The Storm

Three months.  Maybe, a little more.  No pen to paper.  No journaling.  No additional chapters to my current novel.  Nothing.  Empty.

It’s not that my life has been boring. ¬†It’s not even that I didn’t have ideas or material to work with. ¬†The thing is: ¬†I’ve been frozen. ¬†Shut up deep inside myself. ¬†My world spinning around me, faster, faster. ¬†I became so dizzy with all that I kept inside that I became literally unbalanced. ¬†Sitting in the passenger side of my husband’s pickup, I would feel myself falling and would jerk myself upright. ¬†The sensation was so real. ¬†The panic I felt scared me. ¬†Days later, after sitting through a class, I rose to walk but my legs felt numb from the waist down. The gravity of my world was pulling me to it and I had to grab hold of James’ arm to stay upright. ¬†I was tired. ¬†So tired.

I got out my tablet and began my research. ¬†Using clues as search words, I found one article after another that pointed towards vitamin deficiencies. ¬†Monday, I made a call to my physician. ¬†I walked through her door with my list in my hand. “Here. ¬†These are my symptoms.” ¬†Dr. Mulupuri looked at me with concern in her dark, exotic eyes. ¬†She agreed that some of my symptoms pointed toward my diagnosis, but she concluded that together, they didn’t make complete sense. ¬†“Have you been under a lot of stress lately?” ¬†She asked. ¬†“Yes.” ¬†I nodded to affirm my answer. ¬†“Is it something that will go away anytime soon?” ¬†I wanted to simply say, “No”, but instead burst into a flood of tears.

I left with a prescription in my hand and shame in my heart.

All this time, I had felt my world spinning out of control. ¬†I prayed. ¬†I read book, after book, after book, trying to free myself from my own drama by getting lost in someone else’s. ¬†I pushed myself. ¬†Made my body go against its inclination to remain still. ¬†I filled my days, my time.

Poor James.  The only stable thing in my unbalanced home.  He watched me yo-yo.  He must have been scared to call me, and yet he still did.  He must have dreaded getting out of his truck to come inside, but he came.  He let me storm around him with a look of sad desperation in his eyes, and yet there was love as well.

All those feelings are still within me. ¬†The storms are still raging around me… Mom’s cancer and loneliness. ¬†My business failure. ¬†Two dear friends with breast cancer. ¬†A grandson with Autism. ¬†Secrets shared that weigh heavy on my heart. ¬†Illness in James’ family. ¬†World devastation in the form of earthly storms with people I love affected. ¬†The child who lives the closest to me is now moving further away. ¬†My father’s last surviving brother’s unexpected death‚ĶAnd through all this, no tears. ¬†I can’t cry. ¬†The hurricane is just off the shore but the waves are just playfully lapping at my feet.

My energy returned.  I made lists and gloried in marking through each entry.  I even felt a little happy.  I knew that storm was still out there but the sky above me remained lit by an eternal sun.

I spoke to one of my daughters. ¬†I told her, “I feel like everything is just falling apart around me‚Ķall these terrible things‚Ķand yet, the worst is still out there. ¬†It hasn’t hit yet. ¬†I don’t know what it is.” ¬†“Mom!” ¬†She said. ¬†“That’s terrible!” ¬†I nodded and looked down. ¬†“I know it is. ¬†But that’s how I feel.”

And then, ¬†it hit. ¬†That storm that could bring me to tears‚Ķat least just a little. ¬†I sat in a waiting room with my mother and my sister. ¬†It was my mother’s birthday. ¬†My brother came out with his wife. ¬†Both shaky like they had walked away from a wreck. ¬†“It’s throat cancer.” ¬†He said.

My little brother. ¬†The one that I spent so many childhood days playing with, fighting with. ¬†The one who was Tarzan to my Jane. ¬†The one who was Batman to my Batgirl. ¬†The one who took me aside and told me his darkest fears and secrets. ¬†The one who¬†was a storm in and of himself. ¬†Who spent his life bouncing off one rocky cliff to another, never quite able to stay in between the lines on life’s curvy road.

I’ve been down¬†this¬†road. ¬†This cancer nightmare. ¬†I can’t help him, though. ¬†I love him. ¬†I pray for him. ¬†I listen to him. ¬†The choices are his.

Now, I still take that little pill every night even though it doesn’t numb me quite enough. ¬†I wish I was stronger.

A dream comes to me. ¬†One that I dreamed so long ago. ¬†I was in my mother’s back yard. ¬†We all were there, the living and the dead. ¬†A tornado came. ¬†I grabbed hold of a nearby pecan tree. ¬†Just a sapling, really. ¬†I held on to it while the wind blew me like a flag. ¬†If I could just hold on. ¬†If we could all¬†just hold on.

The Handoff

I used to run. ¬†Not this attempt I call “running”, now. ¬†Real running. ¬†Real racing. ¬†Legs pumping, goal reaching, side-stitching powering forward. ¬†Definitely not the fastest. ¬†Certainly not the best, but I loved it.

There were fears I faced: not winning, not pleasing Coach Felty (whom I wanted to please like a father), not doing my best.  The thing I feared more than these was the handoff; that part of the relay when it was your turn to hand the baton over to your team-mate.  What if I dropped it?  What if we lost precious seconds because of me?

We all have a handoff moment in our earthbound journey whether we run, or not.  There comes a time when we pass what we know, what we learned, what we feel to those whose turn it is to carry on the race.

I remember when my father was on his last stretch of the track. ¬†I spent hours with him, caring for him, watching over him. ¬†He sat in a chair at the table, unable to find comfort, afraid to lie down. ¬†He wanted a cigarette in his hand and a piping hot cup of coffee in front of him to sip on. ¬†It was never hot enough and the cigarette was rarely puffed on. ¬†The weight of his sickness didn’t allow him to enjoy even these vices that used to bring him pleasure. ¬†I wanted him in these moments to speak to me. ¬†As I sang hymns to him in the dark, I waited for his words to me. ¬†They never came. ¬†He¬†did¬†teach me to play a domino game called Moon. ¬†To my shame, I can’t remember how to play it. ¬†I don’t know why it was ever important to him to teach me.

This thought came to me in the middle of the night, while I should have been sleeping. ¬†It nagged at me until I got up and dealt with it. ¬†I think we didn’t have a handoff moment. ¬†I think Daddy was more like someone in the crowd, cheering or a teammate, running along-side me to encourage me to do better. ¬†Daddy was a dream-chaser like me. ¬†He taught me that I could learn to do anything I wanted by reading a book or finding someone to instruct me. ¬†He taught me this by example. ¬†He also taught me to love God. ¬†I saw his struggles with being a christian. ¬†I know he wasn’t perfect. ¬†No one is, certainly not someone who loves life as much as Daddy did. ¬†There is always that fence waiting to be climbed, torn down, or simply sat on.

Being the control freak that I am, I want to take charge of my handoff moment.  I want to tell my children now, while I am full of life and not distracted by pain or death some things that I need them to know.

  1.  I love you.  I love you all and I love you all the same.  I know children think that is something parents just say, really having a favorite, but this is my truth.  From the time I knew you were in my womb, I was thrilled.  When they placed you in my arms, they placed part of my heart right there were I could touch and care for it.
  2. I know I made mistakes. ¬†I’m sorry. ¬†I’m also sorry that you will make mistakes with your own children. ¬†It is part of what makes us one of God’s creatures. ¬†I hope that you know that even so, I never wanted to do anything, say anything to hurt you.
  3. If you don’t learn anything else from me, I hope you learn this: God loves you. ¬†Yes. ¬†You will screw up and make a mess of things from time to time. ¬†It is never too late to turn to your Maker and ask for forgiveness. ¬†He is never further away than a prayer, a earnest cry.
  4. I tried to keep your ancestors alive for you through the stories I told.  You may have tired of hearing them, but I hope you will remember.  I hope that you will carry them forward like a treasured heirloom.  Keep them and pass them down.

This is your baton. ¬†Hold tight to it while you run your race. ¬†Don’t forget to release it when it is time. ¬†Your children are standing there, panting with excitement, waiting for their turn. ¬†Their “track” may not be as easy as yours was. ¬†The world is a scary place. ¬†I don’t envy the environment they are being released to. ¬†Let them see that you will meet them where they are and that you will be there when it counts. I see you, standing there waiting for me. ¬†There are not any hands that I would want to pass my baton on to, more. God blessed me with three beautiful souls. ¬†I know you will run faster than me. ¬†That is why God put you where you are. ¬†A good coach always puts the fastest runner last. Now,¬†go!

“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus…” Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

To others that may read this, other than my own children, I hope you take some thought about passing your own baton. ¬†Maybe there is someone’s forgiveness you need to ask. ¬†Maybe there is someone to whom you held a great love, but never told them. ¬†Maybe you know a soul that doesn’t know Jesus and your heart aches with the Spirit’s urging to speak to them, to share the story of your Savior.

Not long ago, my mother told me that she, like me, had waited for some word or instruction from my father. ¬†She honored his request to be cared for and to die at home. ¬†This was at great cost to her. ¬†In the 1980’s, hospice came about once a week. ¬†My father’s cancer was quick in its work and my father suffered much because there was no one there who was qualified to monitor his pain medicine. ¬†He was never put on morphine. ¬†His pain was excruciating and Momma did the best she could. ¬†They spent all their final time together. ¬†She never got the words she craved.

After his passing, she searched the house, going through books and papers, drawers, everywhere she thought he might have hidden a last letter to her.  It was never found.  It was never written.

I believe flowers are better appreciated by the living than by the dead.  All the money we spend on funeral flowers to ease our own suffering could have just as easily be spent on flowers that they could have enjoyed.  Imagine your loved one receiving a beautiful bouquet of their favorite flowers with a note written in your own hand.  See, in your minds eye, them smile as they read your words, as they press their nose in to the soft, velvety petals knowing that they are loved.

We have the power to spread so much joy.  I pray that we will all take the time to honor that gift while God lets us hold it.  How do we best honor it?  By giving it away.

“And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”¬†Acts 20:35 (NKJV)

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”¬†Proverbs 25:11 (NKJV)