It was April 1995 when 18-month-old Emma and I walked in the front door of our home in Charlotte, North Carolina. We had snuck out early to go to a few yard sales. Dw was home watching 6-week-old Graham and our other three. Being a nursing mom I had not been gone long.
Emma was on my hip as I started to close the front door and simultaneously heard Dw’s frantic voice calling me from the family room, “Take the baby! Take the baby!” As I ran toward the family room I couldn’t imagine what could be happening.
Rounding the corner I found Dw on his knees lifting newborn Graham in the air and thrusting him toward me with the most terrifying look in his eyes. With panic I cried, “WHAT?? What’s wrong?” Pleadingly Dw cried, “The room is getting smaller, and I can’t really see you!”
The next little bit is a complete blur, but in an instant it was clear that his left side was now impaired and he had difficulty moving it. Before long I was struggling to help him get his left leg in his jeans as his left arm hung rather helplessly.
We didn’t call an ambulance (he didn’t want to) but before long, I had loaded our five little ones in the car and helped him get in. This was back before cell phones although we did have a pager. I drove him to the hospital where I had delivered Graham just six weeks earlier. Helping Dw get into the ER, I gave them our pager number and then began to drive the kids around and around the parking lot while praying hard.
We hadn’t been pastoring in Charlotte long, I’d been on complete bedrest for 3 months before delivering Graham, and I didn’t really know anyone to call for help. And boy-oh-boy did I ever feel helpless and scared. I had guessed he had had some sort of stroke or something. They proceeded to do tests and before long the hospital paged me. Heading back into the hospital they told me that they were transferring Dw by ambulance to a larger hospital in Uptown Charlotte.
More blurry moments followed but I do know at some point I called an older couple from our church and asked them to come to the house to watch the four littles as I took nursing Graham down to the larger hospital.
I remember nursing Graham in that hospital as I sat at the end of Dw’s bed and trying to figure out what the future might look like. Back in those days there was no social media, no texting and no updating via anything but a house phone. At some point I called Dw’s supervisor of our Southeast District in the denomination we pastored to tell him.
My thoughts also wandered to just a month earlier when I’d thrown Dw a surprise 40th birthday party. Close friends had even come from out-of-state to surprise him. They had blindfolded, tied him up and threw him in their car and drove all over until they eventually ended up back at the fellowship hall of the church we pastored which was filled with black balloons, streamers and people celebrating his 40th. They’d even put him in a wheelchair (complete with IV pole) and wheeled him around, laughing about how old he now was. Although it was a blast, it suddenly didn’t seem very funny.
How could this be happening? I was beyond bewildered.
The older couple could only stay for a short time watching my kids so I hurried from uptown Charlotte back to our home. The hours passed slowly, wondering what was going on at the hospital and also concerned about what I would do if the hospital called and needed me to come in the night.
That evening, after getting Tyler, Autumn and Emma to bed, Abigail and I stayed up. At about 11:30 I was upstairs sorting laundry and heard a voice. Turning I was stunned to see my friend and fellow pastor’s wife, Shari, from a little town north of Charlotte. Before I could even say anything, Shari gave me a wee hip-check, thrust out her hand which held a tiny gas station fake rose and questioned, “Coffee, tea, or me?” I laughed in disbelief.
What in the world was Shari doing at our home at this time of night? Unbeknownst to me, Abigail had heard the knock on the front door around 11:30pm and had let my friend in. Precious Shari explained that she had just heard about Dw and knew that it must be so scary for me. She had driven all that way to stay the night with the kids and I in case I needed to go in the night to the hospital. Oh what a precious friend! I hadn’t called her, I couldn’t even think straight. But she had heard through the grapevine and told her husband she had to come be with me.
Shari was a true friend living joyfully as the hands and feet of Jesus. For starters, she had little ones herself, it was late at night, it was a long drive, it was a Saturday which also meant church for a pastor’s wife on Sunday morning. Yet Shari, who could have legitimately had a dozen reasons why she “couldn’t” just dropped everything and came to be by my side. My eyes well with tears. What a selfless, thoughtful, kind and loving friend.
Over the years I have told Shari how much it meant to me that she came, unasked, in my time of need. In fact I have told her that it stands out as one of the most profound things a friend has ever done for me. It showed me true friendship – true unconditional love and even driving a great distance late at night. I loved her before she came but oh how dearly I loved her after her generous love!
So why am I telling you the story of my friend Shari? Well…
Shari had been having some health struggles and her husband had been posting about her journey. We were checking his FB page throughout each day and praying for her healing. I wasn’t prepared to read his post last week:
Shari received her miracle today at 5:45pm when she traded this earthly life for her heavenly one.
Oh the grief that came to my soul. My older girls have also been following Shari’s health struggles and soon they were texting me to see if I had seen the update? (They had been watching Bob’s wall regularly too.) Dw was working late and I phoned him. He burst out sobbing, “NOOO!!”. Dw and I both are devastated for her precious husband, Bob, and their family.
In the midst of honoring Shari with this story, I am challenged, “When all is said and done, what legacy will be left?” When all is said and done what really matters? When all is said and done how will we each be remembered?
Bob’s FB wall is overflowing with stories of how Shari ministered to those around her – seriously, so many friends – far and near – remembering how she loved them. It’s been a beautiful thing to read each one honoring her – her legacy is incredible.
When all was said and done, Shari will always be remembered as a treasured friend who put other’s needs ahead of her own, who reflected Jesus each day of her life and came to my aid in my time of need.
When all is said and done….what legacy will be left?