“Being There,” Jan. 19, 2021

My mother tried her best to teach her children to see danger. To always be prepared for it. To never let it catch us unaware. To be ready at any minute to run.

It was a waste of time with my brothers. Joe was blind, couldn’t see anything, not even danger. And my baby brother, Denton, never met a risk he didn’t love.

She tried especially hard to drill the fear of danger into me and my big sister, Bobbie. We’d be women someday, she said, and women needed to be extra wary. We didn’t know what we needed to be extra wary of, and we were too afraid to ask.

Bobbie never bought the “be wary” business. She’d stick out her chin and stand her ground to any threat that came our way. Whenever I got scared, she’d tell me not to worry because she would always be “there” to protect me. We shared a room, a bed and a lot of late night talks. Then I would fall asleep at peace listening to Bobbie breathe.

If you ranked my mother’s children for bravery, Joe would be first. It takes courage to live a life that can’t be seen. The dare devils, Bobbie and Denton, would tie for second. I’d be last for bravery, but first for fear.

As I grew older, I got better at hiding my fears. Or maybe I got tired of carrying them around. I thought I was pretty brave to move to California, marry and start a family. But one day, I heard my oldest child, who was then about 8, say to his friend, “What’s the safest thing you can think of? My mom will tell you 12 ways it can kill you.”

Something clicked inside my soul that day. I wish I could say my little boy’s words changed me instantly. But I’ve always been a work in progress. I still see danger if I look for it.

But I began that day to make a conscious effort to keep my eyes open wide to everything in life—not just danger and suffering, but beauty and grace and peace and joy. To fear less and trust more. To laugh more and worry less. To expect the best and leave the rest to God.

For months, I’ve been praying for rain. After a summer with nonstop wildfires, Lord knows we need it. But lately we’ve had clear blue, 80-degree, gorgeous weather. My husband and I sit outside every evening to watch the sun go down, the moon rise up and the stars fill the sky.

I wish you could see it.

I can’t make it rain. But I can enjoy the gift of a beautiful day.

Yesterday my friend, Martha, who lives nextdoor to my sister in South Carolina, called to say Bobbie had a bad fall that may have been caused by a stroke, but didn’t go to the hospital.

My sister is a retired ICU nurse. She hates hospitals. I called her right away.

“Hey, Sissy!” she said, “I was just thinking about you!”

“Martha told me you fell and I can hear that you are slurring your words. Will you call 911 or do you want me to do it?”

“OK,” she said, “I’ll call.”

She ended up in ICU after it was confirmed she’d indeed had a stroke. When I phoned her today, her speech seemed to be worse. She sounded like our daddy, after he suffered a stroke that nearly killed him.

Suddenly I saw danger all around my sister. The threat of another stroke. The risk of getting Covid. The thought of being on her own without me.

The last time Bobbie had a stroke, years ago, I took the first flight I could get to be with her in the hospital. Then I brought her home and took care of her until she was back on her feet. This time, I felt so helpless.

“I wish I was there,” I said.

“Don’t even think about it, Sissy,” she said. “I want you to stay home and be safe. You’re my best friend in this world. I don’t want to lose you.”

I needed to see the beauty in those words, to let them quiet my fears and give me peace. So for a moment, I didn’t speak. I just listened to Bobbie breathe.

“Sissy? Are you there?”

“Yes,” I said. “Always.”

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    How did you know I would need your words this morning – God knew! My “baby” sister’s husband passed away about 5 am this morning from COVID-19 complications. He was 71. I am very sad that I cannot hop in my car and be with her – but she is COVID positive. I will pray for your sister (and you) in this time of sorrow.

  2. Kathy Armstrong says:

    Sharon, I will keep both you and your sister in my prayers. Hugs to you both.🙏🙏❤️❤️

  3. Janice says:

    Prayers for your sister and for you. I know how hard it is to be across the country from family during this horrible Covid. We feel so helpless. Please keep us posted on how she’s doing. Try not to worry.

  4. Marie Hartranft says:

    Oh Sharon such a sad and yet beautiful story of love and family. I am a worrier too! I can’t seem to help myself. But I try to say “Gods will be done” and try and put my trust in Him. Some days that works better then other days! I hope and pray your sister has a speedy recovery. Love your columns!

  5. Kay says:

    Praying for Bobbie and you.

  6. Diane Shehane says:

    Praying for your sister. Praying too for you as I know how it feels to not be able to be there in person when your sister is not well. May God give you both peace & comfort & complete healing for your Sister.

  7. Shashi says:

    Wish good health for your sister!!

  8. Doe Doe Deaver says:

    Awwwwww Sharon what a sweet connection you and your sister have, a true comfort in each other! Now you can be her peace and comfort her with encouraging words during this storm! Just Breathe!!
    Praying for Bobby as she recovers!

  9. Karen says:

    Prayers for your sister’s recovery and for you and your family during this difficult time.

  10. Naomi Smith says:

    Prayers for Bobbie and for you. Wishing her a speedy recovery.

  11. Kate Sciacca says:

    Prayers for dear Bobbie. Our lists get longer and longer…yes? Recall the first papal words of St. John Paul (the great) and be at peace…… BE NOT AFRAID!

  12. Darlene says:

    My heart feels so heavy as my elderly father continues his battle with cancer. I thought of you earlier today, Sharon, and how you coped with your husband’s illness. I know there will be brighter days ahead, although, it is hard to convince myself of that. On a lighter note, when I rooted for Clemson and was sad they lost because I knew how disappointed Joe would be, my husband was truly perplexed and I had to explain who Joe was. You should have been there. I pray Bobbie has a quick and thorough recovery.🙏🏻

  13. Janice Sizemore says:

    I pray that your dear sister will make a full recovery. And thank you for your honesty about being wary. I can relate!

  14. Sharron Arnold says:

    I hope today brings improvement for your sister. Please keep us posted.

  15. Sharon says:

    Praying for your sister and for you as you feel helpless because of the distance.

  16. Sarah Christopher says:

    Please tell Bobbie hello for me and tell her I will keep her in my prayers. Sending a big virtual hug to you both. Love you.
    Ps- please tell Martha Helen hello for me.

  17. Shirley Thacker says:

    Prayers for your sister and quick healing. Prayers for you so far away!

  18. Patsy Styers says:

    Hopefully your sister will be ok. Any fears I have just disappear when I read your columns. Thank you for that. These are very scared times.
    I live in Northern California high fire area do I know what you mean about needing rain. Hopefully we will get some more soon. Thank you Sharon til next time.❤️

  19. Patti Peters says:

    WOW! 80 degrees in Carmel area. I remember the winters there cold but not uncomfortable (from upstate New York cold is nothing). Enjoy your view of nature, and keep your Sissy in your heart. praying for her and you.

  20. Debbie says:

    Ohhhh….Sharon……😓😓😓. I will pray for your sister and for God’s Peace for you while you can’t be with her. 🙏🙏🙏.

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