partial paralysis and two emergency surgeries. 

It's been a whirlwind.

It's also been a blessing.

One blessing has been the many lessons I've learned along the way. I've blogged about each...

The Lord has taught me these lessons as I've sat and thought and prayed quite a bit during my parents illnesses. He's used my parents to make these lessons stick.

The lesson I want to share today, comes from my Dad once again. It's a love story. We all love a good love story, don't we?

This story began many years ago, before I was even born. It began in a town named Petersburg, Virginia, where my parents met on the campus of Virginia State University. Of course I wasn't there, but I'm assuming that first meeting was pretty cool. 

My parents wed soon after college on July 6, 1957 and relocated to Baltimore, Maryland to start anew in the "big city". The first college graduates in their families, they came from humble beginnings, but worked hard to make a new life for themselves. They became educators, my father became a business-owner and they eventually "moved on up" like George and Louise Jefferson. (Is The Jeffersons theme song ringing in your ears too?)

And they started a family. They had three girls, of which I'm the youngest.

While growing up, I remember my father's words of admiration for my mother. We'd be watching television or talking about a popular actress like Lena Horne or Phylicia Rashad. 

My Dad would often say something along these lines, "That Phylicia's a good-looking woman... but not as pretty as you mother."

Makes me smile just remembering his oft-spoken words.

So, it shouldn't have come as a surprise when my Dad responded to a picture of my Mom I'd snapped on my smartphone. She had begun recovering, was taken off the respirator and no longer sedated. He was in the hospital now too, but hadn't begun experiencing the "post-operative delusion" that he's still fighting through. 

My Dad took one look at his wife of 57 years, smiled and said, "Pretty as a peach."

Now I'm sure you can imagine my mother, who never misses a hair or nail appointment and who's known for her gorgeous wardrobe, has seen better days. She's still a beautiful woman, but six weeks in a hospital would wear anyone down physically. 

But my Dad didn't see any of that. To him, she's still "pretty as a peach."

One day, after my Dad's first surgery, my sisters and I orchestrated a phone call for my parents. Their conversation was precious and brought us to tears. Hearing them call each other's names was amazing. Their conversation was priceless.

"Hello," my father said. "How are you feeling?"

My mother responded in her new, raspy voice. "Carl, what happened? How did we get here?" 

I giggled a bit when my father, in his confused state, told her that they'd driven themselves right to the hospital. Actually, they'd both come to the hospital via ambulance.

Then he said, "All we have to do is get home, get some rest, then we'll be all better." 

And that is our prayer. That my parents would one day in the near future be able to come home again. Sit in their favorite chairs and watch TV. 

And look into each other's eyes.

Immediately after that phone call, my father told us in no uncertain terms, "I'm going to get out of here and go get your mother."

He meant it. And he would if he could.

My father has taught me a lot about love. 

Loving God.

Loving your family.

And the love he has for his wife.

We all love a good love story. 

I've seen one with my own eyes.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What My Parents Taught Me from Their Hospital Beds - Part IV

My Beautiful Parents: Lovely and Refined as Always
After spending over a month watching my parents' health quickly decline, I have spent many hours sitting by their bedside, talking with my Mom and Dad and visiting with the many family members and friends that have visited them. 

One more thing I did a lot of -- think. 

And talk with the Lord.

Now that I'm back in Arkansas with my husband and kids, I find myself still thinking quite a bit. And feeling a lot. 

So this blog series is the baby birthed out of all that thinking. And praying. And feeling. 

There's so much I could share...

About the way my father's hand felt as I held it after his second surgery.

How it felt to tuck my mother in at night before I left the hospital, placing her sheets and blankets snuggly around her shoulders. How it felt nurturing and loving, and made me wonder when exactly I had reversed roles with the woman who had tucked me in bed every night as a child.

How I watched my father enter a confused state, and reminisced on conversations we'd had in the past. How he used to call me often, never using his mobile phone's contact list. Always dialing from memory. And how he would call several times while my family and I traveled by minivan from Maryland back to Arkansas. 

I'd look at the phone and say, "Wow... It's Dad again." And I'd chuckle before I answered.

What I wouldn't give for one of those calls today...

I could share so much. Instead I've felt compelled to share the wisdom my parents have imparted, even during their illnesses. It's been a blessing to share my mother's powerful words, "It's all birthday. Every day." And to share the power of "The Gift of Presence" in the lives of hurting people around us.

Today, I want to share a lesson my Dad has taught me. Anyone who knows my Dad well has heard him say, "In life, you have to remember what's most important. God first, then your family." My father has lived life with this mantra, and his life-theme was most evident during this last month since he's been in the hospital.

God First... 

If I've ever seen the activity of God, I must say, this past five weeks have revealed God and His power like never before. 

I remember asking friends and family members to pray for my Mom's failed kidneys. She'd begun having dialysis three times a week, and my sisters and I had begun to consider this being another life change for her. We prayed that her kidneys would begin working again, but we'd resigned ourselves to the huge possibility that she'd have dialysis for the rest of her life.

I'll never forget the day I walked into my mother's hospital room, said hey to my sisters who'd already been sitting with her, and stopped dead in my tracks. I looked at a container on the floor at the foot of my Mom's bed, and the recognition of what the container held hit me. 

"Is that urine?" I nearly yelled.

My Mom's nursing tech shot me a look that said, Who is this idiot and where did she come from? She actually said, with irritation in her voice, "Uh, yes..."

At the time her annoyance was lost on me, as I was overjoyed at this miraculous sign of the functioning of my Mom's kidneys. "Her kidneys haven't worked in weeks," I explained. "This is an answer to prayer. We've been praying that her kidneys would start working again."

So far those kidneys are still kicking it and doing their job. Who said God doesn't answer prayers?

My Dad's exhortation of "God first" has served him well for 80 years. 

He's the One who decides what today and tomorrow will bring. He's the giver and sustainer of life. He's the Alpha and the Omega - the beginning and the end. He knows every hair on our head. He knew the day we'd be born and He knows the day we'll depart.

He's got it all figured out. Our job is to stay connected to Him. To trust Him with our whole hearts.

Then Your Family... 

My father is the epitome of a family man. He adores my Mom. (I'll share more about that tomorrow.) He loves his three daughters. When people joked him for many years about never getting that son he must have wanted, he never, ever played into the joke. He's always been clear that he's loved having three daughters and wouldn't change that for the world.

And he loves his extended family - the whole lot of them. Talking with one of his cousins after my Dad's first surgery, I laughed when he mentioned my Dad calling him every few hours when he took a road trip. That is his way. He didn't just call and check up on his daughters, he'd call many of his family members every single day.

This past month has given his family the opportunity to return that love. His brothers and sisters and cousins and nieces and nephews have visited and called often. Not to mention all those friends-like-family. It's been amazing to see the love.

But then again, my Dad's been nurturing this kind of love for decades.

His love for God.

His love for his family.

What a testimony.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What My Parents Taught Me from Their Hospital Beds - Part III

So... in case your joining me for the first time or the first time in a while, let me fill you in on what you've missed. Monday I began a series  birthed out of the four weeks I spent beside my parents' hospital beds. My parents are both very strong, and are hanging in there for sure, yet they still have long roads to recovery ahead of them.

It has been a challenging month. It has been an amazing month.

It's been a month where the reality of my parents' age and season of life has become a reality for me. When you have parents that look a decade younger than they are, come and go as they please, drive themselves wherever they have to go and remain active in organizations, sororities/fraternities, church ministry - even church leadership, you kind of forget that they are elderly.

Until they become ill.

But that's the challenging part.

The amazing part has been all the God-moments I've experienced. Time with family and friends I wouldn't have had. A depth of prayer - desperate prayer - that I haven't experienced in a while. And all the God-moments with my precious parents.

Being the adult kid that's lived out-of-state for 15 years now, I've missed out on a lot of time with my family. Phone calls are great, but nothing beats that eye-to-eye connection. So it was a blessing to sit next to my Mom and Dad and just get time with them, despite the circumstances. 

Sitting next to them afforded me some life lessons that I'm wanting to hold on to. And pass them on to you...

Yesterday, I spoke of my Mom teaching me to embrace today and EVERY DAY. Man, is this one hard for me. I might not get this one right until I'm in heaven where every day will be beautiful and bright. Where I'll no longer feel pain and discouragement and loneliness. Where everything wrong will be made right.

But I'm grateful for this lesson TODAY. Maybe one day, on this side of heaven, I'll get it right.

For now, I've got to share this next lesson I gleaned again from my mother. But let me first set the scene...

One morning while my mother was in ICU and my father was still okay, my Dad called me while I was entering the hospital. At this point my mother wasn't heavily sedated and had been using a clipboard to write messages to us. My father relayed her most recent message to me with a sense of urgency.

My mother had expressed that she wanted to talk with all four of us - my Dad, my two sisters and me. So I immediately called my sisters to tell them to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Mommy had something urgent to tell us all.

As my Dad and I walked down the hallway to my Mom's room, I worried. What could be so important that she needs us all here at once? Is she thinking she's not going to make it? Does she want to say goodbye to us?

My sisters soon arrived at the hospital, and we asked Mom what she needed to tell us all. These were her words to us via clipboard: "I want you all here more. Even when I'm asleep, I can still hear your voices."

We all let out a collective sigh. The urgent message to us was simply this: BE PRESENT.

Now, mind you, all four of us had visited Mom daily. We'd visit in the morning, stay most of the day, and leave in the evening. Much of the time, she'd sleep through a good portion of our visits.

But this much was clear: our most valuable PRESENT to my Mom was simply our PRESENCE.

And I experienced this as well. The presence of family members and friends, taking time from their day to visit with my parents blessed me more than I can express. I know their presence blessed my Mom and Dad. 

Sometimes there are no words to speak to the depth of someone's situation - be it illness, loss of a loved one or a major heartbreak. There's nothing that can be done to soothe the hurt of life's pains. But we can show up. We can plant our bottoms in the chair across from our loved one and simply listen. We can be PRESENT.

2001 was a very challenging year in my life, second only to this past year. In that one year, after having relocated for the first time, I experienced two miscarriages, back-to-back. I was devastated. The people that really touched my heart brought meals, called to check on me from time-to-time, and were just present. They were there for me. Not with sermons or Bible verses, but just present.

When those around us suffer life's challenges and difficulties, we can take meals, run errands and babysit their children for them. Those acts of service are invaluable. 

But more than anything, we can show up. We can plant our bottoms in a chair across from them and simply listen. We can be PRESENT.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What My Parents Taught Me from Their Hospital Beds - Part II

My Mom: Fashionable and Blessed as Ever

Yesterday I began a series of posts  inspired by my parents, who are both very ill right now. Their illnesses made for a tumultuous holiday season, but also blessed my sisters and me with some deep moments of reflection, conversation and heart-connection.

Some of those heart connections grew from relationships with aunts, uncles and cousins that I don't see very often, since I live far away in Conway, Arkansas. Some came from a collection of my parents' long-time friends-like-family, some of whom I haven't seen in years. And some of those heart connections were nurtured through daily conversations and moments with my parents. 

It is from those moments and conversations that I've gleaned all kinds of wisdom from my sweet, elderly parents.

Yesterday, I spoke of the first piece of wisdom, advice that's much older than even my parents. It comes from the Bible, the Ten Commandments, and reads, "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you."*

As my parents age, I'm understanding this command more than I ever have. And it is with honor and respect and love that I'm compelled to share even more wisdom from my precious folks. Which leads me to today's nugget...

"It's all birthday. Every day..."

My Dad's birthday is coming up really soon -- January 23rd. So one day my sister Lori, my Mom and I were hanging out, talking like we did everyday since she'd moved from ICU to a less intensive hospital room. I had come to cherish those conversations, especially since she'd been unable to talk just days before, due to her need for a respirator and heavy sedation.

So anyway... 

Lori said to my Mom, "Mommy, you know Daddy's birthday is coming up. Do you remember the date?" (We'd been testing her memory and wherewithal since she'd come out of ICU.)

My mother, in her new raspy, labored voice, said, "Yes. January 23rd."

"Yep, it is," Lori said. "So how should we celebrate Daddy's birthday this year?"

My mother paused, shook her head, and in a voice reminiscent of her Northumberland County, Virginia upbringing, said, "Child, at this stage of the game, it's all birthday. Every day. If I can look at him, and he can look at me, I'll take it."

Her words were precious to me on two levels. One was the longing to simply gaze at my Dad again, after they'd been in separate hospitals for weeks. (But more on that in another post...) The other was the value she's now placing on each and every day.

It's all birthday. Every day.

Her words dug deep into me. They made me assess my view of life - my "every day" perspective. Do I see everyday as a birthday? A day to be celebrated, cherished even? A day full of expectancy? A day to forget my healthy eating regiment and just eat the dang cake?

Or do I drag myself out of bed, wishing for just thirty more minutes of sleep, reciting my to-do list for the day?

On an average day, I'll probably have to admit to "B". Final answer.

After two full weeks in ICU, after the doctors told my father and sister to "think seriously about mortality", my mother is embracing life to its fullest - every single day. Who knows how many more days she has left? Only God knows.

But this I know. I want to live life as if every day is a birthday. A day to be celebrated, cherished. A day full of expectancy.

This is my hope and prayer.

I hope and pray the same for YOU.

* Exodus 20:12

Monday, January 12, 2015

What My Parents Taught Me from Their Hospital Beds

My Parents -- Beautiful, Strong and Healthy
When I was young, I expected to learn things from my parents. Etiquette, social skills, spiritual lessons even. In my teens, during my college years and even throughout my twenties, I still expected my parents to teach me much about life. 

However, in my middle-age, I thought my parents' school of life had finally shut its doors. I knew they still had a lot of wisdom that I'd continue to glean from, but I didn't expect their thoughts, their words to impact me on any deep level.

How wrong I was...

I just spent four weeks in Maryland with my parents, watching both of them age before my eyes. I traveled there on Sunday, December 14, after hearing that my Mom had become so sick, she'd been transferred to ICU. Her body had gone into septic shock, and her organs were failing, one-by-one.

I boarded a plane a few hours later, praying that I could see my Mom alive one more time. Praying that I could tell her how much I love her. Praying that I could say goodbye.

God was so sweet to me. Each of my planes was one-third empty, affording me the solitude I needed to think and pray and weep. 

During my travels I kept texting my sisters to make sure my Mom was hanging on. I kept praying that she would.

And she did.

I remember feeling grateful that she'd made it long enough for me to see her alive one more time. That I'd been able to hold her hand. Rub her hair. Kiss her forehead. Tell her I loved her. Sit side-by-side with my Dad and my sisters, staring at her motionless body - unaware, sedated, breathing with the help of a ventilator. 

I was grateful for those short, precious moments that turned into hours... The hours that turned into days.

Then I got greedy. 

I started praying that my Mom's health would improve. That she would speak again. That she would eventually breathe on her own. That she would rise from that million-dollar, state-of-the-art hospital bed. 

It was days before Christmas, and I found myself praying for a Christmas miracle. And slowly, but surely, I began witnessing miracles - one-by-one.

The first miracle was my Mom's lab results improved. At this point she had a specialist for every organ. Each one told us the same story. "Her kidneys look better..." "Her pancreas is improving..." "Her liver is almost normal again..." Etc. etc. Watching my mother, we couldn't tell she was improving. Her kidneys were better, but they still weren't working. She'd begun having dialysis three times a week. 

It was hard to believe the doctors' reports, but what choice did we have?

One of her nurses said, "She's taking baby steps towards improvement." Baby steps. Not much, but at least they were in the right direction. I kept hoping, even with the setbacks she experienced. 

After my mother had been in ICU for a week, we experienced another setback. My father, who'd been with me at the hospital all day and evening, who'd been so strong -- even as he cried tears of worry for my mother -- had to be rushed to the hospital after a terrible fall. He'd become dehydrated and exhausted after a bout of stomach flu and had passed out at home.

I couldn't believe it. Exactly a week before, I'd rushed to be with my mother in ICU. Now my Daddy was being rushed to the hospital. He had to have emergency surgery to remove four spurs on his spine - an unknown degenerative condition that was exasperated by his fall. 

It was three days before Christmas, and life was twisting and turning beyond belief.

The next three weeks were full of visits to two different hospitals, doctors' reports, blood tests, medical procedures and surgeries. And lots and lots of meals in hospital cafeterias.

They were also full of laughter, funny stories and visits from family and friends. They were full of hope. And love. And lots and lots of prayers. 

One day I'll share a lot more...

For now, I want to share a few things I've learned from my parents during this dark, difficult season. These lessons will take several days to share... I don't even know how many days I'll need. I guess I'll play it by ear.

For now, I'll start with lesson #1 - honoring your parents. This is no new lesson. It's even written in the Ten Commandments. "Honor thy father and thy mother..." 

I grew up in a generation that focused a lot on family dysfunction and the imperfections of our childhoods. We entered adulthood determined to "right the wrongs" that we'd experienced. We would love our children better. We would be healthier, holier and more together. 

And then life happened. We realized we get it wrong too. We feed our children organic fruit, but they still prefer M&M's and those God-forsaken gummy worms. We nurture our children, talk with them eyeball-to-eyeball, and some of them still struggle with loneliness and depression. We teach them to not only attend church and Sunday school, but to begin a relationship with Jesus... but they're still prone to wander and stray. 

As my husband Anthony says so often, "We're all jacked up." We often joke about starting a "counseling fund" for our kids -- a stash that they can tap into for the counseling they'll need to work through all the ways we've messed them up.

Humility goes a long way towards appreciating the parents God gave you. We all screw it up sometimes. I am eternally grateful for the many ways my parents got it right.

So with this series of blog posts, I want to honor Carl and Merlene Adair, my precious, loving parents. They got so much right. They've taught me so much. And this past month I've learned enough lessons from them to fill ten books. But I'll narrow those lessons down to a week's worth of blog posts.

I hope you'll join me for each one.

Until then... if your parents are still with us, tell them you love and admire them. Tell them you're grateful for all they got right. Tell them there's no way you'd be the person you are without them.

And most of all... thank the Lord for them.