This past November, I was racing through my final preparations for a small dinner party with neighbors when I received that proverbial phone call that always comes when all seems most right with the world; the kind of call that crashes right into your perfect plans just when you're at peace with life, when you've dutifully given thanks to God for health and happiness and beautiful crisp autumn weather. As I vacuumed, I saw the face of my cell phone illuminate with my mom's number. Since my mom routinely calls just to chat, I decided let the call go to voice mail, knowing I would call her back as soon as our dinner guests were gone. But, for some reason that I'll never know, I grabbed the phone on the last ring. I didn't even give my mom a chance to talk, breathlessly explaining that I needed to complete my checklist of vacuuming and candle-lighting before our guests arrived.
Once I finally halted my pathetically mundane rant to draw a breath, my mom's broken and shaky voice began — my dad had been in a serious car accident, a head-on-collision, and there were no other details. She and my sister Amy were on their way to Alamance County Hospital about an hour away.
My husband and I instinctively jumped into action, canceling the dinner party, snuffing the candles, and shuffling our three girls to our amazingly accommodating neighbors. As Pete drove us down I-40, I silently pleaded with God, praying all those prayers we all tend to resort to in moments of desperation: "Please let him be O.K., and I will be a better daughter. I will start finding more time in my crazy hectic life to spend with him. If you'll bring him through this unscathed, I will put into words all of those silent thoughts that I've been saving for a later date to give breath and voice to... like how much of a difference he has made in my life; how he is my gold standard of kindness and goodness and godliness. Father in Heaven, if you'll just give me a little more time, I will not waste it, nor will I take it for granted. I will stop saying, "after soccer season, I will make the time..." or "as soon as we survive these crazy middle school years, I will make the time..."
As I urgently and frantically pleaded with God, I received a text from my friend Sherri that silenced my racing, desperate thoughts. She reminded me to simply trust, knowing that God was in complete and total control. And, in that moment, I finally began to accept that all my pleading and begging could not change the situation. I could not bargain with God for results that were not in His original plan. And, with that, I let go. I stopped my silent appeal for more time and, instead, gave thanks for the gift of hope.
Despite the devastation of the accident itself, my dad did make a nearly full recovery. There are, of course, things that aren't ever completely perfect again after such a serious accident, but, for all intents and purposes, he made a great recovery. And, so the time came to make good on my promises, my commitment to be there more for my parents, to say the things that filled my heart to overflowing but seemed too awkward to utter in actual spoken words.
But, it was Christmas time and the season was filled with work deadlines, kid activities, Christmas concerts, and parades, not to mention decorating, planning, and hostessing. There were meals to be made and delivered to sick families in our church. There were choir practices and bells practices and the transition from outdoor soccer season to indoor soccer season. I could barely keep my own head above water. And, so, the promises faded and I resumed my chaotic and crazy, yet relatively peaceful existence.
Then, a couple weeks ago, our good friends received a similar phone call. It wasn't a car accident for them, but, instead, a terrible stroke suffered by our friend's father. It seemed impossible. He was much too young and his health was too perfect for such a catastrophic event. Our neighbor had just said, "I need to make a point of playing golf with him soon." But, in the end, our neighbor's dad did not recover. There was no chance for that round of golf. No chance to do the things and say the things that were planned for the next twenty years. There was supposed to be more time. It seemed perfectly fine to put off such little things as golf outings for just a little while longer because, after all, there were so many years left to be lived.
And, so I return to that night in November, when I made those pleas and those promises. And, I think of the final verses in the song by Five for Fighting 100 Years to Live...
I'm 33 for a moment. Still the man, but you see I'm a 'they.'
A kid on the way, babe. A family on my mind.
I'm 45 for a moment. The sea is high and I'm heading into a crisis
Chasing the years of my life.
15, there's still time for you. Time to buy and time to lose yourself
Within a morning star.
15, I'm all right with you. 15, there's never a wish better than this...
When you only got a hundred years to live.
Half time goes by. Suddenly you're wise.
Another blink of an eye, and 67 is gone.
The sun is getting high. We're moving on.
I'm 99 for a moment. Dying for just another moment.
And I'm just dreaming.
Counting the ways to where you are.
Thursday, May 9th was my mom's 63rd birthday. As my sister, my girls, and my niece celebrated with her at California Pizza Kitchen, she suddenly began to cry. My girls stopped eating and asked her what was wrong. She smiled through her tears and explained, "I just miss your grandma. I want her to be here right now celebrating with us." My heart ached. My mom still has so much to say to my grandma. She wanted more time. None of us were ready.
Yesterday, when I replayed this birthday scene for my aunt, she told me how desperately she still misses my grandma, too. She explained how, just that morning, she heard one of her colleagues at work say, in response to something that had happened, "I need to call my mom and tell her about this!" And, without pause, my aunt insisted, "Oh, be so thankful you can pick up that phone right now and tell her anything you want. I would give the world to be able to call my mom right now."
So, today, in the midst of one sick child, a trip to the pediatrician's office, a long wait at the pharmacy, a trip to the orthodontist office for my oldest to have her braces removed, a phone call from the school to pick up another sick child, an HVAC repair man here to tell me we need a new unit, and a night filled with soccer practice, homework, projects, and a mandatory parent meeting, I implored the world to stop revolving for just five minutes. And, I used that gift of time to sit on my hammock....and call my dad. And, for once, I forced myself to be still, to be present, and to savor each word he had to say. And, then, I gave thanks for that November night, when God revealed his plan...and gave me a little more time.