Remember when parents used to say, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something real to cry about?” A version of that happened in my life last week.
Between missing my dad on his birthday September 4th, the looming end of summer and dwindling beach time with family and friends, and saying goodbye to favorite summer locals, I wallowed the days after Labor Day feeling downright sad.
And then, at 8:39 a.m. on Friday morning, in the checkout line at the Acme, I got a text that put things in perspective.
My brother, hundreds of miles from home for his job, was on a stretcher, in an ambulance, on his way to the hospital with symptoms that sounded alarmingly like a heart-attack or stroke.
Talk about something real to be sad about! My first reaction after getting off the phone with my brother was to burst into tears. The next hours were tense and scary until a battery of tests ruled out the most frightening diagnoses. Thankfully, by later that day we were cautiously optimistic his symptoms were temporary and treatable and the next day he was able to fly home.
After my initial crying jag Friday morning, a few things kept me from completely melting down. First, the minute I got home from the Acme, Jim glued himself to my side and stayed there through every text and phone call. As we do in our family, my siblings rallied, ready to do whatever was needed.
And then there was the kindness of strangers. Two women, who didn’t know me and had just met my brother the day before in the class he was teaching, went way above and beyond. One helped me coordinate with his hotel, employer, and car rental company, being my eyes and ears onsite, to ensure his belongings and company’s equipment were secure. The other woman went to the hospital to be with him. She called me as the emergency unfolded and assured me, as long as he needed someone with him, she would not leave his side. It’s hard to describe the comfort it brought knowing that during this medical emergency, he was not alone.
True to her word, she put her day on hold and sat by his side for hours, reassuring and keeping our family updated. Eight hours later she finally went home, and then checked in with him later that night and visited him again in the morning.
These women were so caring and generous. In a similar situation, could I be that unselfish with my time?