The complete answer to those questions would take several days of posts, but suffice it to say that, beginning November 1, 2009, LIFE got a little interesting. That week, I went to Alabama to take mom to a couple of doctors' appointments. She had been down in the dumps, so I suggested she come back to Knoxville with me for a few days.
Well, two days after getting here, she fell and broke her left hip in four places...actually five, but her surgeon said "she didn't really need that fifth little bone." (Huh?)
Anyway, she was in the hospital for almost two weeks battling surgery-related complications--low blood counts, low blood pressures, etc. Then, as if all that wasn't exciting enough, her insurance company (VIVA) decided they didn't really feel like paying for her rehabilitation in Tennessee. Even after turning into my alter-ego, Tawanda, and getting mom's legislators involved, they continued to make life very hard.
Finally, one day when I had to stop screaming at them long enough to catch my breath, I finally heard my mama say, "I just wanna go back to Alabama." So we did--she in an ambulance, followed by me in a disgruntled huff.
It was very late when I arrived at the rehab center. I had gotten lost. By the time I got there, the ambulance had deposited mom and headed back to Knoxville. As I walked down the long hallways, looking for mom's room number, I must have passed 50 rooms or more...all with lights out, doors open. I never realized until that moment the sights and smells and sounds that emanate from nursing home rooms in the middle of the night. By the time I found mom, I was thoroughly depressed and on the verge of being sick.
But, as life continues to teach me, almost everything is better in daylight. When I arrived the next morning, the lights were bright, the reception room was cheerful, and the only smells that met me were of coffee brewing and biscuits baking. For the most part, the residents were friendly and at least appeared to be happy. As I told "honey," the most humbling aspect was that each employee I talked to seemed as though they wouldn't work anywhere else--they acted like it was a joy to be there and (most importantly) to be helping my mama.
Of course, there are sights and sounds there that still disturb me, and the hallways still seem like long mazes. My friend Becky, whom mom has appointed as her "interior decorator," has found the solution to both those problems. She parks on the grass in the back and uses the entrance that's three feet away from mom's room. (She always was the smart one.)
And, I won't lie. Everytime I visit mom, I have flashbacks about an incident that happened to me way back when the Kimberly Church of God Youth Choir used to "have church" at Ketona Nursing Home. One of our most faithful "members" at Ketona was a sweet, elderly, black lady who would "get a blessin'" before Jeff or Barney had ever hit the first chord. If you weren't expecting her "blessin's," she could literally make the hair on your neck stand up. But, she isn't the reason for my flashbacks...she's just a sweet, funny memory.
My flashback is of the male gender.
Of course, all this happened before I lost the gift of mercy. Back in those "mercy" days, I was drawn to the people who had not been able to attend our church services. Before we left, I'd walk up and down the hallways, shaking hands, talking to residents for a few minutes, and praying with any of them who wanted.
One particular Sunday, a particular little man seemed particularly eager to shake my hand. He was rolling his wheelchair toward me, his hand already extended from about 10 feet away. So, I walked toward him, leaned down, grasped his hand and squeezed...tightly...only to realize he had just hocked up a loogie!
It was ALL I could do to stand there and let him tell me how much he loved Jesus. And, no, I did not offer to pray for him.
As I went running down the hallway, looking for industrial hand cleaner...or a meat cleaver...whichever I found first, Jeff insisted that I stop and tell him what had happened. Of course, when I did, he just thought it was the FUNNIEST THING EVER! (With friends like that.....)
To this day, thanks to loogie-man, I have a problem shaking the hands of strangers (and eating oysters).
This past week, I had to drive by that very same Ketona Nursing Home on the way back to Knoxville. While I was stopped at the red light in front of it, I realized that the sweet lady who loved to get a blessin'...and loogie-man...had certainly, by now, "slipped the surly bonds of earth." And I couldn't help but wonder how things ended for them here...and began for them There.
And, as the light turned green, I thought to myself, "I sure hope there are no loogies in heaven."
Life in this upside-down Kingdom is full of surprises, some good... some not. But, we are told that all of them will...eventually "work together for our good." Here's how Brother Peterson puts it, "That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good" (Romans 8:28, The Message).
Down here...those details often look like jumbled, tattered threads, maybe even with a few loogies tossed in. But...There...when we will see things as Jesus sees them...Well, perhaps the words of a song we used to sing at Kimberly Church of God say it best..."We will understand it better by and by."
We are often tossed and driven on the restless sea of time;
Somber skies and howling tempests oft succeed a bright sunshine.
But in that land of perfect day, when the mists are rolled away,
We will understand it better by and by.
By and by, when the morning comes,
When all the saints of God are gathered home,
We will tell the story how we've overcome,
And we'll understand it better by and by.----------------------------
"Then he told me, 'These are those who have...washed their robes, scrubbed them clean in the blood of the Lamb. That's why they're standing before God's Throne. They serve him day and night in his Temple. The One on the Throne will pitch his tent there for them: no more hunger, no more thirst, no more scorching heat. The Lamb on the Throne will shepherd them, will lead them to spring waters of Life. And God will wipe every last tear from their eyes'." (Revelation 7:14-17, The Message)