Monday, April 6, 2015

A Surprise

When the doorbell rang, I told my mom to tell Rebecca to come on in to the family room where I was lying on the couch. I just remembered that my friend had said she was coming over.

I heard whispering. What was taking her so long to come in? Finally my mom came back saying, "You better come to the door."

There was Rebecca on my front porch with a rose in her hand. She held the screen open as I walked out onto the patio. Dozens of people were in my front yard, each holding a rose.

I finally understand what it means to have your breath taken away.

The tears came, and I couldn't talk. I could barely breathe. One by one, my friends, neighbors, and family came up to me with their flowers. One by one they hugged me and said, "I love you."

I was so overwhelmed, I couldn't remember half their names. Some people I didn't recognize. But I loved them all. I could hardly take in all the love I felt from them.

Someone put a jacket on me. Someone led me to a chair. I caught my breath and just let the love soak in. If I've learned anything through my cancer, it has to do with love. To love and be loved. That's what it's all about.

Today I sit here, admiring over a hundred roses (my daughter counted) blooming on my kitchen table, each from a friend who has generously expressed their love to me. Of course the flowers won't last forever. Some are already nodding. But I will remember my friends forever. 

Forever. I believe in forever. I believe in Jesus Christ, and Endless is His name.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dear Ruth

Dear Ruth,                                                                                                            21 Feb 2015

          I'm glad Donna sent the next rose to you. It was a delight to visit with you. I loved your china cabinet covered with photos of your numerous posterity. They are lucky to have you for a grandma, great-grandma, and great-great-grandma. Here is the picture I took of you. You can tape it up on the cabinet if you'd like.

          I'm writing from St. George. Tonight I delivered a rose to your brother as you requested. (Of course I was already planning a trip here to visit my parents.) His wife answered the door and invited me in.

          Cliff looked comfortable in his blue and green plaid pajamas in the La-z-boy recliner. A Lawrence Welk re-run was on, but your brother was sleeping. I wasn't sure she should, but Shirley woke him up to give him the rose. She told him it was from you. He took it and mumbled something that I couldn't make out. His wife asked him if he needed more pain medicine. She must have heard (or felt) a yes because she got her syringe and squirted some morphine under his tongue. He went back to sleep. I held his hand for a moment. I couldn't help it. I just wanted to be near this sweet man.

          Shirley put the flower in a vase and invited me to sit. I noticed the half-finished afghan on the couch. Shirley says she knits, crochets, embroiders, and tats to stay occupied. Looking over at her husband, she told me she'd go out of her mind watching him die if she didn't have something to do.  Did you know it is their 64th wedding anniversary this very day? To stifle the tears, she quickly turned our attention back to the crafts. "Would you like to see the tablecloth I embroidered when I was 6 years old?" Of course I would.

          For almost an hour I humbly admired several hand made items. My favorite was a quilt she was making using an old Golden Book coloring book as a pattern for the animals.

          Every time she left the room to retrieve another item, I looked over at Cliff. I wished he didn't have to wear that oxygen tube. You told me yourself it can be uncomfortable at times. But he did look peaceful. His coloring was good. I wished I could take his picture to send to you, but it didn't seem appropriate.

          I thought about your parents who are in heaven, probably ready to greet Cliff when he arrives. Did they really have 11 children? I'm glad you told me their story about coming from Germany. They sure sacrificed a lot for their faith in God.

          As Shirley settled back into her seat, she picked up one of her projects and began crocheting. She was almost finished. "There we go," she said as she cut the yarn and worked the end through the piece. "All done. It's a scrubby for your dishes, and I'm giving it to you."

          I thanked her with a hug, and we said goodbye. I knew in my heart that God loved this couple. Not just loved them, but cherished them.

          I know God loves and cherishes you, too, Ruth. Thank you for letting me into your life. Thank you for sending me to your brother and sister-in-law. May God be with you until we all meet again.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Paper Butterflies

With a prayer in my heart, I knocked at Cathrine's house. I had been told that her husband died suddenly last week, and, of course, she was heartbroken. Maybe she won't even want to come to the door, I thought. But then when I saw this woman I was surprised to see her nicely dressed, hair curled, and make-up on. She looked sad, yet beautiful and much younger than she probably is. After I gave her the rose from her friend Trudy, she invited me in to sit and visit.

I asked Cathrine how she was coping. She said if she does nothing else, she will get up everyday, brush her teeth and get ready. She shared some of the stresses she now faces trying to make sense of her husband's business. (Most of the books were kept in his head.) His death was so sudden, and she wished she could have just 24 hours with him to go over so many details.

But no matter what, she was going to get up everyday and hold it together, if even for only two minutes at a time. 

She introduced me to two of her adult children, Jason and Tenille. Arms linked, Cathrine rested her head on her son's shoulder as Tenille showed me the program she made for her father's funeral. She told me how all the grandchildren were involved in setting up displays of their grandfather's life. One girl made a creative picture of a temple from paint chips because her grandpa was a painter.

Then Tenille handed me an origami butterfly. Butterflies are the mascot for those who suffer from Lupus. Tenille's daughter Makenna, who is sixteen and was diagnosed with the disease, recently began making these butterflies from little squares of patterned paper. First she writes different messages of hope on each one, then folds them up with "Open Me" on the wing, and leaves them different places. She'll put one with the waitress's tip, place one on a park bench, or hide one in a mailbox. It gives her a joy that softens her sickness. To see a sixteen year old do this makes me happy.

Today I am on a mission to hide the #11 butterfly for Makenna. I hope the person who finds it feels the love of this wise-beyond-her-years teenager and especially the love of God.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rejoice With Those Who Rejoice!

I love the scripture that encourages us to "mourn with those that mourn" and to "comfort those that stand in need of comfort" (Mosiah 18: 9). That happened today as people thought of others who are struggling with some problem or another. They composed tender messages of love to accompany the roses I delivered. It was gratifying to participate in these exchanges.

But there were also happy notes that went from friend to friend. "You're great", "Good luck tomorrow!", "To my best friend".

Is there a scripture that says "rejoice with those that rejoice"? I don't know. But there could be. It must please God to see his children serving each other in the happy times as well as the difficult.

One lady sent me across her street to a young woman about to be married. Her note said, "Thanks for letting me see your wedding dress today!" When I met the bride-to-be I could feel her happiness. I gave her the flower and card from her neighbor and explained how the rose game works. She said, "That is so cool! Wow, how neat!" She was so enthusiastic about it that I couldn't help but feel joyful. I kind of wanted to jump up and down with the fun of it.

It reminded me of the day, a long time ago, when I told my cousin Douglas that I was expecting my first child. He jumped out of his chair and shouted and danced around the room. Of course I was already thrilled about my pregnancy, but seeing his happiness about it made me even more happy!

I just love delivering all kinds of roses...the ones that mean "I'm sorry for your loss" and the ones that shout "hip hip hooray".

Update: One of my new friends found this verse for me in the New Testament: "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep" (Romans 12: 15). Perfect! Thanks Sonia!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Make the Widow's Heart Sing

When I was about 13 years old, my church youth leader Donna Clark created an unforgettable experience for me and my comrades. The project was inspired by a phrase from Job in the Old Testament: to cause the "widow's heart to sing for joy."

Each of us were assigned to a widow in the neighborhood. We made plans to honor these women at a special luncheon. To prepare, Donna spent several weeks teaching us the skills to carry out our mission. We learned how to plan a menu, cook simple, delicious food, and create homemade invitations. After a lesson in cross-stitching, each of us spent hours personalizing an apron, with our guest's first name, to present to her at the event. I got a lot of stitching experience because my widow's name was long--Georgianna. Also, we each practiced a talent for the entertainment. I decided to learn and recite "The Daffodils" by William Wordsworth. I still remember the last two lines.

And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

At the long-anticipated luncheon, we listened as these experienced, wise women shared a little about their lives. As you can imagine, the ladies loved the occasion. At least they made us feel that way. I still have Georgianna's thank-you note. Donna's lesson was not lost on me and my friends.

So, today, as I was privileged to deliver roses to many different widows (one just made a widow last week), that phrase kept running through my mind. Make the widow's heart to sing for joy!

Nelma had her beautifully bound life-history on her coffee table. As I carefully skimmed through the pages, she told me that she's asked her children and grandchildren to read the stories--the lessons learned--and not just look at the pictures. I hope they heard her.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Leaky Eyes and The Semi-Colon Club

You've all played it. The check-out lane game at the store. You think the lane you're in is the slowest ever. So you switch to another. Well, I usually lose at that game, so today in Costco I decided to stick it out. I held my bouquet of persimmon-colored roses and watched customer after customer check out in the lane next to me. The old man ahead of me had concerns about the price of what he was buying. Then he had trouble writing out his check. What was beautiful was the patience and kindness of the checker. It made me not mind the wait.

Anyway, the reason I write all this is because I am glad I got delayed. It made the timing perfect to run into a certain Costco employee as she was finishing her break. She commented on the beautiful color of the roses I was holding and we started to chat. I gave her my first flower, and she sent me to give the next one to a worker at the customer service counter. This woman (I'll call her Jen) was so touched by her co-worker's kindness that she even teared up. She really needed to know someone cared about her today. When I took the third rose to Jen's mother, I saw where she inherited her leaky eyes.

Jen's mother is a hair dresser at an assisted living center. When I first entered the salon, I just stood back and watched as Jen's mother shaved an elderly woman's chin with a straight razor. At first I smiled, thinking I should get in line. But then my heart was warmed as I watched how tenderly she worked, and how she kept reassuring the woman who obviously didn't like the lotion on her face. When she finished I got her attention and explained the reason for my visit. Gratefully, with tears in her eyes, she accepted the rose and note from her daughter. Then she promptly sent me back to Costco to take my next rose to none other than Jen. I couldn't refuse.

And so the chain went on today, interrupted just a couple times when someone wasn't home.

One more part of my day.... I don't usually tell people about my cancer. But sometimes when they just can't figure out why I am out delivering flowers to strangers, I tell them about my situation and how this is something I do to keep my mind off myself. Well, today I met a grandpa who used to have colon cancer. We've both had surgery, so we both belong to the semi-colon club. But what I want to say about this man is how his home felt. It was a peaceful place. More than just quiet. It was peaceful. He showed me pictures of his family and shared a couple experiences with me, things I needed to hear. Things I'll probably just put in my journal instead of here.

It was a good day.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Changing the Question

It takes a bit of energy to go all over town on my rose game days. Yesterday I was SO thirsty. I kept thinking I should stop at a drive-thru or something. But once I get another address going in my GPS, I'd rather just move on to the next house.

Jill* was next. She and I talked for a while on her front porch. Then she got chilly and invited me in. She was thoughtful and contemplative as she shared some of her struggles and experiences. She spoke openly of God. When I'm out delivering roses, I'm never the first one to mention spiritual matters, but for some reason it comes up a lot.

Jill told me of a couple instances when she was miraculously healed. Those and other experiences led her to have strong faith in God. So for years she asked him to heal her depression. "You have healed me before. Why won't you heal me of this?"

Then one day it occurred to her that she might be asking the wrong question. Now, when she prays, she simply says, "What do you want me to learn from this?"

She still struggles. It doesn't look like her problems will be solved anytime soon. "But at least," she says, "I know what questions to ask."

As I walked to my car to deliver the next rose to Jill's friend, she poked her head back out her front door. "Would you like a water bottle for the road?" Gratefully, I accepted.

*She gave me permission to post her story if I changed her name.