My Life in Zion

The life and views of a Latter-day Saint in the 21st Century…

Beyond My Abilities…

Hospital Waiting Room Floor and Chairs

Often at the end of a long and trying day when I haven’t been home in 16 hours, I wish I had just a few hours more to tell the people I know that I love them…

But there’s never enough time to tell everyone.

This afternoon at work I received a phone call from my mother. This rarely occurs, and instantly my thoughts drifted into Emergency Mode.

“Pop is going in for emergency surgery…,” she began, and my mind began to whirl so quickly I missed the rest of her sentence the first time she said it.

Pop, my grandfather, is the pillar and patriarch of our family. At 78 he is sharp of whit, Southern to the core, and until recently, more physically active than even myself.

This morning after an arteriogram there were two 90% blockages found in Pop’s chest, and the doctor ordered an emergency surgery. He felt it couldn’t even wait until tomorrow, and by the time I had rushed from work to pick up my mother to drive to the hospital in Birmingham, he was already in the operating room.

As my mom and I drove in the chilly February rain to Birmingham we had an unusually quiet and rare moment to bond. We discussed the rock song on the radio which my mother loved. We discussed when I turned the station and my mother stated with almost a sound of contempt in her voice, “You’re the only person in the world who can rock out to NPR.”

We both had a good laugh.

At the hospital my family was gathered in mass. In a family such as our’s where surgeries are common, and “Cancer” and “Heart Disease” are dinner table conversations, we are used to such gatherings. We literally overtook the waiting room, rearranging it to accommodate our ever-growing numbers. As minutes turned into hours we shared stories, shared jokes, discussed the Three P’s, poop, politics, and polygamy (as the Mormon I’ve learned to roll with the oft times hilarious jokes), and we even prayed in one large circle holding hands.

As I sat in the uncomfortable waiting room chairs I thought of my Pop, and how very much I love him.

When my stepfather came to Utah when I was fourteen years old to help my mother and I move to Alabama with him, my Pop and Mama Helms came also. I had never met Pop before. I had never seen a picture of him. And I had never heard him even speak. The first time we met he walked up to me, and in the most hillbilly voice he could muster he said, “Ya don’t reckon all of us southern folks sound like the Forrest Gump now do you?”

We were instant friends.

By the time we drove from Utah to Alabama over a three day period I knew I wasn’t going to be in a “Step” family, but a family all my own. Pop had accepted me, and he has treated me as an equal grandchild ever since.

I have countless funny, touching, and even sacred experiences I have shared with Pop. But today I was just overwhelmed by how much I love him. As I shared laughs and tears with my family I could feel my heart pounding with my love for them. And I the thought just kept coming to my mind, “I wish I had more time to spend with each and every one of them.”

As time dragged on and it got late I realized it was getting too late to call or text the people with whom I usually have regular contact. A best friend in Utah with whom I talk almost daily, a best friend who just got baptized into the Church a few weeks ago, a friend in Seattle with whom I’ve been meaning to catch up, and countless others. Then my phone died.

My mind whirled as I realized how much I loved all of these people, and of all the others whom I love and wish I had time to be with each and every single day.

If only time could stop, if I could freeze it and run to the next stop, or missionary appointment, or to Utah and back to visit my family there, or to Michigan and back to visit my family there…if only time could freeze, then maybe, just maybe I could reach out to everyone I know, the friends, the family, the branch members, the church investigators, the coworkers, and more whom I think of and pray for daily.

As my family at the hospital dissipated and only a few of us remained into the late hours, finally the nurse came to take us back into the ICU where Pop lay motionless. His mouth agape, his skin ashen, and with countless tubes and monitors surrounding his frail body, we each looked at Pop with a reverence and love that was palpable in the air. We were told not to touch him, but in my mind’s eye I reached forward, touched his cheek and whispered, “Everything will be okay Pop. We love you.”

As we departed the hospital with heavy, but thankful hearts for a surgery well performed, we said our “loves you’s” to one another and got into our cars. As I plugged up my dead phone to the car charger messages and voicemails flooded in. A friend from Seattle was saying “What’s up?”, a branch member asked what time this week’s baptismal service is, our missionaries were asking what time I was coming to say “goodbye” to our elder who is departing tomorrow for transfers, and many more. With rain pattering on the windshield, and as my breath created a fog on the windows of the car, I tried one by one to respond, and I wished again that time could freeze.

To a friend in Utah who is obviously struggling I wanted to say, “Calm down and take a chill pill.” To a friend in Nebraska I wanted to say, “It’s about time you texted me you jerk!” When a dear cousin posted on Facebook about me not having seen her in ten years I literally began to cry, and I wanted to drive straight to the airport to catch the next plane to hug her and her two beautiful little girls. I wanted to just freeze time to go and spend a day with each of them, catch up, and enjoy laughs together.

As I responded to texts and phone calls I realized how I love each of these individuals deeply. And to many of the messages from my struggling acquintances I just wanted to add and say, “The Lord loves you so much. I hope you understand it. Everything will be okay.”

But it wasn’t possible to convey it fully.

Instead I rushed home to Jasper, “quickened by the spirit” (and a lead foot), and said goodbye to our departing elder who has served as a new missionary here. He, like most in my tiny branch, were surprised to hear of his transfer. And as I hugged him a final time in their small apartment, I almost didn’t want to let go. I have loved him almost like a son. And he was one person that I got to hold and say to “everything will be okay”.

My love for the people in my life is far beyond my abilities to share it adequately. I am humbled daily by the absolutely amazing people which the Lord blesses me to interact with on a daily basis. I pray that one day I will live up to honor, in a truly reciprocal manner, the friendships and love which I am blessed with in life. But more than the ability to share my love, I pray that those I know might know of God’s intense, immense, and unconditional love for them in their lives.

How anyone can make it through this brutal thing we call life without knowing of God’s love for them is beyond me.

Tonight, as I prepare for bed and my eyes burn with sleepiness, I ask myself, “Who else should I have told I love them today? Who else should I have told that God loves them?”…And as I ponder who might be on that list, it grows.

Often we will say that “luckily there is always tomorrow”. But, as I was reminded so poignantly today, we are not always promised a tomorrow.

So wherever you are, whoever you are, and however you ended up here on my blog, just know that God loves you. And, as I said to my Pop in my mind and to an elder in my arms tonight, “everything will be okay” in life.

Jesus Christ makes everything okay though His love.

And one day, through His grace, I’ll have the capabilities to share my love and His love in a more meaningful manner.

But for now, I’ll just keep wishing for that time freezing thingy.

Stan

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