Lessons learned…

On December 31st, 2009 I posted the following on my Facebook page –

“2009 taught me several things the hard way: enjoy every day as you never know what the next day will bring, tell those dear to you that you love them every chance you can, learn about your family and your heritage before it’s too late to know what’s important to your family, NEVER let work come before “life” as you will regret missing out on “life”, worship God and get to know Him personally. Finally live like there is no tomorrow to get caught up. It’s been a hard year and I look forward to another chance in 2010. I will use what I have learned this year wisely and be a better person and Christian because of it. BLESSINGS AND PEACE MY FRIENDS.”

For those of you who know me well, you also know what last year held for me.  So for those of you who don’t know me, here is my story….

Early in March I lost 2 very dear friends to cancer within 2 days of each other after an extended battle with the disease.  Shawn was 35 and had 2 young children, he was an outstanding man, lawyer and Christian.  I loved working with him at McAfee & Taft and I just adored him period.  He was just that kinda guy.  My other friend, Keri, (who was just 2 doors down from Shawn in the hospital I later learned) who sat down the hall from me at work lost her battle with breast cancer that had metastasized and spread.  Keri was a hoot and was a pure pleasure to work with as she always had a smile on her face.  Ironically, their funeral services were on the same day – hours apart. 

At the same time I was struggling with health issues and a cancer scare of my own, my parents’ health began to decline rapidly and they needed help almost on a daily basis, and my professional life was a mess – I was going through things I had never experienced before at work, and I didn’t know what to do about it either.  I prayed and prayed for answers, for a sign, for relief, for direction – anything, I just needed a sign from God that he knew I was there and I was suffering.  Later I realized he was there, I was just not listening or being patient enough to realize what He was trying to tell me.

The summer brought no relief as work issues continued to escalate and my parents’ health continued to deteriorate.  I continued to pray but still wasn’t paying attention or being quiet enough to hear His direction.

My life changed at 12:01 a.m. on September 25, 2009 when my father called to say that my mom was “down” and that EMSA was on its way.  Lance left immediately as I dressed – it didn’t even seem like a minute before he was back and telling me, “this is it honey, you need to prepare yourself – they are trying to revive her”.  I remember getting to my folks’ house and everyone was standing outside – I asked “is she gone”, and they all just nodded.  I ran into the front room and saw my precious 85-year-old father sitting in a chair repeating over and over “she’s gone, she’s gone – she was so ready, she was so ready”.  I went to the den to see my mom and quickly turned around and left.  My mother wasn’t there – she was in heaven.  Lance and I do not discuss what we saw – we both saw things at different stages – but what we saw devastated us.  Somehow we planned her funeral and as we made those important arrangements  I asked her in heaven to lead me in my choices and to send her “off” in the style she deserved.  I wrote her obituary with tears in my eyes as I laughed at the same time, adding things to her tribute that her family and closest friends would recognize.  We made it through the funeral  – thank God my brother came and spent days with my dad and helped him deal with losing his wife of almost 63 years.  My aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, in-laws, everyone helped us with the details and comforted us as we mourned.

Little did I realize that the sorrow had just started the night mom passed away.  One week after her funeral I went over to dad’s house to take him to a dentist appointment.  I had called for almost an hour and he wasn’t answering the phone; I was not totally panicked because my daddy was almost deaf.  When I pulled up to the house and saw no activity in the house I knew he was gone – I called Lance who sped over and pulled the glass door off its hinges so we could get inside.  There in the master bedroom was my precious daddy asleep and in heaven.  Lance told me that he was gone – later he told me that his hand was out of the bed, almost lifted as to grab the hand of someone else.  I knew my mom had come back to take my daddy home to be with her.  My dad was gone – he was in heaven with his one and only love.  Again, I made those same phone calls to my brother and my family.  This time everyone was so stunned that they could not speak.  I couldn’t move and I couldn’t believe what had just taken place.  I could not move on – none of us could even talk about it for a few days.

We planned another funeral; again I was laughing and crying as I wrote my daddy’s obituary knowing that he was helping me from heaven.  We made it through another funeral – this one was much tougher in some ways and in some ways it was much sweeter.  Mom and dad would celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary in Heaven after all.  My dad passed away 5 days before his 86th birthday and the annual O.U./Texas game  (his favorite football game of the year and where he proposed to mom during half-time in 1946).  He would not have been happy with the outcome of the game this year either!!

I went back to work, attended a national convention for my organization and came home with a decision.  I needed to quit my job and take care of family business, I needed to grieve the loss of both parents, and I needed to just sit.  Luckily enough I was scheduled to teach a Servant Leadership class at Southwestern Christian University where I am an Adjunct Professor.  I was not excited about teaching the class – I was not excited about anything.  Now those of you who know me well know that I love food, I love to eat – my family owned a grocery store and my brother is a chef.  But I was so lost I couldn’t eat or sleep – I literally wanted to get in bed and pull the covers up over my head for a year.  I didn’t know a person could cry for days on end and still have tears spring up on a moment’s notice.

Thank God for my class I taught – my students included a hospice chaplain, a preacher of a growing church, an Army Chaplain in training, and 3 other very strong men of faith.  This class helped me grieve, they helped me see what was important in life, and they helped me find my new direction.  They let me cry, they prayed for me, and they were a true gift from God to help me through the insanity of LIFE.

I did quit my job – it was not an easy decision, but it was the best decision for me.  I discovered that sometimes God has to “slap you up the side of the head” to get your attention.  I will never put work ahead of family again, I will never put anything before my relationship with Jesus Christ again, and I will cherish every day I have left on this each.

In a very bizarre way I guess I needed last year to show me things I had taken for granted.  I miss my folks – I will have a hole in my heart for them for the rest of my life – but they are together in Heaven.  I am so grateful for a wonderful and loving husband, I am blessed with a big brother that I adore, and I have a huge, extended family that loves me and supports me no matter what I do.  Most of all I am so much closer in my relationship with my Lord and now spend my day praying, praising and talking to him.  I really can’t ask for more than that, can I?