Pastor Blog

 

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE DAILY MOUNTAIN EAGLE ON SEPTEMBER 23, 2017

 

Sometimes God does something for you that seems so small but has such a big impact.

A few months ago, I had been given orders to clean out some of my stuff from the garage. In full disclosure, I have in the past been somewhat of a pack rat. I had plastic containers full of stuff and my charge was to go through them and dispose of what I could.

I worked through a few containers and wondered why I had kept all of these things. I began chunking all sorts of items into the garbage and it felt kind of good! Then I opened up a tub full of greeting cards. I had apparently kept every card I had ever been given by everybody. I began sorting through them and found a pile of cards sent to me over the years by my Mom.

My mother, who lived in Fayette, died 11 years ago from an aneurism that burst at the bottom of her brainstem. I was living in North Carolina at the time and got the call when it happened that things were bad. Really bad. And I needed to come to DCH Hospital in Tuscaloosa as soon as possible. I quickly got a flight out of Raleigh and made my way to the hospital where the news was indeed grave. Because of her years of smoking and bad health, the medical team was going to have to wait for her lungs and body to become strong enough for the life-saving surgery she needed. The longer the wait was for surgery meant the riskier the procedure could be.

In the intervening time, I was able to visit Mom in the intensive care unit as much as I wanted. I sat there a good bit, but she was unable to talk because of the life support tube down her throat. Most of the time, she was asleep either due to exhaustion or drugs. When she was awake, she was often confused and had a hard time communicating. Needless to say, this was a stressful time for the whole family.

The wait for surgery was going to be two weeks or more, so I had to fly back to Carolina to continue my pastoral duties. My family promised they would let me know how everything was progressing. On the last day I saw my Mom before I left for the airport, she was cogent and herself again, even though she still couldn’t speak. I told her I had to leave, and I saw a tear roll down her face. Then I felt one roll down my cheek as well. As a child, Mom had taught me the hand sign for “I love you.” You hold up towards someone your thumb, pointy finger and pinky finger while holding down your ring and middle finger. She flashed me that sign as we looked at each other. I did the same and quickly left the room before I broke down in tears.

I didn’t get to go back for the surgery and decided I would return after Mom recovered to spend some time with her. That plan never materialized. The surgery went well, but in recovery, Mom began to have a series of mini strokes that left her brain dead. The call from my aunt crushed me. My wife and I quickly packed our bags, got our pets to the kennel and headed back to Alabama to say one last goodbye before the organ harvest team arrived and then to plan a funeral. It was the longest drive of my life.

All of this leads me back to sorting through that pile of cards I kept from my Mom over the years. There were Christmas cards, birthday cards, Valentine’s Day cards and the like. And then one card took my breath away. Tears flooded down my face when I read those words written in her neat, petite and unique cursive style in that card. It was like my heart stopped beating for a moment. From the looks of it, the card was sent to me while I was in college but not for a holiday. The card was just sent, well, “because,” I guess. I may not have thought a whole lot about those words back then, but on this day, in that garage, they meant everything. It was like God had sent me a little gift in a time machine, sent out in 1996 but meant for 2017.

Here is what my Mom wrote:

Just a note to let you know you’re thought of every day! We love you and miss you! Just hang in there, you’ll make it! God won’t let you down! All my love, Mom

Maybe these were the final words Mom would have said to me in that hospital room if she could have. Regardless, I will treasure this card for the rest of my life. My mother was not the religious type and for many years had a distrust of the church and church people. However, in her last few years, God began to work on her heart despite her battles with depression, mental illness, and severe back trouble caused by ten back surgeries. So that message from that card is more encouraging and comforting than I can ever express through these words on this page.

Thank you, Father, for that small, little gift given by your immeasurable grace. It truly made a big impact and I really needed it.

Miss you, Mom.