TITLE: Packing Light for the Long Trip
By Francie Snell
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Thank you for your thoughtful time and attention.
There was urgency in her voice. "When will you get here?"
"As soon as we can," Paul assured his sister. "Probably a week or so before we can come. But I'm not sure yet."
Two weeks later, we packed our bags and prepared our hearts for the journey to Nebraska.
Our destination was a bedside.
I've learned through the years of traveling the merits of packing light. I find that just one small suitcase is all I need for most trips. However, these voyages to my husband's hometown were different. For these visits, I always carried two sets of baggage: one for my clothes and one for my personal collection.
The collection was a heavy load. It contained a variety of disappointments, frustrations, and petty grievances I had harbored throughout the years. Now, I realized it was far too burdensome and trivial a cargo for this trip.
So I left it behind.
After four days, we arrived at their house, a year since our last visit. Paul's mother Lorretka beamed as we walked into the bedroom. Appreciation showed in her eyes as we took turns leaning down and kissing her forehead. She appeared frailer than ever. The spill she had the year before had taken its toll. The concussion had caused a mass to form. Hospice now visits four days a week.
As I leaned on the pillow beside her, she slowly spoke with childlike wonder. "You drove all the way from California just to see me?
Why-I-tell-you. I can't describe what it is I'd like to say." She seemed to struggle with the words as if worried about expressing herself.
But just hearing her sweet little voice was delightful enough for me. And for the first time in all the years I'd known her, I finally realized that.
Our relationship had always seemed uncertain. I was her son's third wife and he was my third husband. I suppose her and I were both a bit jaded in investing our hearts in yet another mother/daughter, in-law relationship.
However, now, I felt God was telling me to leave my hurts behind. Opportunity was fleeting with no time to waste entertaining lingering grievances or petty non-sense.
"How long will you be here?" she quietly asked.
"Ten days," she echoed with a delicate smile.
For ten days, God opened my eyes giving me a deeper understanding and respect for Loudvick and Lorretka and their sixty-eight years of marriage. Stories were shared daily around the kitchen table where I felt loved and appreciated.
"You're going home tomorrow?" Lorretka asked as she sunk into bed for the night.
I tucked her feet under the blanket. "Yeah, we're leaving tomorrow, but we'll still be here when you wake up in the morning…okay?"
I thought for a moment then asked, "Would you like me to say a prayer?"
She nodded and slowly spoke. "If you want to pray, you pray, because I know you will say what God wants you to say."
Deeply honored by her trust, I prayed aloud, thanking the Father for sending his son Jesus. "Because of Him we can be forgiven of our sins and live for eternity together in heaven." I thanked Him for His comforting promises and for giving me Lorretka as a mother, and that I was her daughter.
When I ended, she stared at me a moment, and then surprised me with a prayer of her own.
With boldness, she prayed aloud thanking God that we were there with her. She asked God to make her well and give her a few more years in this life to enjoy her family. She spoke blessings and gratitude towards God. She seemed to know clearly to whom she was talking. I was astounded by her words and by her faith.
"Amen" she said with finality and a twinkle in her eye. "That was wonderful! I was going to pray in polish but I knew you wouldn't understand."
We both chuckled.
The next morning Paul and I said our goodbyes, hugging and kissing the two as they sat side-by-side on their bed.
"This has been the best visit ever," Lorretka proclaimed.
Loudvick smiled and held out his arms again and we all hugged.
"We'll be back soon, okay? We love you." With heavy hearts, we started out the door.
They spoke softly after us. "We love you too."
When we go back - hopefully soon - instead of driving, we plan to fly.
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