As a child, preteen and teenager, when I read, I read rapidly. I never knew when Dad would grow weary of seeing me with my nose in a book and snatch the book out of my hands. Usually, I could pick up where I left off, but if I had been particularly "distanced" the book would disappear and I would never know how it ended.
I figured reading the last page, or even the last chapter ahead of time was "cheating" so I simply read as quickly as I could until I got to page done. This particular skill set is invaluable in my present position of "editress" (Danny's new nickname, bestowed on me when Bruce went and got himself too hurt to work). Going through Bruce's email, mine, and the myriad stories that must be quickly scanned before publication, keeps my eyes moving, either on the computer screen or the printed page.
Atypically, "What Really Matters -- 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying" by Karen M. Wyatt, M.D., a book I requested for review, took me months to finish.
It is an excellent book, and each chapter touches on issues of human relationships that come into razor-sharp focus when Death is in the room. I got through the first two-thirds with my usual speed, relishing the flow of words, highlights appearing with greater frequency as the book, just 174 pages long, progressed through the seven lessons.
Memory fails to register just where I was compelled to stop reading, but stop I did. It wasn't the writer's fault. It was mine. I'd pick it up, and put it back down again, repeatedly, over the long months between March and August. Suddenly, in early August, I picked it up again and resumed my usual speed reading, the highlighter in hand, the book compelling me ever forward, until I reached page done.
Apparently, sometimes we have to grow into the information we're absorbing.
What Really Matters really does matter. Dr. Wyatt is a skillful writer who carefully guides her readers through difficult, uphill terrain, imparting the skills she has learned as she has traveled through the Valley of the Shadow of Death as a hospice physician.
Through the long months that the rest of the book remained unread, I would find myself recalling and sometimes applying the lessons learned, the head knowledge somehow reaching into my heart.
Longtime readers know that I have always had a marvelous relationship with my mother-in-law, even though she scarcely knew what to do with the ragamuffin, scrawny girl who thought she was "all that and a bag of chips." At first, she merely tolerated me, certain that some other girl would soon catch Danny's eye and I would be relegated to the back of a long line of loves he would know in his life.
She had no idea then just how tenacious I can be, when it's something, or someone, I want. She learned. And she learned to love me even as I learned to love her and learned from her. She won my heart forevermore when Lisa was delivered by Caesarean section, Danny was working 150 miles up in the mountains, and she brought me into her home to heal, driving me back and forth to the hospital multiple times each day to visit my sweet, tiny daughter. It didn't register at the time, but she must have taken emergency leave in order to minister thusly to me.
Most assuredly, I won't soon forget the time when the great saga of Danny and Dawn almost came to a premature end. During those dark days, Mom had more faith in "us" than we did, and in her own inimitable fashion, she somehow carried both of us in her heart until we were "us" again.
Closing in on 85, the only traveling she did was back and forth to the doctor's office, so we could almost always catch her by telephone. When we couldn't, the search was on, and we had a list of numbers we'd call until the lost was found. I called her Thursday last with a quick question. We ended up staying on the line for 45 minutes and had an absolutely wonderful conversation. I was in tears when I hung up, which once upon a time would have been reason for concern. But these were tears born of worship as I realized through the course of our conversation just how greatly God had used this woman in my life. My heart was swollen with gratitude, the tears simply measuring the overflow.
On Sunday afternoon, we spoke again briefly, while making plans to travel to Denver the following Sunday to celebrate her 85th birthday a day early. We seldom venture out of town, but we were determined to be a part of that celebration.
We're still making a day trip to Denver this weekend, on Saturday rather than Sunday. It will still be a celebration, of sorts. The phone rang hours before Monday's sun would rise. Mom had passed gently to the other side of reality, the side that really matters, while we all slept, unaware that she was leaving. The story she was just beginning to learn, now fully known.
The lessons I learned from the seven lessons about "What Really Matters," held me in good stead. Nothing that needed to be said had been left unsaid. Any stray root of bitterness had been plucked, our conversations went in any and all directions, and always ended with, "We love you, Mom." She would laugh and say, "I love you guys, too!" As we'd replace the phone on the hook, we could still hear her laughing.
I can hear her laughing still.
Winifred (Stocking) Cribbs
Sept. 24, 1927-Sept. 17, 2012
A remarkable woman, a remarkable life -- the lessons I learned from her will hold me in good stead.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. " Psalm 23:4 (KJV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know, and love, the One who does. Let's walk in that love and discover Him; together.
"What Really Matters -- 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying"