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.