A little over a year ago, the call came from our dear 82 year old friend, Jean. She began with faltering voice saying, "I have some bad news." The conversation revealed that her beloved husband, and our dear, sweet friend, Jack, had died after a sudden and awful illness.
Bereft that we were so far away, we made a conscious decision that we would not jump on a plane to fly cross country in order to attend Jack's memorial service. We knew there would be a massive amount of caring, loving people who could and would be there for those immediate and difficult good byes. Instead, we sent heartfelt cards and a care package designed to comfort our friend while putting off plans to travel to her. A few months down the road when everyone else had returned to their lives and homes and our Jean would welcome the company, we would travel to be with her.
With that in mind, my sweet girl and I juggled our calendars and planned our trip to Maryland. The husband would mind the home fires and we girls would wing our way to our old home town and our sweet Jean.
We were just a little worried when several days before our scheduled trip, one year old Minnie showed signs of a virus of some sort. Suffice it to say it was messy and it involved a fever. Next, Ruby, age 6, got an 8 hour dose of what took Minnie several days to conquer. But, it seemed that we were nearly home free. Then, as fate would have it, the night before our flight, my girl started feeling icky. Lying on a pillow on the kitchen floor icky. Then there was a monster headache and all the aforementioned symptoms.
A decision was made that the husband and I would collect the little ones and they and I would brave the flight alone, giving Momma a day to rest and recover. And we zipped into action. Oh. My. Did we zip!
The husband delivered us all to LAX and somehow a then six year old, 15 month old and I navigated three suitcases, two back packs and a big orange purse to curbside check in. (Thank you, Lord, for curbside baggage check!) We sailed through security and were at our gate with time to spare.
We arrived at BWI to meet our dear friends Rick and Patricia, who not only picked us up but came armed with car seats for our little ones and provided a portable crib for Minnie to use. They delivered us to Jean's warm home on the Crofton Parkway. We were exhausted but, delighted to have reached our destination!
The next day was spent visiting with Jean in her warm and beautiful home. She bustled around like a wet hen making sure we had enough to eat and anything and everything we might need. Late that afternoon Amanda arrived, declaring she was good as new! Having recovered overnight, she arrived along with her hubby who was able to join our adventure between work assignments.
|Jean and Ru at the O's game!|
He made plans to take us all to an Oriole game in Baltimore, and procured tickets. It was such a fine night. My last trip to an O's game was when the stadium was brand new and my own parents were with us. It was sweet to recall being with them in that place and now to be there with my girl and her little family and our Jean. We did it right, with hot dogs and cheering and the seventh inning stretch. And, our team won! (Thank you, boys!) It was a lovely night with Jean, who hadn't been to a game since prior to Jack's passing.
When we got home, we talked through our plans for the coming week…there'd be ribs for dinner that night and dinner in Baltimore at Heninger's, a wonderful restaurant in Fell's Point, owned and operated by Jean's daughter Jayne and her husband, Kenny. There would be shopping, because Jean is a Giver (yes, that's a capitol G) and she was determined to lavish gifts on Amanda and her girls. On Saturday, we'd all be going to Patricia's home for a gathering of old friends who would be coming to see us. The week was full of promise and we were so excited!
The next morning, my friend and personal chauffeur, Patricia, whisked me off to breakfast while Amanda and the girls visited with Jean. We headed to Bob Evans for a monster meal, complete with grits. (have I mentioned how I love grits?) We sat and talked over eggs and bacon and grits and coffee. We laughed until we cried. We have the luxury of having shared life together from the times when our children were small. I remembered delivering a baby gift for her youngest, Cal (who was recently married) and ice pops for her older children. Back then we were sure if we did it all right that it would turn out all right. We were hopeless romantics, no? But, we agreed that although life gets messy, we still believe, that when all is said and done, it WILL be all right. Because Jesus said so.
We're still banking on that.
|Making fun on the grounds of Prince of Peace Church|
By the time Patricia delivered me back to Jean's, the tide had taken a nasty turn. Jean was sick. Messy, ugly, in her room and beyond-comfort sick. There was nothing to be done but to offer liquids and prayers for her recovery. But there would be no ribs that night. Instead there would be Panera's finest and a trip to the church next door for the kids to play on the swings. There would be a walk to what was our former townhouse and the sweetness of seeing starfish in the upper windows. Clearly there are kindred spirits now living there.
By Friday there was no improvement. I urged a visit to the doctor but Jean resisted. Even so, she insisted we go shopping as planned. We left for a few hours as ordered. As instructed, Amanda found a pair of new boots and some small treasures for the girls as well. We returned with more Panera, this time chicken noodle soup. By the time we returned, Jean was up and about and attempted with little success to take some in. By now I was getting more concerned that she was dehydrated and still not up to par.
In the midst of all this, our normally cheerful and amiable Minnie, was uncharacteristically a little bear! She was cranky and angry and not warming up to anyone. She wanted to be held constantly and produced another low grade fever. Mother Mary! Make it stop! (May I interject here that by the end of this week she would have produced not one, not two but, THREE new teeth, two of them molars.)
By Saturday morning, I was insistent that Jean MUST go to the doctor. She gave in, but only on the condition that WE not take her. She was insistent that we go to the planned gathering. So, she arranged for her dear friend to take her to the ER. We agreed with the caveat that she would call us from the hospital the moment she had any diagnosis.
Off to Annapolis we went, and we had a wonderful afternoon with so many dear and thoughtful friends. We sat on Rick and Pat's screened in porch and enjoyed cold drinks, wonderful eats and sweet fellowship with a swarm of sweet friends. There were pictures taken, horses nuzzled, walks in the forest, a dip in the pool for the kids, childhood friends reunited, lives caught up on, memories relived. Oh. It really was a slice of heaven and I am so grateful for each one who came. Each and every one were a blessing. It is humbling to know they came to see us.
And in the middle of it, a call from Jean. They had taken her in immediately, hooked her up to an IV to hydrate her and sent her home with the assurance that the virus would run its course. (Thank you, Lord!)
As the day wound down, our friends, some who drove great distances, made their way home. There were lots of hugs and some tears. Can I just say it was awesome? I know that word is so overused. But, for me--it just was.
Amanda and her girls proceeded back to Crofton and I stayed behind for my one must do. People! A girl cannot visit Maryland without partaking in a meal of crabs from the Chesapeake. So, after they hosted this wonderful afternoon, Rick, Patricia and I went in search of a big brown paper bag full of freshly cooked crabs, covered in Old Bay spice. Upon returning home, we covered their table with brown paper and newspapers. Butter was melted. Beer was poured. Mallets were poised. Oh. My. Stars. Patricia says you have to eat crabs at least once a year to make sure your immune system is still intact. Friends, they were every bit as wonderful as I had recalled. A lot of work for a little bit of crab, but worth every minute. Try it. You'll thank me.
When we had cracked all the crabs and eaten every delicious morsel, my hosts graciously drove me the 12 miles back to Crofton, via my favorite and most scenic drive, Route 450 , from Annapolis. THE most beautiful drive through the most lush forest. By the time I got back, I walked into the site of Jean, sitting upright with a smile on her face, in her chair, and Amanda at her feet, looking at photos from years gone by. A favorite featured the ever fashionable Jean poised in front of a microphone, lead singer for a band, back when she and Jack were young. We listened as she shared stories of when Jack first called for a date and Jean telling her mom, "Oh, that Jack Irvin called." Not excited. She was a party girl and he was so quiet and--"boring"! But, it turned out, they were perfect for each other. Imagine that. And they shared a wonderful life together. This was what we had come so far to celebrate. A life well lived in perfect harmony.
|Jean, Amanda and Minnie, "pre-storm"|
Finally. We had done what we came to do. Sharing in the sweetness of the life they made together. Reminisce about dear Jack, the love of her life and our dear friend. It was the sweetest of times.
We left the next afternoon. In some ways is was the vacation from hell. (Yes, Minnie was cutting another tooth and yes, our flight was delayed. )
We were all a little testy on that flight home, as I recall. But, I can't help thinking that in spite of all the curve balls, we lived our mission. We went to show our love and hopefully some comfort to our dear friend. Much of what we'd planned to do was shelved. We didn't get to Heninger's but, we did enjoy the key lime pie Jayne made and generously sent for us. Jean didn't get to take us shopping but, we had time to enjoy what was once our home town, to walk the parkway, swing on swings, take a peek at our old house, Amanda's first elementary school and enjoy sitting on Jean's deck under massive trees, making a multitude of paper fans, singing songs and reading stories.
When all was said and done, it was a vacation we'll never forget, with a friend who has made an imprint on our hearts that will never be erased. Mission accomplished.