I’ve had so many calls and emails from you all wishing us well and praying for us. As many of you know, John’s father, after a courageous fight to recover from two surgeries, finally passed away on February 1. Needless to say, my articles came to a halt around New Years because we stayed at his side and writing was just not possible from the hospital. He went in for a simple, voluntary surgery but unfortunately suffered a mild heart attack that resulted in a quadruple bypass and ultimately pneumonia.
I mentioned in my last entry that I would write next about setting goals in the New Year but now I look at the calendar and realize we are half way through Q1 of 2009! Hopefully, most of you are well into your goals for the year. I’m a firm believer in setting out to improve myself and I don’t do resolutions, because they don’t work. Instead, I have found that by setting annual goals, I can focus on positive changes in my life. When I don’t plan to grow, I usually don’t. So, rather than talk about setting goals, I want to share some things I’ve learned in the past two months because I feel they are going to help me reach my goals. Perhaps they will help you too.
My father in law’s name was also John but the family calls him Sam. Because I adored Sam, it’s easy to look back at all the things he meant to me, but I learned some things from him that have really reinforced who I want to be and what I want my life to be about.
- Purpose – Living life to the fullest. The first thing I learned from Sam came when he wanted to have a knee replacement. He was having pain in his leg and it was limiting his activity. My father in law was very active in Texas Baptist Men which is a huge National organization that aids the victims of crisis’ like hurricanes, tornadoes or floods. He LOVED servingothers. He was not only willing but eager to undergo surgery so that he could serve more.
- Charity – Is more than throwing old clothes in the donation bin. I learned what it means to believe that even the smallest, weakest or poorest members of our society deserve the same as the strongest. In fact, the strongest have a responsibility to help others. My father in law LOVED helping people who wanted to help themselves and who needed a hand from someone who cared. He gave of his time, talents and money to be sure they got that hand.
- Humility – Always being surprised at what God can do with our inadequate selves. My father in law was the most humble man I know. He was always somehow surprised that he could make a difference. He was humbled at how God would use him simply because he was willing to be used. He was a quiet man who had to work HARD at stepping outside his own insecurities so that he could do something awesome! But he did.
- Tenacity – Never making excuses and never quitting when times are tough. When my father in law began having compounded medical problems, he never quit fighting. Over the two months that he was hospitalized, he would tell us he had to get home because he had another trip planned to some area of the country that needed help. He was adamant that God wasn’t done with him yet. He fought every step of the way and never once had a “poor me” attitude. He was funny, playful and though I have no doubt that he was scared at times, he was confident that he would fully recover.
- Selflessness – Putting aside my own problems. In 2005, my mother in law passed away. My father in law missed her so much that I know there were days he struggled to motivate himself to do anything! But he did! He seemed to understand that life brought struggles so that we would have to overcome. As human’s we only grow when we have to overcome something that pushes us to our limits. Whether he was sad, lonely, sick or in pain, he pushed himself to get up and keep giving.
John and I have talked about what a JOY it has been to serve dad and to be at his side for this long 2 months. Interestingly, we didn’t love it in the moment, we wanted him to recover and come home. We wanted to get life back to normal. We wanted to sleep at home in our own bed and we wanted him there recovering under our roof. We hated that he was sick and we felt powerless to help some days.
Which brings me to the last lesson I learned from Sam………It is this. Only when the storm passed could we look back and see what a gift we were given these past weeks. We had a chance to love Dad, talk to him and have every conversation we’d ever put off. He left this world with no regrets. It’s hard to see God’s purpose when the storm is raging, but if we will persevere, the rainbow on the other side is beautiful. He had an amazing attitude about life and though he had problems and struggles, as we all do,
he had learned to take action regardless of what he “felt” at the time. Though I miss him terribly I will not forget the lessons that I learned or the gift I received in serving him these past few weeks.
When your goals seem too difficult, when you want to quit or give up, I hope you’ll look back at these lessons from Sam. I hope you will learn to take action regardless of what you’re feeling and I hope you won’t give up when it seems that the storms are just too hard to face.