I just heard a friend of mine is fighting bronchitis– again. My inclination was to rattle off all kinds of advice: “rest – take care of yourself – you only go around this way once – you don’t get do-overs.” (Not in a judgmental way, but in a “I hate to see a friend sick” way:)
But, that’s advice I don’t listen to myself. In fact, truly resting is nearly impossible for me. This morning I went to the doctor thinking I’d fractured my foot. It’s not fractured, but I have some tendonitis. The treatment? Steroids (to which I said, no thank you), ice, and rest..ie staying off my foot.
What? No way. I have to do this and this and this and that. Resting – not an option.
But, I only go around this way once! I don’t get a do-over!
After my friend said he was sick and is trying to rest since he only has one life to live for his God and his family, I immediately thought of my dad because for me and my family, the holiday season marks the beginning of the end for my dad.
I saw my dad walking and talking for the last time on Friday, December 7, 2007. The night before, I had celebrated my 32nd birthday with my family. My dad wasn’t feeling well, so he skipped the shopping day and babysat Hannah and Owen while I shopped. That was the last time Hannah and Owen would see their Poppy.
My dad entered the hospital with pneumonia on December 11. He went home thinking he was better but later returned to the hospital. I spoke with him for the last time on Thursday, December 20. I called to see how he was; he assured me, “I am fine, Sarah Beth.” I said ok and I love you.
He wasn’t supposed to stay in the hospital for more than a few days. He was not supposed to need a ventilator so that his lungs could “rest” from the bronchitis and pneumonia.
Little did I know, I’d spend Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day sitting in the hospital waiting room…hoping, praying that he would improve, wake up, and talk to us.
On January 10, 2008, I was grocery shopping. I had my phone close because it was a big day for my dad – the doctors were moving him to a new hospital and weaning him from the ventilator. I was waiting for word of the successful transition from my sister.
My sister called. My dad had become septic from the ventilator.
My mom had decided to turn off the machines.
The hour ride to Charleston was unbearable. Steve pulled in front of the hospital, and I literally ran to my dad’s room. He was hanging on. Two hours without machines, and he was still breathing. I lay across him, hugged him tightly, and told him I loved him and that it was ok to go home.
He moved his hand toward me and in less than 20 seconds, he was gone. My dad was waiting on me. I will always believe he was waiting.
My dad’s death was sudden. He was diagnosed and died within one month. However, when I reflect on life, I see God’s hand so clearly. Situations when we asked, “why, God?” but now we’re saying, “Thank you so much, God!” My dad spent a few seasons without work – both times in the summer. At the time, our family struggled with loss of income, asking God why my dad lost his job so suddenly. Now we see the blessing. My dad spent those out of work summers taking my sister and me to the pool, camping, playing games, breaking my mom’s Home Interior, and much more.
In fact, when my sister and I look back at our childhood, we never say, “we wish would’ve gone to Disney World. We wish mom and dad would’ve done this or that.” No, we didn’t have half the opportunities that my kids – most kids – have today. But, it didn’t/doesn’t matter – our parents spent time with us – invested in us – with ALL they had.
Did God give us extra time with our dad then because he knew he wouldn’t be here now? Maybe. Probably. Sure seems like it. Would I trade my time with my dad for time now? Now, that’s a hard question. I want my dad back. I wanted him to see my kids’ baptism a few months ago. I wish he could see Hannah dance and Owen play soccer. I wish we could watch a few episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger – or a John Wayne movie –together.
But, when I hear stories from both kids and adults that start with “my parents don’t or didn’t have time for ______.” I cringe. I can’t imagine that being my story.
So today, as I try to make much of Him, I resolve anew to protect my time with my kids, my husband, my family. As finances tighten during the holiday season, and I long for my job (and paycheck!), I know God sees the big picture. And, while trite, you never know when that moment is your last.
I know for sure that if God called me home tomorrow, next month, or even at age 56 like my dad, I would never, never, never regret this season of my life. I would never regret fewer Christtmas presents, tighter budgets, less harried holidays.
Ultimately, we all hope for “well done, good and faithful servant.” I also pray for “well done, good and faithful wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend.”
As December approaches and as our schedules inevitably fill with Christmas programs, shopping, parties, family visits, etc, I pray you ( and I!) continually pause and remember not what’s important…but who’s important: Our Savior, family, and friends.