With days turning to weeks, how are you faring during our COVID 19 pandemic? Isolating with our families and from our communities offers both challenges and opportunities.
Consider this story about Cal’s experience several years ago:
My first wife, Carol, had been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. The doctor told her she probably had only six months to a year to live. He advised her to get her life in order and spend as much time as she could with her family, creating memories that would last until we met again in the next sphere of our existence.
The day she was given her diagnosis lives vividly in my memory. I remember looking at Carol and watching her face. At first, it was as though she didn’t comprehend the scope of what the doctor had just told her. However, true to her character, she faced the news with courage and the determination to live longer than the amount of time the doctor had given her. While I wanted to cry, I didn’t because she was so strong and stoic and optimistic.
On our drive home we started discussing the first of many things that were going to impact our current life and the future of our relationship and our family. She wanted to live and watch her grandchildren grow and be part of their lives. In fact, she wanted to know her grandchildren who hadn’t been born yet. She worried, “Would they know her or feel her love or remember her?” “What about our son Peter, who was a senior in high school?” He needed her guidance and help, and she wanted so badly to experience his graduation, his church service, his marriage, and his children. Should she give up her daycare business? What about those children she loved and had cared for all those years? What about her mother who needed her? What about her close friends who she loved so much? So many questions and so much grief for her dreams that she wouldn’t accomplish!
Carol worried about getting addicted to the pain medication she knew she would need as her disease progressed. I assured her that her Father in Heaven loved her and would understand her need for help in coping with the pain. She was concerned about her husband, after all he was still young (56 years old). How would he handle the loneliness that she knew he would feel? Would he get remarried? Would he forget her if he did re-marry? I assured her that I would always love her and that I could not, nor would not, ever forget her or the happiness I felt with her as my wife. (One side note I want to mention here is that I asked her if there was someone whom she would like me to marry. She responded, “I will let you know if I think of someone!” She maintained her sense of humor up until the very end of her life.)
She was determined to live for twenty years and show those doctors they didn’t know everything! Well, at least she showed them that their prognostication was off, as she lived for thirty months after her diagnosis. She worked hard to buy those thirty months and most of them were filled with quality time spent with friends and family.
This is the background to help you understand what happened next as a husband and wife, friends of ours, came to our aid. One Sunday the husband approached me in church and handed me an envelope. He told me it was a small token he and his wife would like to give us and for us to spend it enjoying time with our family. I thanked him and he quickly walked away without watching me open the envelope or staying around to see my reaction.
I stood there, opened the envelope, and found ten one hundred-dollar bills. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I hurried home to share this wonderful gift with Carol. She likewise teared up and was so grateful for friends who cared so much for us. With this gift, we were able to take our children and grandchildren to Disneyland while Carol was still fairly pain free and could enjoy the time with the family. What a wonderful experience it was taking turns pushing Carol around the park in a wheelchair, standing in line with her, and then riding the rides together.
While I don’t remember what rides we rode, the snacks we ate, the meals we shared, or the reasons we laughed, I do remember the spirit of gratitude and Carol's happiness for being with her family and sharing this remarkable experience.
Our friends were angels to our family, and I am certain they gave us this money knowing that we needed the memories we created on that trip. They recognized a need and shared their hard-earned money so another family could experience something so beautiful and wonderful with a wife, mother, and grandmother who would not be around long.
Generosity and service, caring for others in time of need, are remarkable human traits and powerful resiliency skills. While we isolate and sacrifice some of our freedom and choices to protect others, we have a wonderful opportunity to teach our children we can always be generous with our time, our talents, and our friendly demeanor. During this crisis it is difficult to serve others in some of our more customary ways, but even while we isolate in our homes, we can still find ways to make a difference. Maybe it’s just a friendly wave across the street or a phone call. And who knows? If you make that call, you might even find out that your neighbor needs help picking up groceries or medications or even a small donation from your personal stash of toilet paper.
What a great blessing to our children to learn from the example of their parents to be aware of others and share our bounties with them.
Here’s to creating opportunities in a time of challenges and failing forward together,
Cal and Anne
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