Never again will I question how much change can occur in a short amount of time. Seven weeks ago today, life seemed pretty calm. A visit with Mom right before Annual Conference had been a “normal” part of my routine each time the Virginia Conference UMC met in Roanoke over the last 15 years.
This one was different. She was battling an infection and resulting reaction to medication that was prescribed to help her get better. The home health nurse sent to follow-up for a few weeks made her first visit the day I was there, offering diagnoses that I had not heard before. I knew things were a little off when Mom asked me to call and see if she could receive the weekday meal service from the Area Agency on Aging. She had refused that type of “help” for years, having learned from her sharecropping father and strong mother that you worked for what you needed and didn’t take handouts. Those lessons were still strong after almost 90 years.
Then came the days of the Annual Conference session and suddenly, my name is at the top of the laity balloting for General Conference delegates. That came after two days of peddling really good milk chocolate to people stopping by the VUMH display. Life as I knew it changed the moment that Saturday afternoon when I was handed the thumb drive with all of the records from the 2012 cycle of General and Jurisdictional Conferences. I’ve been trying to keep track of the time spent on this work so far. I’m up to 41 hours, and it’s only the first week of August.
Two ER visits for Mom, under the watchful eye of amazing cousins and church family members. Another visit to Martinsville on July 4th to find her continuing to struggle with her health, then a fall later in the weekend. My brother, Ralph, took her to the doctor that week. After talking about our continuing shared concerns, it was decided that I would go the next week to check on her. Even though the home health nurse was at the apartment, it was clearly time for immediate response when I arrived. The decision was made to go to the hospital in Roanoke where Mom was admitted for a three night stay. I spent the first night in the room with her, arriving home late on Friday night to try to pull myself together for the first delegation meeting the next morning. I give great and unending thanks for all those who offered help and assistance, making things look good and keeping me calm (and awake)!
With a bad overnight experience in a rehab facility in Martinsville, Mom made the trip to Culpeper where Ralph and his family are within 30 minutes of her. It’s an hour and a half trip for us, but that’s better than 3 ½ each way to Martinsville. With sadness and grief, guilt and trepidation, it was time for us all to begin having that conversation we’ve anticipated, but still found ourselves unprepared for, about the future.
Add in the move of our corporate office. A week in temporary quarters before the transition into bright new spaces this past Monday. This is my second time doing this in a year. I’ve realized that it is much easier to move a second time after clearing out 14 years of acquired stuff last time. The comment I heard most from my colleagues was, “How come you only have 4 boxes?” At the end of my day of being present for the move-in, the call came that Mom was in the ER, her breathing labored and difficult. “You need to come.” Steve and I spent the first night with her, and I returned yesterday to spend the day. While she is getting stronger, many questions remain…and the life changes continue for all of us.
No matter how prepared you think you are, you’re never ready for a parent to say, “I asked God to take me, but he said ‘No.’” When Mom made that statement a second time yesterday, I responded back with something like, “Well, none of us ever knows when God will take us – maybe tomorrow, maybe a year from now, maybe 15 years.” Her response: “I think 3 years.”
Who knows what changes will come about in our lives in three years? I’m struggling to make it 3 days until the end of this week. Yet, the importance of faith and being part of a community of believers has never been more in focus. Pastor Tom Durrance from Fieldale UMC called yesterday morning while I was with Mom. The doctor has told her not to talk so that she can concentrate on her breathing. For a woman that loves to talk, she’s doing pretty well with that instruction, refusing to talk to people on the phone when they call. However, as she heard me beginning to close the conversation with Pastor Tom, Mom reached out, and said “Hold my hand, and ask him to pray NOW.” With Pastor Tom on the speaker, we prayed.
As you read this, take a moment and pray NOW. Pray for those in your family who need to feel the love and care of God’s hand. Pray for your friends and neighbors. Pray for your church and community. Pray for our denomination and its leaders. Pray for our country and the world. Pray for the Republican Presidential candidate debate, or for the Nationals to come back up in the MLB standings, or for the end to the wild fires in the West. Pray that every life matters. Pray that the shark attacks off the coast of North Carolina have ended. Just pray. NOW.