Saturday, May 7, 2016

Week 17 of 2016 - Moments in Life that Define You...56

I have a couple of "moments" that come to mind, both involving very special people in my dad and mom at the end of their worldly lives.  My dad, Harold, died on August 30, 1996, one day after his 68th birthday. Full of life, loving his occupation with small town retail stores and cherishing his faith, family and friends, Dad was the picture of health.  He died instantly of a massive heart attack on Friday of Labor Day weekend, as the town was already filling with visitors and family for the last holiday gathering of the summer.  The weather forecast was perfect, the parks full and there was excitement in the air.

 Everything came to a complete stop for the Smith family as we stumbled around in grief, trying to understand how our Dad could be gone.  Our two businesses, Harbor Beach Variety and The Corner Store were shuttered and marked with black ribbons and signs of explanation.  We would be closed until further notice.  As word spread quickly through our small lakeside community of Harbor Beach, Michigan, condolences, tears and stories of remembrance began immediately.  I just could not pull myself together that first day, until a family friend pulled into the driveway with her sister.  Judy had a flower shop in town next to our Variety Store, and Dad and Judy often worked together on projects, her family became special friends to Mom and Dad and it was not surprising that they were bringing us food gifts and words of love and reassurance.  I don't remember what I said, but I'm sure I was a total mess.  Her words of love to me are something I have never forgotten, have used numerous times since and were perfect for me at that time and still this year, which will be the 20th anniversary of Dad's death.  She simply said, "Please remember that you are not alone in this journey.  There is no way anyone on this Earth..never in all of time, not years before, not today and not in the future...can anyone live life without losing someone...many someones...that they love.  Please know that others love you, can help you through this and in time you will help others when they feel the way you feel today.  God's love through others will comfort and heal you."  It meant the world to me then and still does today.  I hope that Judy Sweet and her sister, Nancy Krueger know how much they helped me on the day my dear Dad passed from this life to the next.  I will never forget it.

My defining moment with my sweet Mom, Leah Smith, happened 11 years later.  Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in May of 2007, we Smith kids had our world rocked by another realization that life as we knew it was going to change.  My sister commented through her tears, "We are going to be orphans."  While I remembered what I always preached about not being alone in this part of life...everyone loses people that they love...I could not come to grips with the challenge that presented itself.  We needed to care for our dying mother with no experience...medically, emotionally, mentally, was going to be an on the job training of the most difficult kind.

Our days were immediately filled with all kinds of appointments, all of which were happening 2 hours away in a larger city hospital and clinic where we could receive the specialized care of a gynecological oncologist. The Corner Store, which my Mom and I ran, was put into the hands of our very competent staff and I went on auto-pilot most days...and nights.  Our three sons were concerned, not only for Grandma, but for me, their mom, who seemed to be losing her own life in grief and despair.  I'm not sure if the three boys consulted on a plan of action, but our oldest, Brad, then 34 years of age and with a family of his own,  made a call that would change my whole attitude forever.

"How's it going, Mom," he'd ask, knowing full well that I was a disaster.  He'd let me try to explain, ask another question and then hear me plead again..."Why, just why?  Why God?  Please....?"  So, finally, my wise son asked if I would just listen and think this through with him.  "Just hear me out, Mom.  If this isn't something you can work with and question what God's plan is, that means you are taking it into your own hands.  This also means that you get to decide how your mother will die...what will be her final journey into eternity.  What do you choose?"  I was stunned, and stammered out loud.."Well...uh...I can't do that!"  Brad continued, "Of course you do not want your Mom or my Grandma to have ovarian cancer.  You pick what she should have."  I continued to ponder his statement feeling totally frustrated and even angrier.  Finally, in desperation, I answered.  "I guess I'd have her go quickly...just like Dad did.  That was awful, but I don't think he suffered."  Brad replied, "Great. Perfect! pick the time, Mom.  When is this going to happen?"  I was speechless....for a long time.  My comment...finally...was, "Okay, Brad.  I understand.  This is God's timing and perfect plan, not mine or anyone else's.  I am not capable to handle what God does so well for us and with everlasting love."  I don't remember much else about the conversation after that.  I have remembered it with distinct clarity ever since, however.

My oldest son, reversing the roles and becoming the parent at age 34 to help his Mother get back on track with a beautiful "defining moment."  Love you, Brad!

No comments:

Post a Comment