Friday, August 7, 2009

The Hospitality of Support Cannot be Overstated...

The year my mother died was the most painful time of my life. It was 1993 and we had moved from North Carolina to Ohio. My husband had requested and was granted a transfer with his company so that we could make our desire to be near my family a reality. Our son Matthew was only a toddler when we moved to North Canton that year, where we knew no one except my parents who lived just over an hour away.

Not quite two months after the move, we were getting settled and making adjustments to the cold Ohio climate when my mother died suddenly from a massive heart attack. At only 53, my mother was gone. She was my biggest supporter and best friend. I had longed to live near her again, especially as our son grew older.

Her death that April, so soon after our move, was very nearly unbearable. Somehow, with God’s grace and Ken's unfailing support, I managed to care for Matthew and get through the summer. Looking back, it’s all a blur and I barely remember anything that happened during that time.

As the holidays approached, I was an emotional wreck. My mother had always spent time with us every year sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Just the thought of facing those holidays without her was not only emotionally difficult, but it was physically painful. My heart literally ached - I felt pain in my chest whenever I thought of her. How would I ever make it through the Christmas holidays?

And then my friend, Vickie, from Durham, North Carolina where we had lived, used the mail to cross that distance for me that year. She knew my mother and how close we had been. She knew I was hurting and yet, with a job, a husband, and a young child of her own, she couldn’t be with me during those weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, she did the next best thing - she sent me mail every day during that holiday season. Yes, each day our mailman delivered something from Vickie. Sometimes it was a note or letter, but more often than not, I received some little package from her. The packages held a note and a little surprise. I don't remember what all the surprises were, but I do remember they were as simple as a sweet-smelling drawer sachet or a chocolate candy bar. But there was something from her every day.

The support Vickie showed me that year was worth more to me than I could ever express. Just knowing that she cared enough about me to purchase, prepare and mail an item each day was the most incredible gift. It was God’s reminder for me that I still had people who loved and cared about me. My mother, who was my greatest fan, was gone, but I was shown a love so like that of my mother. Vickie’s long-distance hospitality was a priceless gift. I will always count the love she showed me during those weeks one of the greatest gifts I ever received.

The gift of support cannot be overstated. Last year my friend Wanda needed to have some hospital tests done and although she’s a nurse, she was apprehensive about going to the hospital for testing alone. Her husband needed to be out of town, so she asked another close friend, Linda, and me to join her for the testing. Linda and I were so glad that she expressed her concern to us and that she had asked us to accompany her. Although we did not go into the testing room with Wanda, she knew we were close and that we were praying for her. We prayed that she would have peace of mind and that the diagnostician would find any abnormalities. When Wanda joined us after the testing, she had a calm, peaceful demeanor and was so glad the testing was over. She expressed just knowing we were there, waiting for her and prayerfully supporting her was a calming gift for her at the time. Fortunately, the tests were normal, but knowing we were there for her was a comfort. I had experienced that kind of support in a similar way years before with Vickie.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know many who are facing a challenge of some kind who could use our support. Do you know an elderly person who stresses when going to the doctor? Would she find comfort in knowing you were there with her? Is there someone without family or friends nearby who would love some company – even for a little while? How about the elderly person down the street who has difficulty mowing his yard or clearing snow from his driveway? What kind of small kindness can you extend to him today? Maybe for you it’s a friend or neighbor who just had surgery, or even a new mom, overwhelmed with the responsibilities she now encounters. How can you extend the hospitality of support today?

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