Friday, August 31, 2012

My Reminder

Like so many people today, I often find myself stressing about money or lack thereof.  It feels like it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet these days.  However, I am frequently reminded of just how good I’ve got it…how I shouldn’t worry about tomorrow, or bills, or money, and how thankful I should be for everything I have been given.

There is a lady that has had insurance with our office for quite awhile…long enough for me to know that she struggles financially.  She scrapes by week-to-week, not just make ends meet, but to simply put food on the table.  She has lived a rough life, but she is such a beautiful person.  She never wants people to take pity on her.  She never asks anything of anyone.

This afternoon, she came in, and the look I saw behind her eyes was one that I would liken to a wild animal cornered; she looked panicked…terrified…fearful…helpless.  She bolted to my desk and plopped down, telling me with shortened breath that she needed to pay her monthly premium.  Before I could speak, one of my co-workers asked her if she was okay.  “No, I’m not.” she squeaked.  She began telling us that she just found out that her father is being rushed into open-heart surgery…and that his lungs are not in great shape.  She was so afraid.  Her voice trembled as she told us this, and her hands were shaking as she handed me her payment. 

I advised her of how much she owed, and she began thanking God b/c she was going to get $10 and some change back out of the $60.00 that she gave me.  My co-worker went to fetch drink for her, and we asked her to sit with us in the cool air for a few minutes and sip on her soda.  She agreed.  As she sat, she began talking to us…detailing things that are going on in her life which she normally doesn’t discuss.  She told us more about her father and how scared she was to lose him.  She told us about her son, who is going to down the wrong path no matter how she tries to help.  She told us about her brother that she cares for who is handicapped.  And, she still trembled like a leaf the entire time she spoke.

I thought of her and everything she was telling me.  My heart hurt for her.  I wanted to help her.  I grabbed my purse and fished out $5.00.  I scooted it across the desk and told her to take it.  Her eyes filled with tears as she shook her head.

“No, Brandi.” she said. 

“Please, take it.” I begged her.  “I know it isn’t much, but please…I want to help.”

She began to cry, and I felt the warmth of tears filling my eyes as well.  My co-worker had apparently been digging in her purse at the same time as I was because she appeared beside us and handed her another $5.00.

“Please, I don’t want y’all to feel sorry for me.” she cried.
I told her that I didn’t feel sorry for her, but that my heart hurt for her situation….and that I wanted to help her.  I told her that I would pray for her father, for her son, and for her.  She sat with us a little while longer, and then she was gone. 

All day today, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about.  I thought and thought and thought…but nothing seemed fitting.  Now, I know why.  Because today was supposed to be about a lesson…a reminder for me…about how I shouldn’t take the little things for granted.  I should be thankful for all of my blessings and focus on those things instead of worrying about what-ifs.  And, I also saw how a little kindness goes a long way.  What a wonderful world it would be if we could carry just a little kindness with us each and every day. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Laugh

My laugh is loud…really loud.  I am totally aware of this, but I cherish it.  I adore it.  I love the feeling that floods my entire being as laughter bubbles up inside of me and then erupts from my mouth.  Why?  There was a time when I didn’t know if genuine laughter would ever be part of my life again.

I’ve been through some pretty serious stuff medically.  Seven back surgeries, a broken neck, a spinal fluid leakage, and a gnarly bacterial infection.  All pretty strong reasons why, medically, I shouldn’t be here...but I’m still here.  And, not only am I here…looking at me, you would never know how scary my past has been…how close I came to not being here. 
For 6 months I walked around with a broken neck, and no one, including myself, knew it.  We didn’t know about the spinal fluid leakage until after the fact.  The bacterial infection was so scary, my orthopedic surgeon quoted Psalms to my parents.  He said that it was out of his hands and in God’s.  Man, was it ever.

My darkest days were while I had that infection.  I have never felt pain like I felt then.  I have never experienced fear like I experienced then.  I have never felt as hopeless as I felt then.  I have never wanted to give up like I wanted to then.  And, during this time…I lost my laugh.  It wasn’t a conscience thing.  It just disappeared, and I was in so much despair, I didn’t even realize that it was gone.

After things started looking up for me, and I was going to be okay…I began missing something.  What was it?  It took me a while to realize, but then it hit me like a ton of bricks: I hadn’t laughed, or even wanted to, in a very long time.  I missed it…I missed the feeling…I missed the joy of it…the experience…the simple pleasure of it.  But, this is something you can’t force.  Sure, you can fake a laugh, and I’ve done that before, but this was different.  I craved genuine laughter.  I wanted it; I needed it.

Then, it happened.

It was shortly after Thanksgiving, and I was still in the hospital at Emory.  It was early evening and quiet on the floor….that’s when I heard it.  It started out small…and began to grow.  People were singing.  As it got closer and louder, the songs became familiar to me; they were singing Christmas carols.  Tears filled my eyes, but not from sadness…I was filled with joy and thankfulness; I was filled with gratitude.  A smile, that wasn’t forced, spread across my face like wildfire.  I couldn’t stop it.  And, I felt it…first in my heart, and then in my stomach…that feeling that I had missed so much.  There was my laughter.  It didn’t leave me; it only slumbered for awhile.  I knew that not only was I going to be okay, but that I was unbreakable….and I am able to laugh…loudly.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Cover Photo

The cover photo on my Facebook page has remained the same for quite some time.  It has a significance that, at a glance, most people might not realize. 

My grandmother, aka Mimi, was a huge part of my life.  I was with her on almost a daily basis from the time I was just a babe.  She was not only my grandmother but also my friend.  She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in April of 2011.  It was something that we, the family, already knew.  As morbid as it may sound, I am thankful for how rapidly the disease progressed. 

On February 15th, 2012 at 3:30 in the afternoon, she passed away.  I was by her side when she left this world.  I cannot put into words the peace that was in that room as she drew her final breath.  She was gone, and as I stood there looking at her body, I felt her presence leaving me.  I wanted to chase after her, but how? 

I found myself walking:  leaving the room…down the hallway…into the living room…out the front door…onto the porch…and out into the yard.  I know the brain is in charge of motor skills, but mine was on auto-pilot.  I wasn’t thinking; I was feeling.
My heart and the emotions contained inside of it consumed me.  My heart led me out that door. 

As I stood there, I looked to the sky.  It was one of the most amazingly beautiful skies I have seen.  There, right in my face, was God.  And, I felt her presence again.  I felt her love and her laughter.  I felt her beauty and peace.  I felt grace and comfort.  I felt blessed.  I quickly grabbed my phone from my pocket and began snapping pictures of the sky.  I tried to capture all of the wonderful awesomeness that I saw. 

My cover photo doesn’t even begin to do justice to the beauty I witnessed that day….the beauty of my Mimi’s life…the beauty of our God, but each time I see it, I am reminded of how one of my saddest days was touched by something divine…and, I am grateful.