Thursday, June 9, 2011

my ideal woman

I spent some time this week with my ideal woman. I brought her some lunch. A salad, snacks, peach tea and some flowers from Central Market. Delivered by a sweaty, tired me to the hospital room she occupies with her husband. He's the one in the hospital gown and the cranked up bed. 

I've known her (I'll call her Julie M.) casually for several years. Mostly through her daughters - who moved, with flair, through my church children's ministry. These girls are a testimony of some pretty inspired mothering - their wide-eyed innocent trust, their bed-rock assurance, their humor and compassion - all cause me to smile when I think of them.

From a distance I've watched her navigate the waters of an increasingly debilitating brain tumor - numerous surgeries, lengthy hospital stays and treatments, a cane, a walker, a wheel chair - with her husband.

This week I watched Julie M, with grace and as she does every day, fulfill what we all promise when we get married - the 'in sickness and in health' part. Much of the man she married isn't now visible to my eyes - but I don't think what I see is what she sees.

- she touched him, held his hand, brushed his hair off his forehead at every opportunity
- she advocated for him passionately with a nurse about a medication she didn't think he needed
- she spoke to him tenderly and patiently when he was agitated and unable to make himself understood
- a private joke or two passed between them
- she proudly introduced him to an old grad-school friend who dropped by 
- his eyes followed her everywhere
- she hadn't been home, had a shower, seen her girls or slept in a bed in several days - but she was incredibly beautiful
- she treated my tired salad and watery tea like it was a banquet
- her eyes were too far past exhausted to twinkle but they had this deep, peaceful, abiding .... them
- when I turned my eyes away during a minor medical procedure she smiled at me and said that love makes a lot of things possible that you thought you would never be able to do

I feel pretty certain that as she is carrying out that part of the marriage vows few of us are called upon to, she is also experiencing something few of us do. 

I am awed by Julie M., and by what love is making possible. 


Thursday, June 2, 2011

the construction zone

Last month I cried over the death of someone I knew only slightly and having to say goodbye to my English students and a new baby-friend spending his first days in the NICU instead of his mamma's arms. 
Last week it was because both my beloved brothers were sad and the fact I wasn't at my nephew's hard-won high school graduation and that I had to skype-hug rather than really-hug my niece. 
Then it was because Terry filled the bird feeders and Emily finished all the at-home duties we usually share and someone forgave me, quite undeservedly. 
Next it was because there doesn't seem to be any way I can meet the expectations of someone I love. 
Then there was David Taylor's blog post on friendship with a capital F. 
And yesterday it cost way too much money to ship a box of warm clothes, books and favorite snacks to Africa.
Today it was in the market's produce section because there were these gorgeous artichokes that Stephen isn't here to eat with us.

My heart feels these days like it feels when I just (dang it) go ahead and let it...under construction once again. The cords are stretching and groaning with...whatever is coming next, I feel it.

I think I like this feeling, despite all the inconvenient leaking of tears. I think I am going to try and stay in the construction zone as long as I can stand it.

I think having family is worth the pain and joy that comes with them. I think having students to drive you crazy and to love is worth the trouble. I think having friends with high expectations is better than having friends who don't. I think having smart, thoughtful, feeling, creative friends and babies who live anywhere is an enormous gift. I think I'd rather learn and stretch and grow than not. 

So, when you see me in your minds' eye with those orange cones surrounding me, it doesn't mean 'stay away' it means 'this is where it's happening, come on in!' 

Just bring some kleenex with you.