When I was just a scared little boy afraid to go up that dark unlit stairway to my bedroom each night, I had no concept of life beyond that moment or of the man, husband, father, and grandfather I would become. Many nights my dad would lie beside me and rub my back until the fears of the night faded into peaceful rest. All of that now seems a lifetime ago.
“How many of you here today want to grow old and spend your final days in a care home?” As expected, not a single hand was raised. The attendees at the Greenville chapter of the Christian Chamber of Commerce are not unlike all of us. We want life to meet us on our terms, and strokes are not in our life plan.
I am at peace sitting in a rocking chair at Grandad’s Apples in Hendersonville, NC. The view is magnificent. I just finished eating a warm piece of apple pie, and I am sipping hot apple cider. An apple orchard is to my left. Pumpkins, a children’s play area, and a corn maze are all to my right. The sky is blue with fluffy white clouds that seem to meet the mountaintops in the distance, and the temperature is perfect. This is nice and is just what I needed today!
Note: The following is the most pointed blog I have written. I pray that my words will not offend but will bless and inspire.
Love is or it isn’t. There is no middle ground. Love is not easily defined, nor can it be bought, touched, held, or placed into a beautifully wrapped package. Love is abstract, tender, and tolerant.
I was sitting at a high top table at a private resort. The view to my right was a golf course with the backdrop of long needle pines. My room was spacious and the bathroom was amazing. I was there for a board meeting for another ministry. One of the board members is a member of the private resort and graciously provided the venue for our meeting. I am not accustomed to luxury, but I must admit it was very nice.
Growing up in a small town in a simpler day and time gave me experiences that are rare these days: customer service, appreciation, and a willingness to earn the customer’s respect and future business. Two of the biggest reasons for the lack of great customer service are success and leadership failure.
I had an expiring coupon for a free sandwich, so I stopped into the Chic-fil-A in Easley, SC. I placed my order and was given a receipt and my unsweet tea. Before I even reached the condiment counter a female employee came to me with my order and said, “I can take this to your seat if you would like me to.”
I wanted to write today, but I didn’t have a clue where to start. I sometimes go to a local Starbucks where in the midst of the noise and chaos my brain seems to go into high gear. As I was adding cinnamon and artificial sugar to my Starbucks hot green tea, I noticed a young couple sitting at a table in front of me. They were looking at the calendar on her phone, which displayed all of 2018. I had my starting point!
In my dream I awoke knowing I was in the midst of a stroke. I couldn’t talk or get up, but I could use my phone to text. Later, the ER doctor confirmed I was having a severe stroke and asked about a Living Will. I was given a tablet and pen and wrote, “DNR.” Then the dream ended. My dreams are often meaningful even if they don’t make complete sense.
My living conditions changed dramatically after Sue and I married. I had been living in a mobile home off campus while in grad school. Used red and yellow shag carpet covered the vinyl flooring. I didn’t own a vacuum cleaner or an iron. There were no curtains, and the “entertainment center” upon which my 13 inch black and white television sat was a cardboard box containing a table saw I bought at Sears. Sue wanted something more "chic" than my man pad. I can’t imagine why. (Just kidding)
We chose a simple one-bedroom apartment with white walls and beige carpeting. Sue chose a navy blue and floral sofa and chair. The living room curtains were lacy white sheers. Floral bedroom curtains matched the floral bedspread. Our apartment definitely was feminine, but it did look much better than my mobile home.
Although I loved her and her feminine touch, I wasn’t crazy about wearing a ring. I knew a guy who lost his ring finger when his ring got caught, but I adjusted to wearing my ring because it was very important to her. Sue has been gone for a little over ten months, but I still wear the ring, and I have one of Sue’s rings that I wear around my neck on a black string necklace that was hers as well. Isn’t it funny how time changes our perspectives?
Our house looks like it did ten months ago, and her clothes still hang in our closet. I really treasure the many memories I have of her and of our almost 35 years together. This morning I realized something. I am still very much in love with her. The ring on the third finger of my left hand is there because in my heart she is still my wife. Her death broke the legal contract, but my heart says she is still my wife.
I have often said that men view life as black and white, but women add color to our lives.
I could shout the following from the rooftops. “Husbands love your wives. Cherish them. PurSue them. Love them the way they need to be loved, not as you want to be loved.”
Sue loved me and cherished our time together. I guess somewhere between the shag carpeting, rings, and frilly things, I managed to love her well.
Elder Source Senior Ministries
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