“Another Sign Post on the Bumpy Road of Life,” column for May 29, 2012

Bad news, they say, comes in threes. Three weeks ago, after a month of traveling for speaking engagements, I came home to Las Vegas to unpack and try to get to know my husband again.

The next day, I remembered I had an appointment to see a dermatologist about a mole I’d had for ages on my face. “Probably nothing,” he said, “but we’ll biopsy it to be sure.”

I hate the word “biopsy.” I’ve heard it too often from loved ones or readers who write to tell me their news because, good or bad, they need to tell somebody.

So he snipped a tiny spot and I went home, hoping to unpack. But later that day, I learned that Elsie — my late husband’s 97-year-old stepmother, who was my mother-in-law for 30 years and “Grandma” to my children — had passed away. So I zipped up my still-packed roll-a-board and flew the next morning to Oakland, Calif., to rent a car and drive to Tracy for Elsie’s service.

But first I stopped in Walnut Creek, to see Marie, my mother-in-law for seven years, who was in the hospital in failing health.

“Good to see you!” she said, “Where have you been?”

I told her about my travels, places I’d been, people I’d met.

“You sound like my daughter-in-law! She travels a lot, too!”

“Well,” I said, “that’s because I am your daughter-in-law.”

“Oh!” she said, mortified, “you’ve cut your hair!” We had a good laugh over that, she and I. She was sorry to hear about Elsie, she said, but she was glad I’d be home soon to “take care” of her boy.

Mothers. They worry. When she fell asleep, I kissed her head and slipped out. My oldest was driving up from L.A. to meet me in Tracy. I worried until he got there at midnight. We sat up talking until 2. And the next morning I watched him help carry Elsie’s casket to the grave.

After the service, we had lunch with the family, then headed south to Monterey to spend the weekend with my other children and grandchildren, who couldn’t make it to the funeral. Halfway there, I got a call from the dermatologist. The good news, he said, was I had nothing to worry about. However, he wanted to remove just a bit more to make sure the “margins were clear.”

“I’ll be home Monday,” I said. We set the surgery for Tuesday.

My husband had planned to fly to Oakland that Sunday to see his mom on Mother’s Day.

“Come sooner,” I said. He arrived Saturday, in time to be with her when she died.

We flew home together on Monday. That Tuesday morning, another doctor removed a chunk of my cheek. After lab results reported “clear margins,” he closed it up , assuring me it would heal.

The next day, when my eye swelled shut and my face turned purple, I recalled a story my mother loved to tell. When I was a child, she said, I often scared myself to tears by making faces in the mirror.

The swelling went down, sort of, in time to go to California for my mother-in-law’s funeral. I wore a bandage the size of a hubcap. My husband delivered an achingly beautiful eulogy for his mother. She’d have loved it. I kept thinking of something the priest said about her.

She was faithful, he said, to her calling. She felt called to be a wife and a mother. And that is what she did with all her heart, every day, as long as she lived. It was a fine thing to say and absolutely true of her. It’s also true of others I have known and loved and learned from and lost: Marie, Elsie, my mother, her sisters, my grandmothers, my friend Sally. … They weren’t “perfect,” but they fought hard to live true to their callings, whatever they felt them to be. And they all had a few scars to show for it.

I would hope the same could be said of me. Luckily, I still have time to work on it. I’ll try to remember that when I look in the mirror.

The scar on my face might look scary, but it doesn’t scare me.

It reminds me that I am alive.


  1. This past Sunday, our associate pastor, Mike Harbert preached on “Love is passionate”. Your reminder of lives well lived is a poignant reminder to not coast through life or live as if we were always stuck in second gear. Thank you for sharing your gift with the rest of us…hearts are listening.. 🙂

  2. Susan Dudek says

    This column came at such a good time. I lost my own mother in the early morning hours the day after Mother’s Day this year – which was only 2 days after her birthday. AND my husband just had a cancerous skin thingee cut off. Odd coincidence.

  3. Thank you for putting your heart into print. You make even the hardest, darkest parts of life seem so possible, real and able to overcome. Thanks for the hope you always share.

  4. "your niece" Wendi Lynne says

    Thats just like you, always thinking of others and making lite of your own issues. You are so very precious to our family. We know that Mark and the Kids are going to make sure you stay on top of this. WE LOVE YOU. Bobbie, Wendi,Tommy,Logan, Mitchell, Claudia, Kiowa, Cree, Darrin, and of course Joe. Wen

  5. Gary R. Williams says

    Dear Sharon and Family,
    I’m so sorry about Grandma Elsie. I remember her though I only met her once at Randy’s memorial. She reminded me of Elsie Andrews. We’ll be praying for a speedy recovery for you.
    Gary & Diane

  6. I love all of your stories. The sad, the glad and all in between. I feel as though you are talking to just me.
    You have a wonderful gift of writing. I am a reader.

    Thank you for sharing your gift.

  7. Debbie Fortune says

    I was worried as I began to read your story…so glad your biopsy didn’t make you one of the “bad news comes in threes” of your story. Sorry about Randy’s stepmother passing away…so nice one of your boys could be there to help carry her to her resting place.
    Blessings to you,

  8. Beautifully written. You are right, so is life. We all have stories, but you have a great story telling gift. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Sharon,

    Bless you! You’ve done it again.

    Thanks so much for sharing the big little things in life that we all can relate to and apply. I greatly appreciate the gift you have for writing.


Speak Your Mind