Whenever things change unexpectedly, I am reminded of the words of Robert Burns in his poem, “To A Mouse”:
“The best laid plans of mice and men, oft go awry.”
I originally planned to do a blog about the characters in my book, but some other things came up, and I will save that blog for another day.
Today is about navy tights. I know you must think I’ve lost my mind. What in the world does that even mean?
This week, we lost a wonderful lady. Someone I’ve known for over 31 years. Not only was she a wonderful friend, but she was the mother of one of my best friends. To know her was to love her. She was always immaculately dressed, every hair in place, and she always had on a fresh coat of lipstick. She supported her family, friends, and community fiercely. She spoke her mind, but not in a rude or obnoxious way. She was a pillar of strength and a joy to know. And she will be missed immensely.
You learn a lot about life, when someone dies. You learn about strength, and grace, and friendships, heartache, and the devastating and overwhelming feelings of loss. And you learn who shows up.
I’m so lucky to have the kind of friends who would drop whatever they’re doing to come help me. No matter how big or small the problem or situation. I want to be that kind of friend, and this week, I, along with several other people, were able to do what friends do. We showed up. We went to our friend’s house, and crawled in bed beside her. We cried, and laughed, and loved. We loaded dishwashers, and did laundry, and cleaned the house. We helped pick out clothing, and brought food, and cried, and laughed all over again. And we showed up. We held her hand. We couldn’t take away her pain; we couldn’t bring back her mom; we couldn’t tell her everything was going to be okay; but we showed up. We were present. We were there. And we will continue to be there. Always. Because that’s what friends do.
Please don’t think I’m patting myself on the back. That’s the last thing I’m doing. I’m writing about the awesome gift of being able to be someone’s friend at the worst time in her life. When you serve others, the blessings flow. What an honor it has been to be there. To show up.
You may wonder why I keep saying that about showing up. It’s because many times people wonder how they can help someone who is grieving. It’s very, very simple. You show up. You don’t have to say a word. You don’t have to bring a casserole. You don’t have to do laundry, or pick out clothes. You don’t have to send flowers or a card. You just show up. You are present. You are visible. And that’s all anyone ever wants. They want to know you are there, and that you will be there when times get tough, or worse, or even more unbearable. Sure, it may disrupt your schedule, or change your plans, but even if it’s just for a moment, you will show up and by showing up, you’ve said, “I’m here and I’m your friend.” When the chicken spaghetti runs out, and there are no more casseroles in the freezer, your kind note saying, “I’m thinking of you,” or your quick text, or phone call, or a plate of hot cookies (the slice-and-bake kind), will continue to say, “I’m here and I’m your friend.”
This morning, as I was trying to get dressed for the funeral of our dear family friend, the mother of my soul sister, I realized that the only pair of tights I had to wear with my dress were navy blue. Mind you, it was 22 degrees this morning, and I needed to dress warmly. I’m still one of those people who wears dresses to church and funerals. It’s one of my quirks, but it’s part of who I am. I honestly wish I had some slacks that were nice enough to wear to church or a funeral, but I don’t. But I did have a pair of navy tights. And absolutely NOTHING in my closet that would match my tights. You see, I thought the tights were actually black, and it wasn’t until I held them up in the light that I realized they were blue. It’s 6:00 in the a.m., and I have no black tights, and nothing that will match the blue ones, and my boots are sort of tacky looking. So, I did what I had to do, and left my house at 6:30, drove 15 miles to Walmart in Tyler, bought some tights (and the only ones in my size were “Tall”) and then drove to work. Remember, I’m still in my navy tights, with a dress that has not one speck of navy on it. But, I proudly carry my Walmart sack with my black tights through the halls of the school and share my story. Most people said, “No one would have noticed.” But I would have. You see, it wasn’t so much about matching, and looking well put together, it was about paying my respects to my friend. Because she was always immaculately dressed. Because every hair was always in place, and she always had on a fresh coat of lipstick. I wanted to honor her by doing the same. I wanted to put in the effort. I wanted to pay attention to the details. Because in life, those details, those special things you do for others–those are the things that make up the best parts of our lives.
About a month ago, when I first learned of my friend’s illness, I tried to think of something I could do. I decided that I could record the chapters of my book, A Southern Girl Re-Belles, and send them to the family to play for her. To give her a distraction. To maybe make her laugh. She told me after she read Mockingbird Moments, that she could hear my voice as she read it. I wanted to let her hear my voice. I wanted her to know that even though I wasn’t there physically, I was there emotionally. I wanted her to know that I showed up. That she mattered, and that I loved her.
She never got to listen to those first few chapters, because God called her home. So it’s in memory and in honor of my friend, Jean, and for her precious daughters, Bitsy, Julie, and Jamie, who are like family to me, that I’m going to share with you, my sweet readers and friends, the cover to my book, A Southern Girl Re-Belles. I’m sure you’re wondering why I would do this in the middle of a conversation about friendship, and showing up. It’s simple. Life is like that book cover. The front represents the beginning. Birth. The back, represents the end. Death. And everything in between represents the lives we lead during the time from our beginning and end. All the memories, the deeds, both good and bad, family, friends, jobs. LIFE. It’s in those pages that OUR stories are told. All those chapters are bound together to represent our journey here on earth. It’s not necessarily filled with only the big things. It’s a bunch of little things. Like the time you smiled at someone who needed to be lifted up, or the time you volunteered for a charity, or donated to a cause, or adopted an angel off the tree. The times you put others’ needs before your own. The times you laughed, and cried, and shared, and worked, and helped. The times you did laundry. The times you showed up. The times you bought black tights because she was always immaculately dressed, every hair was always in place, and she always had on a fresh coat of lipstick.
One of my favorite quotes comes from one of my favorite movies, “Hope Floats.”
If I can leave you with one thought, it’s to make your “middle” count. And always remember, when you don’t know what to do for someone, just show up. It’s always enough. In fact, it’s the biggest thing you can do for someone who is hurting. Put everything else aside. Be present. Be visible. Be there. Not just for now, but when the flowers wilt, and the cards stop coming. Be kind. Love fiercely. And show up. When you do, I guarantee, your cup will not only be full, it will be overflowing…
Here’s the book cover. The front, and the back. Without the pages and chapters, it’s not a book. but it will be when the middle is added. Because the middle is what counts…
I look forward to sharing the rest of the story with you soon. Thank you for being a part of my middle. I hope you know, for you, I will always show up. And not only will I show up, I will do so while wearing my newly purchased black tights from Walmart.
As I look forward to the release of my book, with a few nerves and a lot of excitement, I can’t help but think of this song, by Miley Cyrus…and who would have thought Miley would ever be a part of this blog???
But remember, just like showing up, and making your middle count, it’s also about the climb…
“I can almost see it, that dream I’m dreaming…”
I would greatly appreciate it if you would subscribe to my podcast. It’s on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), iHeart Radio, and spotify. I need “clicks” and “plays.”
Until next time my friends…